PRESS RELEASE: STOP GAGGING ORDER vs MOTHER SEPARATED FROM HER BABY — Defend mothers’ right to speak out against injustice in the family courts. Defend children’s right to a mother’s care.
Protest 9am on Friday 23 October 2015 outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Called by: Queer Strike, Legal Action for Women, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence. Tel: 020 7482 2496
On Friday 23 October 2015, the High Court will hear an application to lift a gagging order against the mother of a 15-month-old baby girl who was forcibly removed from her care.
The order is so draconian that it not only prevents the name of the child and her parents from being published, it stops the mother from speaking to anyone about the case, even anonymously, and from getting support from family, friends or anyone else, until the child is 18. While the national media has reported on the case, the mother has been prevented from telling her side of the story.
This is a total breach of human rights, aimed at silencing mothers unjustly treated by the family courts. It prevents public scrutiny of the courts at a time when more and more children are wrongfully taken away from their mothers. Children are being given to better-off fathers (even those who have a history of domestic violence), taken into care or put up for adoption.
The order was issued on 30 April 2015 by family court judge Ms Justice Russell who removed the toddler from her mother’s care and gave her to her father and his (male) partner. And while the father had extensive contact throughout the proceedings, the mother is allowed only limited supervised contact. (Ruling here)
The child was thriving with her mother but the men claimed they had a surrogacy-type arrangement, which the mother denied. She said that both she and the father wanted a child, that they had agreed she would be the primary carer while the father (who donated the sperm) would be involved in the child’s care.
Once the baby was born, the father and his partner made a surrogacy claim. But there can be no surrogacy without the mother’s consent. While denying she was ruling on a surrogacy claim, the judge dismissed the mother’s testimony saying that the mother had “deluded herself” about the nature of the agreement with the men. As a result the media has reported on it as a surrogacy case.
To justify the inevitable harm caused to the child by the separation from her mother, the judge claimed that the mother was damaging her child, describing her bond with the child as “stifling”, and criticising her for breastfeeding on demand and co-sleeping (as mothers have done for centuries!), and for having delayed getting a job. The child’s relationship with the gay couple was judged more important to her “identity” than her relationship with her own mother.
The disparity in wealth is also stark: the men had top legal representation throughout while the mother was mainly unrepresented since there is no longer legal aid for private family cases and she could not afford a lawyer for much of the time.
We cannot conceive of a more devastating blow and breach of human rights for a woman who has carried a child for nine months, given birth, and successfully breastfed and cared for her for 15 months, than to have that child wrenched from her by the court. And nothing can be more devastating for a baby than to be wrenched from her mother. Lgbtq mothers and fathers have fought for years to be recognised as parents and carers, and we are appalled that it is a gay couple who has sought to destroy the relationship between mother and child. To take a breastfeeding child from her loving mother is cruel and sadistic, and causes life-long trauma to the baby and the mother. To treat a non-consenting mother as a mere surrogate for men (gay or straight) is deeply sexist and brings back pater familias – men (gay or straight) in charge of women and children.
This gagging order must be lifted so that this mother and others like her can speak out against injustice, and decisions made by the courts, which have such a devastating impact on children and their primary carers, can be subjected to public scrutiny.
Queer Strike, Legal Action for Women, Single Mothers’ Self Defence
Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX