Illegitimacy as defined by the Oxford Dictionary means, a child born of parents not lawfully married to each other. This means when the parents of a child are not lawfully wedded, the minor will be considered illegitimate.

Since time immemorial, there is a societal stigma surrounding a child who is not born to legally wedded/married parents. The illegitimate children never enjoyed equal status along with the legitimate children. The society and law always discriminated the illegitimate children in many ways. Law has not given the illegitimate children the same legal rights as the legitimate ones are made. Under almost all the personal laws the right to inheritance of the legitimate children and the illegitimate children are not the similar. 

English and colonial America also had laws regulating sexual activity between individuals. If two people had sexual relation without being married, then they had committed the crime of fornication. In England, churches took in a illegitimate child as the probable outcome for any case of fornication or adultery. Acts of 1575 and 1609 declared that the mother of any illegitimate child would face corporal punishment or be stationed in an English House of Correction. Under English common law, the burden of taking guardianship of any illegitimate child frequently fell on a church or the community.

The Bible in Basic English:

One whose father and mother are not married may not come into the meeting of the Lord’s people, or any of his family to the tenth generation.

New American Standard Bible:

No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the LORD.

King James Version:

A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.

The strict version of Hindu texts leads to a conclusion that a child should have been conceived after marriage to be considered as legitimate. Under the ordinary law, a child for being treated as legitimate must be born in lawful matrimony.

The Quran is really clear on this subject that good or bad deeds are not transferrable, as mentioned in: Surah 35:18

And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And if a heavily laden soul calls [another] to [carry some of] its load, nothing of it will be carried, even if he should be a close relative….

Surah 6:164

And every soul earns not [blame] except against itself, and no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another…

A shocking news story was published in April this year in The News by Fakhar Durrani, according to newspaper a new-born child was found at the door step of a mosque in Karachi, people who found the baby handed him over to the prayer leader. The prayer leader decried and assumed that this is an illegitimate baby therefore he should be stoned. Resultantly the baby was stoned to death.

In another incident, an anonymous person called a welfare organisation in Karachi and informed about a dead body dumped in garbage. Upon their arrival, they found a dead body of a four days old girl whose throat was slit with a keen knife.

Although the Holy Scriptures are quite clear and child abandonment and infanticide both are criminal offenses and punishable crimes in Pakistan, however according to the report from January 2017 to April 2018, two of the largest Welfare organisations have found 345 such new born babies dumped in garbage in Karachi only and 99 percent of them were young women. As many as 165 dead girls have been buried in the first four months of this year by both the organisations alone in Karachi. Illegitimacy is the major reason of child abandonment but unfortunately very little work has been done on this issue because of the sensitivity of the issue.

In the past the term bastard was the standard term in both legal and non-legal use for an illegitimate child. Today, it holds little importance as a legal term and is retained in this older sense only as a term of abuse.

The importance of legitimacy has decreased considerably in Western countries with the increasing economic independence of women, the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, the fall of totalitarian regimes, and declining influence of Christian churches on family life. Births outside marriage represent the majority in many nations in Western Europe.

There is a need to be more tolerant towards the illegitimate children and the laws should also be amended in such a way that they have the best interest of all the people at heart. Don’t make children the victims for what their parents do.

There are no illegitimate children – only illegitimate parents.

– Leon R. Yankwich

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