UN Human Rights Council Takes on the Custody Crisis
You Can Participate!
The United Nations Human Rights Council is taking on the Custody Crisis!
A press release was issued last week by the office of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women with a Call for Input from human rights organizations and other stakeholders on the topic of discrimination against women in custody cases.
You can participate by filling out a survey (see below for more info).
This is the first time a mechanism of the UN HRC has prioritized this issue and initiated an inquiry. It is a leap forward in our efforts to get it officially recognized as a human rights violation. The Women’s Coalition has previously submitted three petitions, which have likely contributed to them initiating this inquiry.
The Special Rapporteur, Reem Alsalem, will use the information collected for a report that will be presented next year at the Human Rights Council session in June, to the Economic and Social Council session in October, and orally to the Commission on the Status of Women.
Although these UN bodies do not have the power to force reform in State governments, they do carry substantial influence and this international effort can garner publicity for our cause.
The reports and recommendations resulting from the inquiry can be used in fighting for new legislation and policy at the state level and will lend credibility to mothers in individual cases. The Coalition plans to use the final report to help fight for a new system.
PURPOSE, FOCUS & GOAL
The main purpose of the inquiry is to examine ways in which family courts ignore violence against women and children in custody cases and take their children from them. They refer to this as a “double victimization”.
The tendency to dismiss the history of domestic violence and abuse in custody cases extends to cases where mothers or children have brought forward credible allegations of child physical or sexual abuse.
Cases with violence or abuse comprise approximately 70% to 80% of contested custody cases according to studies. However, the committee has also expressed interest in the discrimination against women in cases where there is no violence.
They are referring to this form of discrimination as a violation of the rights of women and children and are concerned with the “grave consequences” of these violations on their lives.
Another main focus of their inquiry is the ways in which “parental alienation” and related concepts are being used consistently against women.
The stated goal of their undertaking is to shed light on this vital issue and to recommend the creation of international standards “to uphold the principles of non-discrimination and the best interests of the child” in custody cases.
Some of the stated objectives of the Special Rapporteur inquiry are to:
document how family courts ignore the history and existence of violence and abuse in the context of custody cases and the grave consequences on mothers and their children.
draw attention to the scale and manifestation in many countries, spanning all regions of the World.
examine the ways in which parental alienation—and related concepts are used in Family Court.
look at other relevant issues of vital importance.
make recommendations for States and other stakeholders to address the situation.
YOU CAN PARTICIPATE!
As a single-issue organization devoted exclusively to raising awareness about and ending discrimination against women in custody cases, The Women’s Coalition will, of course, be making a submission to the Special Rapporteur.
Our submission will include data gathered from a survey of mothers’ experiences in Family Court, focusing on the stated objectives of the Special Rapporteur.
SURVEY: Please take a few minutes to fill out the form [you may remain anonymous]. It’s a quick and easy form with only check-box questions. Women from non-English-speaking countries are encouraged to use Google Translate.
COLLAGE: The Coalition will also be creating and presenting a collage of mothers who’ve been victimized by Family Court, so please email a picture (headshot preferred) of yourself to email@example.com. (These will also be anonymous.)
URGENT: Surveys should be submitted by December 13, 2022, to make it in time for the December 15th submission deadline, so please fill it out asap.
A main focus of the inquiry is mothers being falsely accused of parental alienation (and related concepts) in the switching of custody to the father.
In several countries, family courts tend to judge such allegations [of abuse] as deliberate efforts by the mothers to manipulate their child and pull them away from their father.
There is much confusion surrounding the alienation issue and the Coalition will attempt to clarify aspects of it in its submission. A previous column: “Down the Parental Alienation Rabbit Hole” goes into depth about this issue.
Importantly, the Coalition submission will also discuss the vital issue of how fathers are being allowed to alienate children from mothers after being given custody. This is arguably even more serious and damaging than the misuse of the term, which seems to get all the attention.
The Women’s Coalition has made three complaints/petitions over the last decade, which likely contributed to the creation of this new inquiry. The Special Rapporteur cites a reason for initiating it is because they have received complaints from organizations around the world.
The Coalition’s first petition was made to the Commission on the Status of Women [CSW] in 2015. Over 150 women from 30 countries filled out forms detailing how they had been discriminated against, which were attached to the complaint. This resulted in the CSW making this form of discrimination officially recognized in their annual report. It is believed that is the first time there was recognition of this form of discrimination by the UN.
The second petition was made after discovering that an issue needs to be officially “prioritized” before an in depth inquiry would be initiated or any action could be taken.
And in 2018, a complaint was made to the HRC after a call for input by its Working Group on Discrimination against Women in the Law.
The Coalition has also submitted complaints to the California Commission on the Status of Women.
Finally the UN has prioritized this important human rights violation!
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