A Muslim man who had a baby with an unmarried woman has been told that his daughter must remain with an adopted family because there is too great a risk that his love child could become the victim of a so-called “honour killing”.
Three senior judges today ruled that a “desire to preserve the family’s honour” among the mother’s relatives meant placing the child with the father was simply too dangerous.
Describing the case as an “exceptionally difficult adoption proceeding”, the Court of Appeal ruled that a family court judge had been right to insist that the child be brought up by Muslin foster parents for her own safety.
The father had tried to challenge that decision but lost his case. Lord Justice Munby, Lady Justice Black and Lord Justice Kitchin gave a joint judgment stating: “In the particular circumstances of this case, the judge rightly regarded the risk of physical harm to [child and mother] as being of major importance."
The court placed unusually severe reporting restrictions because of potential consequences of the families’ identities ever being revealed. Neither their names, nor the locations of any of the participants or bodies involved in the case can be published.
The child, who is called “baby Q” in court documents, was conceived towards the end of 2009. Her father was already married to another woman who lived outside the country at the time. The man began an affair with a Muslim woman from within his own community and the pregnancy was unplanned. When the mother – referred to as “M” in court documents – discovered she was pregnant she became “terrified of her family’s reaction”.
With the help of sympathetic relatives, including her mother, M would travel across town for ante-natal care and kept her pregnancy secret from most of the male members of her family. The court heard how police enquiries established that had M’s father found out about the pregnancy “he would consider himself honour bound to kill the child”, his daughter and even his wife.
The mother alerted the authorities to the risk she was under and was offered a place in a refuge. Instead she decided to conceal her pregnancy and stay at home with her family. She gave birth and returned the same day leaving her daughter with adoptive Muslim parents who were described in court as “loving and devoted”.
The father – known as “F” in court documents – later found out that the pregnancy had gone ahead and began legal proceedings to win custody of the child.
In July last year the case went to the family division of the High Court where Mrs Justice Parker ruled "baby Q" should be adopted by a couple, also Muslim, from the same country as the mother, but from a different community.
She found there would be "a very significant risk of two and two being put together" if the child went to the father because Q was quite obviously not the child of his wife, who had since arrived in Britain and had a child of her own.
Experts today welcomed the judgement as an example of the judiciary taking the threat of honour violence seriously.
“What the court has taken into consideration is the safety of the child and her mother,” said Diana Nammi, from the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, which has helped hundreds of women at risk of honour killings find refuge. “Sadly within some communities giving birth outside of wedlock can trigger appalling violence in the name of restoring family honour. I am pleased the Court of Appeal took this threat seriously.”