U.K. Court Denies Transgender Woman Access to Her Haredi Children

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Haredi Jews in London's Stamford Hill district.Credit: dcaseyphoto/Flickr

A British judge this week refused to give a transgender Jewish woman permission to maintain direct contact with her five children, on the grounds that it could lead to their being shunned by the ultra-Orthodox community in Manchester.

The marriage between the parents of the children ended in 2015, when their father left home to live as a transgender woman. She has not had any contact with the children since then. The court ruling was reported by the Guardian.

The woman had asked the court to allow her to be "sensitively reintroduced to the children, who should be helped to understand her new way of life.”

The children's birth mother, however, insisted that the children would be ostracized by their community if her ex-husband was given access to them. That view was supported by submissions to the court by the children’s teachers.

The mother provided evidence indicating that the children would be barred from attending ultra-Orthodox schools if they had contact with their transgender parent. 

In giving his ruling, Justice Peter Jackson said that he had reached the conclusion to reject the woman's petition with “real regret, knowing the pain that it must cause.”

“These children are caught between two apparently incompatible ways of living, led by tiny minorities within society at large," the judge said.

"Both minorities enjoy the protection of the law: on the one hand the right of religious freedom, and on the other the right to equal treatment.” 

The judge ruled that the woman will only be allowed only to send letters to her children, limited to four times a year and the children’s birthdays.

The claimant told the court that the children had been told that she was in a psychiatric hospital or had died after she left.

The abiding impression left by the evidence of both parties was of "mutual incomprehension, of parents who had over the years become emotional strangers,” the judge said.

He noted that the practices within the community and its schools could amount to “unlawful discrimination against and victimization” of the claimant and her children.

Nevertheless, the practices were relevant to the custody hearing, he said. “The fact that the practices may be unlawful does not mean that they do not exist.”

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