The 50th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) mandated a Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and its consequences (UNHRC Resolution 50/7). Reem Alsalem was appointed under the mandated remit of Resolution 50/7. Alsalem’s three year tenure ends on 31 July 2024. Under Resolution 50/7 the Special Rapporteur undertook to produce a report which she titled “Custody, violence against women and violence against children”. The report focusses on parental alienation and its significance in “custody” cases in the family courts (more properly called private law Children Act cases, deciding on child arrangement orders, in the English and Welsh jurisdictions).
The report adopts the familiar mainstream feminist position on parental alienation, summarised by this extract from Alsalem’s report,
“The report demonstrates how the discredited and unscientific pseudo-concept of parental alienation is used in family law proceedings by abusers as a tool to continue their abuse and coercion and to undermine and discredit allegations of domestic violence made by mothers who are trying to keep their children safe.”
This posture is familiar from the works of, for example, Joan Meier or Adrienne Barnett. This posture is motivated by an extreme sex-war perspective, to the exclusion of all other considerations. This feminist position denies that parental alienation is a form of child abuse, and also ignores that mothers, as well as fathers, are frequently alienated by the other parent. The welfare of everyone, men, women and children, is subordinated to the overriding feminist mission to empower women to remove fathers from their lives and the lives of their children.
Alsalem’s report, A/HRC/53/36, was due to be presented at the 53rd regular session of the Human Rights Council, ending 14 July 2023. A group of 26 people from various countries became active in mounting push-back against this report, without which it would undoubtedly sail through the UNHRC session with nothing but plaudits, as so many similar reports have done previously. The chosen approach was to raise a complaint with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
I had a crack at such a letter of complaint (here). But the ever-energetic Terry White put together a far superior letter of complaint, properly targeted at all the right individuals within the UNHRC, and co-signed by 12 others, including myself. The letter includes as an Appendix a detailed critique of Alsalem’s report by PASG and GARIPA, organisations based in the USA and Mexico respectively. This critique was the work of nine authors from the USA, Poland, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Canada, Israel and Mexico.
Terry’s letter of complaint made the following requests/demands,
“Signatories to this Complaint Letter (“we”) call upon the UNHRC, the UN OHCHR, and the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures to undertake the following emergency measures to ensure the integrity of the 53rd UNHRC session:
1. Defer Agenda Item 3 of the forthcoming 53rd UNHRC session until the 54th session
2. Immediately release the submissions received by UNSRVAW into the public domain
3. Conduct an independent, public inquiry into the probity of the UNSRVAW’s Report and the conduct of the UNSRVAW in this matter”
Agenda item 3 was to be the presentation of Alsalem’s report.
It appears that UNHRC have acceded to our demand 1.
It may be that the success of the letter of complaint was bolstered by other actions of the group, including many press releases by DAVIA (Domestic Abuse and Violence International Alliance) and a petition for the UNHRC to investigate the probity of Alsalem’s report signed by nearly 5,000 people (you can still sign it, here).
It remains to be seen whether the report re-emerges in session 54 or thereafter, and whether UNHRC will also accede to our demands 2 and 3. Follow-up actions by the group are under discussion.
[As an amusing aside, a couple of us put some key questions to chatGPT, including asking the AI to conduct a textual analysis of Alsalem’s report for signs of bias. The results can be found here. Note that putting the same question to ChatGPT twice will elicit answers which differ in detail, though not in overall thrust].