A Moroccan mother, known as Habiba, is living a nightmare in Spain. Because she was in a difficult financial situation, Habiba had moved into a women’s shelter in Madrid with her 15 month old daughter. The shelter is run by the Instituto Madrileño del Menor y la Familia (IMMF), which is responsible for the welfare of children and for promoting policies that protect families. According to an article by Jesusa Ricoy Olariaga, Habiba’s daughter was taken away without her consent on May 31, 2011 because she refused to forcibly wean her baby.
Apparently this [sic] shelters have a psychoterapy[sic]/maternal habilities program that involves taking medication to stop the milk production, as breastfeeding is considered “chaotic” and “damaging” and also because it will make more difficult putting the child for adoption if this need arises.
Habiba refused to wean her daughter and she claims, as a result, her daughter was taken away while she was in the facility’s day care center. Habiba was not informed in advance, she was not given the opportunity to say goodbye, nor was she told where they were taking her baby.
According to ABC Madrid (in Spanish), the official reason given for the baby being taken away is “mental instability” and not having the minimum skills required to care for her child. Habiba disputes this and insists that she was separated from her daughter due to her refusal to stop breastfeeding. According to Louma Sader Bujana, other women have since come forward with stories of being forced to wean under threat of their children being taken away.
Louma Sader Bujana, who writes the blog Amor Maternal, has reported extensively on the events that have taken place since the baby’s removal from her mother’s care. She reported on the opinion of psychiatrists and psychologists who evaluated Habiba. Those professionals came to the conclusion that “she is a sensible and loving mother, with a healthy attachment to her child.” They went on to explain that the separation is highly stressful for the baby and that it would lead to both physical and psychological distress if the mother and baby were not reunited immediately.
According to the article on Amor Maternal, Habiba is suffering emotionally and physically (engorged breasts, leading to possible mastitis) from the separation, as is her baby. Habiba was given a brief opportunity to see her child yesterday (more than a week after their separation). She remarked that her child was very thin, not being properly cared for, had dark circles under her eyes, and started crying as soon as she picked her up. However, she was too weak to even keep crying. She felt that she “didn’t seem like my daughter, she looked like a dead child, a doll.” Apparently there are only two caregivers at night for the 42 children under the age of six at this shelter, leading to concerns that the children are not being sufficiently cared for and nurtured in this environment.
Habiba now has legal representation in her quest to be reunited with her daughter as soon as possible. Dr. Olza, the psychiatrist who evaluated her, published an urgent request today for people in Madrid to go and protest in front of the IMMF building at Calle Gran Via 14.
People who are interested in supporting Habiba’s reunification with her daughter can check out the following pages:
Image credit: Louma Sader Bujana, AmorMaternal.com
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