On 31st July 2015, the statistics on the number of children killed at the hands of their fathers during visitation or custody in Spain rose from 24 to 26. These murders are not “regrettable,” as the Minister of Justice called them; these murders are the responsibility of the State. When the judiciary allows visitation or custody in these cases, the child’s best interests and protection must always be the primary consideration. It is obvious from these figures that the Spanish State is failing.
At Women’s Link Worldwide we have the honour and privilege of representing Ángela González Carreño. Ángela has spent over twelve years fighting to ensure that the violations of her human rights and those of her deceased daughter, Andrea, who was murdered by her abusive ex-partner and father of the girl, will not be repeated. When Spanish authorities didn’t respond to her complaints, Ángela and Women’s Link took her case to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee). Nineteen experts unanimously determined that Ángela was right and the CEDAW Committee issued a decision finding, for the first time before an international body, that the Spanish State bears responsibility in a gender-based violence case.
The CEDAW Committee’s decision recognizes that Ángela is a victim of gross violations of International Human Rights Law and establishes a series of measures the State must take, some with regard to Ángela’s case and some others which are more general in character. The resolution maintains that although it is positive and important to have laws to combat this human rights violation (laws which were hard won by feminists and women’s organisations), this alone is not enough. It is also necessary to effectively implement these laws without the prejudices and gender stereotypes that normalise, minimise, and perpetuate gender-based violence. The measures established by the CEDAW Committee’s resolution are essential because they have the potential to save the lives of women and children, whose murders can be avoided.
Lamentably, and demonstrating a lack of political will or a real commitment to combat gender-based violence, the Spanish State has declared that the decisions of United Nations Committees are not binding. In other words, the State itself, which voluntarily signed and ratified CEDAW and its Protocol, asserts that it will not comply with the human rights and gender equality obligations and commitments it ascribed to.
From a comparative perspective, the experience of other states demonstrates that the decisions of United Nations committees are binding. Regarding the CEDAW Committee in particular, there are clear examples from other states. In the Case of Alyne da Silva Pimentel Teixeira v. Brazil, for example, Brazil created an inter-ministerial group to implement the Committee’s recommendations and held an official ceremony in which it awarded compensation to the victim’s mother. Other examples of compliance include Peru in the Case of L.C. v. Peru, Austria in the Case of Şahide Goekce v. Austria, and Bulgaria in the Case of V.K. v. Bulgaria, to name but a few.
If Spain is really committed to human rights and gender equality, this is the moment to prove it by providing reparations to the victims of human rights violations. And if Spain wants to be entitled to preside over the United Nations Security Council, it should start with the basic principle of recognizing the validity of the United Nations and, therefore, comply with its decisions.
Compliance with international human rights obligations does not consist of simulating compliance and presenting a good image at international forums through large Spanish delegations that claim Spain is exemplary and a world leader in the fight against gender-based violence. Compliance with international obligations lies not in bragging about signing and ratifying international instruments. It goes beyond speeches, photos, and cameras.
Therefore, if there is a real commitment to fighting gender-based violence, a form of discrimination against women, Spain must comply with the recommendations in the case of Ángela. The recommendations of the Committee should not be viewed as an attack on the Spanish State; on the contrary, the recognition of violations of human rights by the state is an essential step to strengthening the rule of law and democratic institutions. We say: if the State fails Ángela, it fails us all.
#YesTheyreBinding (#Sísonvinculantes –in Spanish-)
Can you specify precisely what Spain should do? You mention reparations: is that all? If not, what else?
The Decision says:
“In accordance with article 7, paragraph 3, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and taking into account all of the foregoing considerations, the Committee considers that the State party has infringed the rights of the author and her deceased daughter under articles 2 (a-f); 5 (a); and 16, paragraph 1 (d) of the Convention, read jointly with article 1 of the Convention and general recommendation No. 19 of the Committee.
11. The Committee makes the following recommendations to the State party:
(a) With regard to the author of the communication:
(i) Grant the author appropriate reparation and comprehensive compensation commensurate with the seriousness of the infringement of her rights;
(ii) Conduct an exhaustive and impartial investigation to determine whether there are failures in the State’s structures and practices that have caused the author and her daughter to be deprived of protection;
(b) In general:
(i) Take appropriate and effective measures so prior acts of domestic violence will be taken into consideration when determining custody and visitation rights regarding children and so that the exercise of custody or visiting rights will not endanger the safety of the victims of violence, including the children. The best interests of the child and the child’s right to be heard must prevail in all decisions taken in this regard;
(ii) Strengthen application of the legal framework to ensure that the competent authorities exercise due diligence to respond appropriately to situations of domestic violence;
(iii) Provide mandatory training for judges and administrative personnel on the application of the legal framework with regard to combating domestic violence, including training on the definition of domestic violence and on gender stereotypes, as well as training with regard to the Convention, its Optional Protocol and the Committee’s general recommendations, particularly general recommendation 19.
12. In accordance with article 7, paragraph 4, the State party shall give due consideration to the views of the Committee, together with its recommendations, and shall submit to the Committee, within six months, a written response, including any information on action taken in the light of the views and recommendations of the Committee. The State party is also requested to publish the Committee’s views and recommendations and to have and have them widely distributed in order to reach all relevant sectors of society”.
Thank you, Sofia, it’s goo to get answer. All fine provided “prior acts of domestic violence ” means acts admitted or proved in litigation in which the alleged perpetrator had a right to be heard and to be legally represented – not allegations or acquittals.
As for the definition of d.v. let us remember that while actual or threatened physical violence is usually male-on-female all the other ways in which spouses or partners can harm each other are equal-opps. The wider you throw the definition of domestic violence, the less gendered it will be.
*I meant of course: it’s good to get an answer. Tempted to commit an act of violence against my keyboard!