Canadian adjudicator cannot understand why a woman would choose to keep a baby conceived by rape

12 February 2020

mother and child

At a hearing of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board, a woman’s claim for asylum was rejected last year because the adjudicator could not believe her child was conceived by rape.

Adjudicator Sarwanjit Randhawa, of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), has said that it “does not make sense” that a claimant “would keep a child who would remind her of being raped, unless that is not the case”. After her rejection of the claimant, on the grounds that her rape claim was not believable, the Federal Court of Canada has since overturned Adjudicator Randhawa’s decision.

Explaining her now rejected decision, Adjudicator Randhawa stated that while she was “sensitive to the subject of rape … the claimant’s explanation does not make sense as to why she would keep a child who would remind her of being raped, unless that is not the case”.

The claimant, defending her decision to give birth, said that she was against abortion and that the conception by force was not the fault of the baby.

The Federal Court of Canada overturned the IRB’s decision to essentially punish the claimant’s decision not to go through with an abortion; and government lawyers have conceded that Randhawa’s bias robbed the woman’s right to due procedure and justice.

John Smeaton, SPUC Chief Executive said: "It is an indictment of current attitudes and assumptions regarding rape that Adjudicator Randhawa, possessing a high position at the IRB, could not imagine why a woman would choose to give birth to a child that would ‘remind her’ of the preceding rape. Inherent in the adjudicator’s disbelief is her evident rejection of the value of a human life from the very moment of conception.”

Mr Smeaton continued: “Contradicting Randhawa’s view, there is ample evidence that many victims of rape choose to keep the resultant baby. This is confirmed by a 1996 study, for example, that found that, out of around 34,000 American women who became pregnant each year as a result of sexual assault, 32 per cent chose to keep the child. Moreover, in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, many rape victims made the conscious decision to keep their babies – some 20,000 children.”

Choosing life over death

SPUC has previously noted the existing bias that often devalues a woman’s decision to keep a child in difficult circumstances, such as rape.

Dr Greg Pike, writing for SPUC, has explained that many “professionals do not always recognise the complexities of women’s lives and are at risk of presuming in favour of abortion”. And it appears that, today, many persons in positions of power do many women a disservice by assuming that victims of rape cannot stand up to the challenges of rearing a child conceived by rape.

Referring to the case in Canada, Kaitlin Bardswich, of Women’s Shelters Canada, remarked similarly that the IRB’s decision failed to recognise the “lived experiences of sexual assault survivors, many of whom choose to keep children conceived by rape”.

One study cited by Pike revealed in 2014 that, out of a group of young pregnant black refugees (including those pregnant by sexual assault) looked after by the UK government, all chose motherhood.