Several United Nations rapporteurs have issued a statement this Thursday in which they criticize that the Spanish judicial system does not sufficiently protect minors from “abusive parents” and point out that there is a “discriminatory bias” that makes the testimony of women be perceived as less credible than that of men, even having evidence of having suffered abuse. They urge Spain to do more so that its legislation is applied and to take effective measures to prevent these cases.
The signatories of the communiqué are the Special Rapporteur on violence against women (Reem Alsalem), her counterpart on the right to physical and mental health (Tlaleng Mofokeng), the Rapporteur on torture (Nils Melzer) and members of the Group of UN Work on Discrimination Against Women and Girls.
The statement ensures that minors in Spain “are exposed to violence and sexual abuse by a judicial system that does not protect them from abusive parents.” “Even where there is a history of domestic violence or evidence of abuse, court decisions often favor male fathers, even where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that they abuse children and their mothers.” they say.
Experts point to two root causes. One, the existence of a “discriminatory bias against women, which makes their testimony be perceived as less credible than that of men.” “Women are even less likely to be believed when they report physical and sexual violence committed by parents against them and their children,” they say.
And another, the use of the non-existent parental alienation syndrome: “Although it lacks credible scientific support, it reflects the idea that when a child fears or avoids their father or mother, it is due to the influence of the other parent, rather than to the child’s own experiences. ” Although in theory it is a gender-neutral concept, “research carried out in Spain and the opinions of experts who follow the subject have shown that in several countries, including Spain, mothers have been regularly accused of resorting to parental alienation, wrongly accusing the parents of their children of abusing them in custody litigation. ”
The statement insists that the application of these theories is not allowed in Spain but that “they seem to continue to play a role in judicial decisions.” “Such theories take advantage of ingrained patriarchal attitudes in the legal system, as well as a growing wave of criticism against gender equality in several countries where anti-rights groups have portrayed women’s rights as’ anti-family,” they add.
“Spain must do more to make its legislation operational and for all officials of the justice system to apply a gender-sensitive approach and child centers in cases of child custody and domestic violence, in addition to taking effective measures to prevent these acts of violence that can constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, even torture. The Government must fulfill its responsibility to guarantee that children and women can live and prosper free of violence. ”