In this difficult case, three sets of rights were brought into conflict: children’s rights, the rights of religious groups, and transgender rights.
Five children live in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community in Manchester with their mother. The parents’ marriage ended in June 2015 when their father left the family home and began living as transgender. She has been ostracised by the community which does not accept transgender identity.
The dispute was over what contact the father should have with the children.
The overriding test was the children’s welfare. The judge took into account their views, background, needs, and any harm suffered or risk of harm. However, he said the worst outcome would be for the children to be ostracised and have to leave the community. There was consistent evidence that, if there was direct contact, this would be the case.
Therefore, while depriving children of contact with their father was “a matter of last resort”, he concluded, “with real regret”, that direct contact be refused.
The judge saw this case as first and foremost about the children’s welfare, saying:
This outcome is not a failure to uphold transgender rights, still less a “win” for the community, but the upholding of the rights of the children to have the least harmful outcome in a situation not of their making.
Photo credit 3D Judges Gavel by Chris Potter (2012) / StockMonkeys.com / CC BY 2.0