Tuesday, March 9, 2010

All Knocked Up and Nowhere to Go

Dubai has a problem.

And lately, it's been appearing on the doorsteps of mosques all over the emirate.

Abandoned babies.

In a nutshell, if you should find yourself pregnant and unmarried in Dubai, you might as well get your nails done, have a nice meal, and then just stroll right on over to the jail. You'd save yourself a lot of trouble, cuz that's where you're going to end up eventually.

Let me list for you a few of the things that are illegal here in Dubai (all of which could land you behind bars):

- sex outside of marriage

- having a baby outside of marriage (supposedly, maternity wards will not treat a person who cannot produce a marriage certificate)

- abortion

- adoption (other than by Emirati families, which I guess is pretty rare, especially when it seems that most of the abandoned babies are of Filipino or Indian descent)

- abandonment of a child

- exiting the country without the consent of your sponsor

Got that? In other words, if you are, say, an unmarried Filipino housemaid who "falls pregnant," as they say round these parts, you: (a) can't keep the baby; (b) can't terminate the pregnancy; (c) can't have the baby and give it up for adoption; (d) can't have the baby and leave it on someone's doorstep (or if you do, they will hunt you down and THEN put you in jail); and (e) can't flee the country. Your only feasible option, if you want to remain out among the free world, is to fashion a time machine, go back to the night when the baby was conceived, and decide to go see a movie instead.

From recent events it looks like an awful lot of people have been choosing option (d), and taking their chances on life on the lam. In the past 10 weeks alone, 5 babies have been abandoned in Dubai, most near mosques, a few in the seasonal torrential downpours. (Some luck!, thinks the baby left in a box under the pouring rain. I live in a country where there is significant rain only 10 days a year, and TODAY they have to abandon me??)

Further illustrating Dubai's baby problem is the story presently going around about a Muslim woman of American origin who woke up to discover a Filipino baby on her doorstep a few years back. Though she already had four children of her own, she took the baby in and raised him as her son for five years (she could not technically adopt him, as only Emiratis are permitted to adopt). When the time came that she needed to travel with her family recently, she attempted to register the child for a passport... at which point she was arrested for child trafficking.

So what's up with Dubai not giving women any LEEWAY on the knocked up front?

I did a teeny bit of research and found this blurb from Gulf News:

According to Al Qubaisi, the entire system rests on the importance of the family name in the Muslim world.

"In pre-Islanic times adoption was common and the child would take the name of the new family and was considered to be a birth child," he explained.

"However, after the advent of Islam, this was abandoned as the Quran said that each child should have the name of their original father, because the main social base in Islam is the credibility of ancestry. Thus adoption was replaced by fostering a child (kafala) . . . This is considered to be a form of great worship in Islam."

Accordingly, even though the authorities will take in abandoned babies and arrange for foster care, the emphasis remains on tracking down the birth parents (who will then probably be put directly in jail, but hey, at least then we know the kid's last name).

Which reminds me, this hard-line emphasis on ancestry has recently made headline news in another context: frozen embryos.

On February 23, 2010, a front-page newspaper headline warned that, in accordance with a new law passed last year, thousands of frozen embryos are about to be destroyed. The paper urged any families with frozen embryos here (it is estimated that 10,000 have been stored in the UAE since 1995) make immediate arrangements for the relocation of their fertilized eggs.

The article explained,

"The decision to ban the use of stored embryos was made last year by the National Federal Council after concerns were raised by religious leaders that family lineage could be called into question if embryos were mixed up."

[SIDEBAR: WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, DUBAI, WHY IS IT OK TO DESTROY THOUSANDS OF FROZEN EMBRYOS (which implies that life does not begin at conception, otherwise this would be mass murder), BUT IT IS *NOT* OKAY TO GET A FIRST TRIMESTER ABORTION? Ummmm......]

Just to put a button on the grim prospects facing an unmarried woman who gets pregnant here in Dubai, check out this response I found at answers.Yahoo.com to a person asking where an unmarried friend can get an abortion in the UAE:


Becoming pregnant in the UAE unmarried is ILLEGAL! She will end up in jail after she gives birth. Her baby will be taken away from her. She will go to jail without a trial and will spend 3-6 year in prison and then be deported. She will also not have access to her child. I don't know what will happen to her baby but she won't be able to see it ever again. I know this sounds sick, but this is only in the UAE. Other Arab countries allow abortion up to the third trimester, just like in the West, except for the UAE.

My advice? Let your friend IMMEDIATELY contact her country's consulate in Dubai or go to her country's embassy in Abu Dhabi and seek protection. If it happened recently, then she should definitely get the hell out of Dubai before she goes to jail. She should just give birth to her child in her country and then she can go back to Dubai, although they might ask her how she has a baby and she's no married, might cause more trouble.

Want the best advice? She should leave the UAE immediately and stay in her country until she gives birth. If she plans on returning to the UAE, then she should contact the UAE embassy in her country and ask them with regards to their interior ministry's rules on living and working in the UAE with a child who has no father.

Tell her to get out now!

PS: If all fails, and she cannot leave the UAE, then I would suggest she gets married to a friend until she gives birth and then she could seek divorce from her friend. I hope this helps, please understand that what she has done is a serious crime! I wish her all the best, email me if you need more help."

Talk about being screwed.