Can law come to little Manji’s rescue?

August 7th, 2008 - 7:23 pm ICT by IANS  

By Anil Sharma
Jaipur, Aug 7 (IANS) As she sleeps soundly in an incubator, two-week-old Manji has little idea that she is caught in a storm. The infant who is of Japanese origin and was born to a surrogate Indian mother has developed an infection - but that is the least of her problems. With her story beamed on television and splashed across newspapers in India, millions of eyes are on little Manji - will she be taken to Japan, will her Japanese father Ikufumi Yamada be given her custody following his divorce from Yuki who has now disowned her?

On Thursday, those looking after her in Jaipur’s Arya Hospital said they were consulting lawyers on the matter.

“We are seeking legal advice. As per the contract, Ikufumi can take custody of the child in case of separation and in case of the death of both the parents, Manji’s grandmother can claim her,” Kamal Vijayvargiya, a jeweller from Jaipur settled in Tokyo and a close friend of Ikufumi, said.

“We are checking on who would issue her the passport, would it be Indian or Japanese. But now as Manji has developed infection she is being kept alone in an incubator,” he said.

Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising was in Jaipur Thursday for consultation on the matter.

There have been many twists and turns in store for Manji who was born July 25 in a hospital in Anand, Gujarat, but after terror blasts in the state was brought to Jaipur.

Sanjay Arya, the doctor who runs the 40-bed hospital in Jaipur where Manji is admitted right now, said: “We have requested the Anand municipal authorities to issue a birth certificate. Once that happens, we are hopeful the case would be solved.”

It all began when Ikufumi underwent IVF with donor oocytes (through anonymous donor) and a surrogate Indian mother. The oocytes fertilised with Ikufumi’s semen. The embryos were transferred to the surrogate mother Nov 22 last year and on July 25 this year, Manji weighing 3 kg was born.

But in the meantime, Ikufumi and his wife Yuki divorced and the latter abandoned Manji.

The divorce happened after the biological father, Ikufumi, had donated his sperm and the fertilised oocytes were transplanted in an Indian surrogate mother in Anand in Gujarat.

Destiny had something else in store for the child as Yuki divorced Ikufumi and disowned the child.

Ikufumi, however, is keen to take the girl back home to Tokyo, but legal problems are coming in the way as he is only the biological father - and there is no clear statement yet on who can be deemed as the girl’s mother.

Moreover, he cannot adopt Manji to claim parental rights, as he is now a single father.

In the middle of all this, Manji has also found plenty of love, especially in the form of her grandmother and Vijayvargiya’s family.

“Manji cannot possibly be left without care. For now, only her 70-year-old grandmother, Emiko, is here to help her,” said Vijayvargiya who was instrumental in getting Manji shifted to Jaipur. It was he who got Emiko to come down to Jaipur on a three-month tourist visa.

His wife Shweta too is providing much-needed support to the Japanese family. “My wife gave birth to our baby girl on Tuesday and agreed to take care of (nurse) Manji,” said Vijayvargiya.

Emiko has not been able to sleep for the last two days, but now she has been advised rest by the doctors.

Said Arya: “She was taking care of the child in a big way. She does not understand any language other than Japanese but through the sign language she used to communicate with us and request for whatever she wants for the child she loves.

“The grandmother is emotionally upset, as the child cannot be taken out of the country because of legal issues. The lawmakers will have to find some solution to this.”

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