Alert over increase in abandoned newborns in the UAE
SHARJAH and DUBAI // Community leaders, health professionals and lawyers have voiced concern over the rising number of babies abandoned by unmarried mothers who fear the legal consequences of having a child outside wedlock.
There are no official figures, but anecdotal evidence suggests dozens of newborns are abandoned nationwide each year.
Babies are left in the street, near mosques or outside homes. Sometimes the child dies before it is found or, in extreme cases, killed by the parents to hide the birth from the law.
Anyone convicted of having sex outside wedlock faces a prison sentence of up to two years.
“We don’t have figures but I would say we are seeing an increase,” said Melca Perez, who chairs the Filipino women’s rights group Gabriela.
“It’s not just domestic workers but also people in the service sector and office workers who get themselves into this situation.
“People become emotionally involved and then they act despite being aware of the consequences. I would advise people not to do that and obey the law.”
Unmarried mothers who abandon their babies could suffer deep psychological scars and may never get over the remorse, said Dr Deema Sihweil, a clinical psychologist and director of the Carbone Clinic in Dubai Healthcare City.
“It is the rare occasion that a mother can abandon her baby without suffering acute and chronic psychological pain,” she said.
Yousif Al Bahar, an Emirati lawyer, called for tougher laws. Abandoned babies, he said, “remain fatherless, with no records, and no residency, so what happens to such a child then?”
Updated: March 30, 2014 04:00 AM