Non-Emirati mothers should not be granted child custody to ‘protect national identity’

A Federal National Council member has asked that a child custody law be amended to prevent non-Emirati mothers from taking custody of their children.
Ahmed Al Shamsi at Tuesday’s FNC session in Abu Dhabi where he called for chnages to the law on custody of children whose fathers are Emirati and whose mothers are not. Ravindranath K / The National
Ahmed Al Shamsi at Tuesday’s FNC session in Abu Dhabi where he called for chnages to the law on custody of children whose fathers are Emirati and whose mothers are not. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // An FNC member has asked that a child custody law be amended to prevent non-Emirati mothers from taking custody of their children.

Ahmed Al Shamsi, a member for Ajman, said the wording of the law should be amended to exclude mothers who are not Emirati, not just those who are of a different religion to their child.

The law states: “If the custodian was a mother who is not of the same religion as the child her custody is dropped, unless the judge decides otherwise for the welfare of the child, as long as her custody does not last more than five years.”

Mr Al Shamsi said he wanted the law changed to ensure children did not lose their national identity. He said he was concerned about an increasing number of foreign women marrying Emirati men because “there have been many consequences”.

“Non-local women want to marry Emirati men because the state provides many services, and if she conceives a child from that local she will benefit from raising that child in the future,” Mr Al Shamsi said.

Such women, he said, filed for divorce after a while and the law gave them custody. “I am saying the criteria should not be based on religion but on nationality – Emirati or non-Emirati.”

Mr Al Shamsi gave the example of some UAE nationals who married women from Asia with different traditions and environments to their own.

If the mother took her children abroad they would adopt their new culture and “here the national child will lose his national identity”, Mr Al Shamsi said. “We encourage local men to marry local women.”

Most members on Tuesday agreed with the proposed change, which could be recommended to the Government.

The Minister of Justice, Sultan Al Badi, said the issue was based on legal and legislative principles and was designed to take the child’s welfare into consideration. But Mr Al Shamsi was not satisfied. “The minister’s response has a positive aspect: ‘we will consider looking into that issue’.”

Mr Al Badi said the legal concept was general and judges had the authority and wisdom to choose what was best for the child, regardless of nationality and religion.

Mr Al Shamsi insisted that there was a chance to make the amendment now, and he cited the example of an old man who died four years after marrying an Asian woman, who had custody of their son and daughter.

“Her UAE-based siblings made efforts to bring their sister back when she was 22, and she was issued a UAE passport.” But she had adopted her mother’s nationality and refused to stay in the UAE. “So she has no sense of belonging at all,” Mr Al Shamsi said. “We want the local child to associate with the country. They end up clueless about UAE society and even local food.”

Ahmed Al Zaabi, a member from Sharjah, said the proposed amendment was not based in Sharia and therefore could not be added to the law.

“From the times of the Prophet Mohammed, the mother always took care of the child as it was hers and the child’s right,” Mr Al Zaabi said.

“Cases of custody are, in the end, based on what benefits the child overall, whether it was with the father or the mother. It is a specific legal case that looks at the best interest of the child.”

Mr Al Shamsi said his amended recommendation took into account the child’s interest.

“Sharia law does not state a specific age or years in custody, and the recommendation was approved by the minister himself,” he said.

For reactions from expat mothers on this story, click here

hdajani@thenational.ae

aalkhoori@thenational.ae

Published: June 2, 2015 04:00 AM

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