Family courts failing to uphold human rights for victims of domestic abuse, according to Queen Mary report

Family Courts are failing to recognise and protect survivors’ human rights by not giving victims of domestic abuse a safe and fair hearing which is putting their children’s safety at risk, according to a joint report by Women’s Aid and Queen Mary University of London.

30 May 2018

Survivors of domestic abuse face a lack of protections within family courts according to a new report from Women’s Aid and Queen Mary University of London.

The report, “What about my right not to be abused?” Domestic abuse, human rights and the family courts, found that nearly a quarter of suvivors (24 per cent) reported that they had been cross-examined by their abusive ex-partner during court hearings, which breaches survivors’ human right to be free from degrading treatment.

The report also uncovered systematic gender discrimination and a culture in the family courts that silences women by failing to uphold the human rights of survivors.

[From what the report reveals about the bias towards men in family courts, more needs to change than simply stopping abusers cross examining their victims in court, which the government has accepted but delayed enforcing for many months now – see more about the report’s findings here https://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/news/2018/hss/family-courts-failing-to-uphold-human-rights-for-victims-of-domestic-abuse-according-to-queen-mary-report.html.]

Statement against the Family Returns Process . . . END DETENTION, END DEPORTATION, WE ALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE HERE

We are the All African Women’s Group. Many of us have been in detention. We know the terrible impact it has. Women are on hunger strike right now against the torture of detention. We want an end to detention,but we do
not want a worse alternative. We object particularly to the Family Returns Process

Women for Refugee Women (WfRW) are saying that the Family Returns Process (FRP) should be extended to all asylum seekers. Their report The Way Ahead (2017) describes FRP as an “Area of Success to Build on in the UK”. Interviewed on Woman’s Hour last week their spokeswoman said: “We now have this process called the Family Return Process which supports families with children under 18 to stay in the community up to the point they actually leave the UK, so yes there needs to be a system but that system doesn’t need to include detention.”

WfRW are having a lobby of parliament on 8 March and we are worried that the Family Returns Process will be put forward to members of parliament as what women asylum seekers want.

We are against the Family Returns Process because its main focus is to deport us. It coins the words “support” and “engagement” as a cover for enforced removals. We do not accept that people should have to go back.

A report of the FRP says: “While some organisations believe families who want to stay here should never be returned home, they are few in number.” We are not few in number and our voices should be heard because we know best what horrors we face on return. We all have the right to be here in the UK. African and other Third World people have contributed over centuries to the wealth in the UK. We have suffered enough through imperial conquest, slave trades, proxy wars, Western backed dictatorships, rape and other torture…and through long treacherous journeys getting to the UK.

What we need are committed reliable lawyers to help us with our cases to overcome the terrible injustice we face. Most of the time when we make an application to the Home Office we are disbelieved, no matter what we say and what evidence we have. We want help enforcing our rights to be treated fairly as victims of rape and other torture and as vulnerable people. The Home Office has absolutely no interest in justice.

The FRP has four stages:

  1. ‘Family return conference’ to discuss any barriers to return.
  2. ‘Family departure meeting’ to discuss the family’s views about their options.
  3. ‘Required return’ where the family make their own way to the airport.
  4. ‘Ensured return’ reviewed by an “Independent Family Returns Panel”.

THIS PANEL IS NOT INDEPENDENT – it is funded by the Home Office. As a last resort detention for up to a week and enforced return is used.

The FRP says children can be forcibly returned with “the use of physical intervention”. Guidelines for restraining children are based on those used in secure units which include “the deliberate infliction of pain”.

The FRP report slanders mothers and accuses them of child abuse for not agreeing to enforced return: “Children have been subjected to unacceptable pressure from parents not to co-operate with Home Office officials and where such cases occur it is a form of child abuse.” How many children have been and will be taken from their parents with this excuse?

The FRP also slanders lawyers saying that “legal representatives lodge legal objections to removal at the last minute in order, it seems, to frustrate the process.” How dare they say that. We are women who have suffered rape and other torture and the Home Office makes it as difficult as possible for our case to be heard. Legal aid cuts have made it almost impossible to find reliable lawyers to help us. When we have the good fortune to find a lawyer to intervene they accuse us of abusing the system – not that the system abuses us.

WE DEMAND:

  • An end to detention and the immediate release of mothers and children, pregnant women, survivors of rape and other torture, people who are mentally or physically sick and other vulnerable people. Meet the hunger strikers demands.
  • Reinstate legal aid for all asylum and immigration cases to ensure people get a chance of a fair hearing against the Home Office racism, sexism and determination to deport no matter how unjustly.
  • No NGO collaboration with, and promotion of, so-called “voluntary” and “family returns”, and any other government processes that depend on injustice, destitution, detention and forced deportations to drive asylum seekers out.

Signed: All African Women’s Group (80 members)

Supported by: Black Women’s Rape Action Project; Brighton Anti-Raids Network; Brighton Migrant Solidarity; Brighton Plan C; Demilitarise King’s, Detained Voices; End Deportations; Jollof Café (Brighton); KCL Action Palestine, Legal Action for Women; Lesbian & Gays Support the Migrants; RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research); SOAS Detainee Support Group;Sussex Refugee and Migrant Self Support Group; Women Against Rape;Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike;  North East London Migrant Action (NELMA); Gazelle Maria, Oxford; Zeenat Suleman, London

Family Courts on Trial – 8 March event

Image

Please join us on 8 March, International Women’s Day. We will taking part in the speak out called by the Global Women’s Strike to put the Family Court on Trial (details below).

We have seen a massive rise in calls for help from mothers whose children are being taken into care or even adoption, when they report rape or domestic violence. They are routinely disbelieved or blamed for causing their children “emotional harm” while the perpetrators get away with it. The drive to prioritise fathers’ ‘rights’ overrides all other considerations, with violent fathers being given contact and residence. Children and mothers are being abused and even killed as a result.

Poverty imposed by austerity cuts – 86% of which have targeted women, depriving us of escape routes – is also used to accuse mothers, especially single mothers, of ‘neglect’ and take our children.

Mothers all over the UK are fighting for our rights to care for and protect our children from this child abuse by the state. Please bring your evidence.

Women Against Rape

Facebook event here. Follow us on Twitter @WomenStrike.

 

 

UPDATE: HUMAN RIGHTS VIGIL, 22 November 2017

Brigitte Nongo-Wa-Kitwa Family Reunion Appeal Hearing

Thanks to all who came to support Brigitte Nongo-Wa-Kitwa’s case to be reunited with her children. The vigil outside court garnered interest and support from passersby and people entering the court building. Over 15 women then went inside to listen to court proceedings, and although there weren’t enough seats the judge gave permission for everyone to stay so women perched on the window sills.

As the hearing was about to begin a problem came up with the interpreter. The judge, acknowledging the importance of interpretation in the “interests of fairness”,  decided to reschedule the hearing, fixing it for as soon as possible in] January as “the lives of two vulnerable girls are at risk”.

Outside court Brigitte said: “I will have to give my girls this heartbreaking news that they face a further six weeks of uncertainty. . . . sadly this will not be a Xmas to celebrate. But I thank the judge for her consideration and I have a hope that I will get a fair hearing when we come back to court in the New Year.”


 

Please support Brigitte Nongo-Wa-Kitwa, one of All African Women’s Group’s longest standing members, who is fighting to be reunited with her children.  They have been separated for almost twelve years after Brigitte was forced to leave the Democratic Republic of Congo having been detained and raped in prison.  She spent seven years fighting for the right to stay in Britain while all of her children were lost to her.  When she found two of her daughters alive in DRC, she applied for them to come to the UK but was refused. Tomorrow this family appeals against their forced separation.
Messages of support welcome:

All African Women’s Group aawg02@gmail.com
Black Women’s Rape Action Project bwrap@rapeaction.net

Protest against CAFCASS and NSPCC participation in Families Need Fathers (FNF) conference, Sat 14 October

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vg9qABVVtOY

FNF replied saying that they are a “reputable charity” but did not address domestic violence or any of the other issues raised.  A FNF man confronted the picket saying that ‘more children are killed by their mothers than by their fathers’.

To date we have received no reply to our Open Letter from either CAFCASS or NSPCC.

OPEN LETTER to CAFCASS and NSPCC re your PARTICIPATION in a conference run by FAMILIES NEED FATHERS (FNF) Sat 14 October

We understand that you are speaking at this FNF conference on parental alienation. You must be aware that FNF have consistently attacked women.

Must we refresh your memory? As long ago as 1994, during a debate on the Child Support Agency, MP Glenda Jackson reported in Parliament that FNF advised fathers who were not allowed access to their children to ‘kidnap them. If that failed and nothing else could succeed, it advocated the murder of the mother.’ Recently we helped a father re-introduce contact with his child. He had previously gone to FNF and was horrified when their facilitators described the whole system as stacked against men, and

They kept referring to ‘feminist Nazis’. He said they promote and perpetuate misogyny and refused to go back.

FNF deny domestic violence, dismissing it as false allegations. They claim that ‘False and unfounded allegations poison proceedings when a non-resident parent is seeking parenting time with his children. Judges need to make findings of fact as soon as possible and to take false allegations into account when determining the best interests of the child.’ FNF claim that ‘there is widespread abuse of men and boys in the context of the family courts’ and accuse women of ‘making allegations’ as ‘a motorway to obtaining legal aid’.

Such claims are totally outrageous. Surely you know that:

  • One in five women aged 16-59 have suffered sexual violence in England and Wales;[1] two women a week are murdered by a partner or ex-partner; one in four women have been subjected to domestic violence in their lifetime; 81% of victims of domestic violence are women; domestic violence has a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime; 62% of children in households where domestic violence is happening are also directly harmed;[2] 50% of rapes are domestic. The level of false allegations of rape is less than 1% and less than 0.5% for domestic violence, both are much lower than false allegations for other crimes.[3]
  • Family courts have allowed violent fathers (even when they have a criminal record for violence) to terrify, threaten and intimidate those they had victimised and who managed to escape them. These legal standards would never be tolerated in an open court. Judges have insisted on contact and even residence, dismissing what women and children were telling them. Nineteen children and two mothers were killed between 2005 and 2015 following court orders to allow fathers unsupervised contact. (Women’s Aid)
  • FNF have the view that fathers who are estranged from their children have the same rights as mothers who do the daily work of caring and protecting them. That is the traditional patriarchal view by which children and their mothers are men’s property for them to do what they want with. No organisation or charity which gets public funds, especially ones that claim to speak for children, should give credence to such views.

We hope you will reconsider your participation in this conference.

Legal Action for Women and Women Against Rape

law@allwomencount.net       war@womenagainstrape.net

ANOTHER HANDMAID’S TALE

Video: The World Transformed, Brighton 26 September 2017

In poor communities, as many as 50% of children are reported to social services. Poverty is used to allege ‘neglect,’ treat mothers as surrogates for fostering and adoption without consent, inflicting lifelong trauma on thousands of children. Single mothers are most at risk, especially if they report rape or domestic violence, are of colour, or have a disability. A growing movement is breaking the silence and picketing secretive family courts. It is reflected in Labour’s manifesto. Mothers, women’s organisations, professionals, MPs – and you – speak out.