The Hague Convention of October 25th, 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of wrongful removal and retention across international borders, by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return and guarantee the rights of parents.
A child is considered abducted if they are taken across borders by one parent without the other parent’s consent. The motive for taking the child is not relevant. Signed by over 100 countries, the original intention of the treaty was to protect children across borders.
Dubbed “a good law gone bad” by the Hague Mothers Project, the convention is disproportionately affecting mothers who live in a foreign country. Today around 75% of parents brought to court are mothers, many seeking safety from domestic violence. Women who live and raise their children abroad are particularly vulnerable to the convention, with cases brought as a direct result of fleeing to their home country for vital support and security.
“The cases are brought by the perpetrators of that violence with support from the state. In a majority of cases, even when there is clear evidence of violence or criminality by the father, the Convention insists that the child must be returned.” – The Hague Mothers Project
Hague mothers often do not have a source of income or resources in the country in which they live. They may not speak the language or have the necessary resources to navigate the complex legal systems of a foreign country.
Most court judges, particularly in the US, have little to no previous experience or knowledge of the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention is highly complex and does not assist with legal aid for the fleeing parent.
Hague mothers are facing trials in which they face criminal sentences of 3-5 years and the loss of the right to see, or even communicate with their children for even lengthier periods.
Many Hagued mothers have found themselves condemned as criminals and child abductors, with their children returned to potentially unsafe custody situations with a father in a different country. The impact of this forced separation on children cannot be overstated.
“Hagued mothers all have a story: how we came to live and give birth to children in a foreign country; what started as an exciting journey of life; and, finally, how creating a family in a country foreign to us turned us into vulnerable, grief-stricken victims of the Hague.” – Sarah
Earlier this month, the United Nations Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council sent a letter to Secretary General of the Hague Conference Mr. Christophe Bernasconi, recommending that the convention be revised to better protect women and children:
In the said report, the Special Rapporteur called on the international community to acknowledge the egregious miscarriages of justice that regularly occur in both family courts and courts that adjudicate Hague abduction cases internationally. This is a global human rights issue which must be urgently addressed in order to safeguard mothers and their children.
Hague mothers around the world are working to end this injustice within the legal system and move forward with their children in a safe environment.
The Hague Mothers Legacy Project aims to amplify the voices of those women and raise awareness of the issues surrounding The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. They work with lawyers, domestic violence experts, women’s groups and children’s rights experts to help victims. You can follow their campaign here.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org