- UN Special Rapporteur, Reem Al Salem, calls for urgent reforms in family courts worldwide to address gender biases and protect women and children from abuse and domestic violence.
- Family courts often dismiss histories of domestic violence and abuse in custody cases, which is deemed unacceptable by Al Salem, particularly when credible allegations are made by mothers and/or children.
- The concept of parental alienation, predominantly used against mothers, is based on unfounded and non-scientific notions and leads to biased custody rulings with severe and irreversible consequences for families. These concepts persist in legal systems globally, including among evaluators responsible for determining the best interests of the child.
In a Press Conference led by UN Special Rapporteur, Reem Al Salem seeks urgent reforms from deeply embedded gender biases that infiltrate the family court systems across the world which cause women and children to suffer immensely against abuse and domestic violence.
Reem Al Salem talked about how family court often easily dismisses the history of domestic violence and abuse in custody cases and why it is unacceptable to do so,
“The tendency of family courts to dismiss the history of domestic violence and abuse in custody cases, especially where mothers and/or children have brought forward credible allegations of domestic abuse, including coercive control, physical or sexual abuse is unacceptable.”
Additionally, she highlighted the inadequacy of child custody procedures in employing child-centered methodologies that prioritise the welfare and optimal outcomes for children.
“When custody decisions are made in favour of the parent who claims to be alienated without sufficiently considering the views of the child, the resilience of the concerned child may be undermined. The child may also continue to be exposed to lasting harm.”
Al Salem’s report emphasises that the utilisation of the baseless and non-scientific notion of parental alienation is heavily influenced by gender. Although it is invoked against both fathers and mothers, it is predominantly employed against mothers. The expert highlighted that biased custody rulings can have severe and irreversible repercussions for those involved, resulting in an ongoing cycle of violence prior to and following separation. Disturbingly, despite these serious consequences, ‘parental alienation’ and related pseudo-concepts are deeply ingrained and endorsed within legal systems worldwide, including by evaluators responsible for providing recommendations to family courts regarding the child’s best interests.
What This Means for Pakistani Women Fighting Battles in Family Courts?
This implies that Pakistani women may face challenges and biases when it comes to custody decisions and the best interests of their children. Given the gendered nature of parental alienation and its negative consequences, Pakistani women may encounter difficulties in securing fair and favourable custody outcomes in family court.
It is important for women fighting their custody battles via the family court system to be aware of these dynamics and work with lawyers who understand and advocate for their rights. Additionally, raising awareness about gender biases and advocating for reforms in the custody process could contribute to a more equitable and Child-Centred approach within Pakistani family courts.
Reem Al Salem also urged the countries to recognise the human rights aspect of the different forms of violence inflicted upon mothers and children within the context of family courts, urging them to acknowledge and address this issue collectively.
“The protection of women and children from violence, a victim centred approach, and the best interests of the child, must take precedence over all other criteria when establishing arrangements for custody and visitation rights.”
Women Protection and Safety Laws in Pakistan include:
- The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill (2009)
- The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act (2010)
- The Protection Against Harassment of Women in the Workplace Act (2010)
- The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act (2010)
- The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act (2011)
- The Women in Distress and Detention Fund (2011)
- The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act (targeted at preventing acid-related crimes) (2011)
- The Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Bill (2012)
- The National Commission on the Status of Women Act (2012)
- The National Commission for Human Rights Act (2012)
- The Dowry and Bridal Gifts Act
- The Women, Violence and Jirgas Act
- Marriage in the Quran
- Women Agriculture Bill 2019
- Sindh Women Agriculture Workers Act (SWAWA) of 2019 passed in 2021
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