A native-born British couple has been denied their request to adopt a child, due to what local adoption services describe as their “cultural heritage”.
Reena and Sandeep Mander, a UK-born Sikh couple from Berkshire, tried for years to conceive a child, including 16 in vitro fertilization treatments, with no success.
Both Sandeep, 35, and Reena, 33, are professionals - Sandeep is the vice president of sales at a tech company, while Reena works as a senior project manager for communications company.
Ten years ago the couple married in a traditional Sikh wedding, though neither Reena nor Sandeep consider themselves particularly religious.
About three years after Reena and Sandeep had married, they decided to take their relationship to the next step – and have a child.
After the couple was unable to conceive, however, they discovered that a medical incident Reena had experienced a year before their wedding had affected her ability to conceive.
Suffering from sudden pains in her stomach, Reena was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.
“It was a cyst twisting on my ovary to the point where they had to perform emergency surgery,” Reena told The Telegraph. “If it had popped – which it was on the point of doing - it probably would have killed me. I lost one of my ovaries but thankfully it was after my last exams and didn’t impact me getting my degree.”
Though the doctors had assured her at the time of the incident in 2006 that she would still be able to have children, Reena was now unable to conceive.
When the couple looked to the UK’s public healthcare system – the National Health Service – for help, they were turned away, despite letters of support from MP – and future Prime Minister – Theresa May, who represents Berkshire.
“She wrote a letter in our favor, but the health authority didn’t budge,” the couple said.
After 16 in vitro treatments and $200,000 paid to clinics in the UK and Spain, Reena finally became pregnant in 2015 – only to lose the child to miscarriage.
At that point, the couple turned to their local adoption authority, Adopt Berkshire.
In April 2016, the couple registered with Adopt Berkshire, formally applying for adoption.
But to their amazement, Adopt Berkshire rejected the Manders because of their Sikh background, saying their “cultural heritage” precluded them from adopting white children. Since Adopt Berkshire only had white children up for adoption, an official told the Manders over the phone, they would be not be permitted to adopt through the agency.
Instead, the official suggested, the couple should look overseas, perhaps in India.
The couple, both native-born Brits assimilated into UK culture, have no close ties to India, and found the rejection on the grounds of their heritage shocking.
“The way we’ve been bought up, the race of the baby never really entered our mind,” Reena told The Telegraph. “We didn’t even discuss it between ourselves.”
Now the Manders have filed suit against both Adopt Berkshire and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with the backing of Prime Minister May, Metro reported.