Adoption Over Biological Father’s Objection Approved, Because of Risk That Baby Will Be “Honor Killed”

The case is In the Matter of Q (A Child) (Eng. & Wales Ct. App. Dec. 21, 2011); The Independent (UK) reports:

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…. The father had tried to challenge that decision but lost his case….

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”…. 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….

Here’s an excerpt from the opinion:

The judge’s findings about the risk of physical harm to the child and members of her family are very important. It is a topic to which she returned regularly during the judgment. She found that there were no physical risks if Q were to be adopted by Mr and Mrs A; in contrast, although she could not quantify it, she found that there would be “a very significant risk” if Q were to live with F and W. She did not consider that the risk was removed if, in fact, GF already knew of the baby as she acknowledged may be the case. She observed that whilst there was no baby evident, there was no proof of the relationship between M and F but “[i]f Q is placed with her father then two and two might very easily be put together” because Q is quite obviously not W’s child. If GF’s community were thus to find out about the relationship between M and F, “it would be a matter of intense almost unimaginable shame to him and his family”. It was plainly the judge’s view that this might provoke action to preserve the family’s honour and she thought that “a particularly high degree of risk from relatives or members of M’s community would arise immediately after placement”. She was mindful of the seriousness of the physical harm involved and observed that:

“the magnitude of the consequences here is such that even a small degree of risk must be taken into account. In my judgment here there is such a risk and quite possibly a high one.”

… This is a case which presented the judge with a most difficult decision. Q, relinquished at birth by her mother, M, had for some time been placed with Mr and Mrs A who are loving and devoted adopters and to whom she had formed a deep attachment. On the other hand, Q’s father, F, married to another woman and with a child of that marriage, sought to have Q united with him in his care. In addressing the question whether to make an adoption order it is clear to us that the judge was guided by the fundamental consideration whether Q’s welfare throughout her life required the making of an adoption order. In adopting this approach we believe the judge cannot be faulted. She considered whether adoption was demanded rather than being merely reasonable or desirable. In our judgment this approach took full and proper account of any possible right of F or Q to family or private life.

The judge proceeded to assess whether Q’s welfare required the making of an adoption order having regard to all the considerations set out in section 1 of the 2002 Act. In the particular circumstances of this case, the judge rightly regarded the risk of physical harm to Q and M as being of major importance. Here the evidence was, in our judgment, compelling. Q was conceived in a relationship which was unacceptable to M’s traditional Muslim family and conducted in secrecy. When M realised she might be pregnant she ran away from home for fear of the reaction of her family and, in particular, her father, GF. Shortly after her pregnancy was confirmed, M took steps to have her baby adopted at birth. Although she returned to her home, she concealed her advancing pregnancy by wearing loose clothes and travelling to the other side of her town for her antenatal care. As soon as Q was born, she was relinquished for adoption because M genuinely feared for Q’s safety should GF become aware of or be forced to acknowledge her existence. M’s evidence, supported as it was by her actions and the evidence of F and an experienced police officer, drove the judge to conclude that refusal of the order would carry with it a significant risk of physical harm. In our judgment this conclusion cannot be criticised….

Thanks to Ken Braithwaite for the pointer.