Muscat: Society continues to look down upon children who were born out of wedlock, as some claim these children are seeds of the devil since they were born outside of marriage. In fact, a large part of society displays prejudice towards such children, refusing to allow their own children to socialize with or, especially, marry them.
The issue of children born outside of marriage remains a sensitive subject in the region, and the issue is rarely addressed in the media, at seminars or by public organizations.
In Oman, however, such children have recently appealed to the community and the government to recognize them and involve them in the community, as all Omanis are.
Huda (not her real name), 12 years old, said that illegitimate children should not carry the burden of guilt because of the mistakes made by two persons from within the general community.
Huda said she, as well as other children seen as being illegitimate, is forced to remain uncertain about their future.
Huda added that the Ministry of Social Development provides RO27 in assistance each month for these children's expenses, though this amount is barely enough to cover the expenses for one week.
Another orphan born out of wedlock said, "We don't need financial help from society; all we need is affection from people. We need to feel we are equal to any other Omanis who know both their parents. "If we all just imagined ourselves in those orphans' shoes, we would know how it feels to be abandoned and ignored."
Meanwhile, an official source from the Ministry of Social Development noted that children born from parents who are not married are not just a phenomenon in Oman. He said the number of such children is probably increasing, but he hoped the community would come together to make others aware about the impact of children born outside of marriage in a conservative community.
Observers also believe there is a desperate need to treat these children in parity with others. For this, a change in attitudes is needed; otherwise, the impact of these neglected children on the society will become more serious.
Also, the main problem these orphans face is having family names chosen by hospitals or the Ministry of Social Development, such as Ahmed or Naser, without including a tribal name. Another child, whose parents are unknown, said she has been waiting for her mother to come one day and take her away so that her bleak life could greatly improve.
Today, more than 149 illegitimate children live in Al Khoudh care center, though the number of children is increasing dramatically, according to an employee at the centre.
An official from the Ministry of Social Development said the number of children in Oman born out of wedlock includes 270 girls and 130 boys from 2000 to 2011.
Sometimes such children suffer from ill-treatment from employees at the center, including verbal insults and develop feelings of inferiority, one child told the Times of Oman.
Yet, in a sign of hope, Nasra, a married woman who cannot bear children, adopted one of these children three years ago with the assistance of the Ministry of Social Development.
Nasra reports being very happy about the child and provides him with her love, care and affection.
The children of unknown parents have appealed to the society to treat them with sympathy, saying it is not their fault that they were born out of wedlock.