In our last post, we started talking about a group of mothers and organizations from different states, including Illinois, who have taken their argument with the U.S. courts to an international body. This group petitioned the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, claiming that U.S. courts have violated their human rights by granting custody and unsupervised visitation to fathers who have abused both the mothers and the children.
In U.S. courts, mothers reporting domestic violence or sexual molestation of their children by the fathers are often labeled as mentally ill or “diagnosed” with Munchhausen’s by Proxy or Parental Alienation Syndrome. PAS is used over and over again to punish the protective mothers, even though the so-called syndrome has no scientific validity — in fact, PAS is used as a weapon almost exclusively against mothers in custody battles.
There have been other reports of mothers reporting abuse getting jail time and losing custody altogether. Mothers who fail to report abuse face similar punishments, though. Protect: Lose your child to the abusive parent. Don’t protect: Lose your child to government agencies. The petitioners believe the US courts, despite a 1990 Congressional resolution, continue to put children into the arms of abusers.
The declaration’s establishment of a right to family helps to frame a particularly strong argument for the petitioners. All of the petitioners had been denied access to their children in cases that lacked confincing proof that the petitioner had harmed her child. They say that the courts have no valid reason for taking a child from a mother who is trying to protect him or her and that the separation of that mother and child clearly violates the mother’s right to establish a family.
Powerful as the arguments may be, the IACHR has not acted. Mothers who have been fighting for their children for 10 years or longer have been met with the same apparent indifference on the international level that they faced at the state court level. The question of how best to protect these children remains unanswered.
Resource: Huffington Post “Failures of U.S. Courts Forces Mothers to Turn to International Law” 11/16/10