In a welcome but very surprising development — and what may be a world first — the United Nations has decided to carry out research on the connection between child contact cases, parental alienation and domestic violence around the world.
The Office is inviting submissions from: civil society actors such as campaigners, bloggers and others with an interest in these issues; international organisations; academics; governments; and national human rights institutions. We have written to the Office to ask whether they are open to receiving submissions from children and families in the UK with lived experience of these issues.
The announcement on the Office’s website has a very good, but very long explanation of why it is carrying out this research, the background to these issues, and what kind of information they need.
In the announcement, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, Reem Alsalem, says she wants to produce a “report on the nexus between custody and guardianship cases, violence against women and violence against children, with a focus on the abuse of the concept of “parental alienation” and related or similar concepts.”
The press release says:
“Despite a strong indication that the parental alienation concept has become a tool for denial of domestic and child abuse, leading to further discrimination and harm to women and children, data on the treatment of the history of intimate partner violence and other forms of domestic violence and abuse when family courts assess custody cases continues to be limited. Data is also limited regarding the degree to which family courts use a gender analysis in their decisions.”
The statement offers nine items the UN is hoping to gather information about:
- The different manifestations or specific types of domestic and intimate partner violence experienced by women and children, including the use of “parental alienation” and related concepts in child custody and access cases. Please also include a description of the different forms of violence that may be experienced by the mother and child as well as fundamental human rights violations, where relevant.
- The factors behind the increased number of allegations of parental alienation cases in custody battles and/or disputes involving allegations of domestic violence and abuse against women, and its differentiated impact on specific groups of women and children.
- The way in which different groups of women and children experience this phenomenon differently based on any intersecting elements such as age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, legal residence, religious or political belief or other considerations and the factors that contribute to these situations.
- The role that professionals play, including welfare workers, child protection services, guardian ad-litem, psychologists, psychiatrists, and how they are regulated in any way as expert witnesses.
- The consequences of the disregard for the history of domestic violence and abuse and intimate partner violence or the penalising of such allegations in custody cases on the human rights of both the mother and the child, and the interrelationship between these rights.
- The challenges in collecting disaggregated data on courts’ practices concerning custody cases, the areas/sectors for which data is particularly lacking and the reasons for such challenges.
- The good practices, strategies adopted by different organs of the State or other non-State actors, at local, national, regional, or international level to improve the due consideration of domestic and family violence, including intimate partner violence against women and abuse of children in determining child custody, as well as in providing remedies and redress for victims/survivors.
- Recommendations for preventing the inadequate consideration of a history of domestic violence and abuse and gender stereotyping in custody cases to restore the human rights of mothers and their children, as well as ensure that survivors/victims are effectively protected and assisted.
- Any other issue of relevance that are vital for consideration but that may not have been mentioned in this call for inputs.
The UN has asked that submissions are no more than 2,000 words and are sent in Word or PDF files. The Office is accepting feedback in Arabic, English, French and Spanish.
Submissions are required to be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and with the subject heading: Input for SR VAWG’s report on violence against women and children in custody cases
The deadline for submissions is 15 December, 2022.
We will post an update as soon as we hear back from the UN about child and family submissions.