A woman took her husband to court after he hired a surrogate to carry their child without her consent, in a case believed to be the first of its kind in the UAE.
The Indian woman, 37, filed for divorce from her husband of 15 years after finding out he hired a surrogate to have their baby. The couple had struggled to conceive naturally and visited several fertility clinics in India. In 2015, the husband told his wife he had hired a surrogate to carry their child.
The woman later learnt that he also registered her as the mother of the baby, though she denies the child is biologically hers.
The woman told her husband she wanted a divorce but he insisted he would only agree if she signed a document to say she agreed to use a surrogate. The woman obliged and filed for divorce in India but the case was rejected by the court.
After the baby was born by surrogate in March 2016, the husband became abusive and stopped financially providing for her, the court heard.
He tried to kick her out of their home but when she refused, he left instead and took all their jewellery. He left behind a letter informing her that he had registered her as the child’s mother on the child’s birth certificate.
"I was not aware I was registered as the mother of the child in the birth certificate and in other official documents," the wife said. She has denied being the child's biological mother.
The woman repeatedly tried to contact her husband and his family to have the documentation amended but was unable to get in touch. As a result, she filed a case for divorce, alimony and for her name be removed as the child's biological mother, at a Dubai court.
At court, the Indian husband, 38, claimed the wife knew about the surrogacy but changed her mind as the delivery date drew near.
Surrogacy is illegal under UAE law so the husband asked for Indian law — that allows surrogacy — to be applied instead.
"Although the Indian law can be applied in several cases in the UAE, it cannot in this specific case because surrogacy is against UAE's laws and public morals," the wife's Emirati lawyer, Awatif Khouri, from Al Rowaad Advocates, told the court.
Ms Khouri said that even if foreign laws recognise such procedures, the public morals of the country where the case is being heard, supersede the application of foreign laws.
Dubai's Personal Status Court ordered a DNA test for the child but the father refused to show up for testing. As a result, the court ruled in the favour of the woman, granting her a divorce, alimony and the removal of her name from the child's birth certificate.
"As per the court's judgment, surrogacy was ruled forbidden according to UAE's Islamic principles which are part of the country's laws and public morals," said Ms Khouri.
"The judgment also stated that surrogacy does not prove lineage of a child and therefore it decided that my client is not the biological mother of the child even if her egg was used in the process."
Court records did not disclose how much money the wife would be given in alimony or where the child is now.