Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Boston Implements Lenahan v. US

In 2011 Boston declared itself to be a human rights city.  On May 7, 2014 Boston’s City Council unanimously adopted a resolution declaring freedom from domestic violence a fundamental human right.  The resolution was part of a nationwide law student movement to encourage cities to recognize domestic violence as a violation of human rights.  The movement grew out of human rights advocates' efforts to implement the decision of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the case of Lenahan v. US.  In that case the Inter-American Commission  found that the United States violated Jessica Lenahan’s human rights when the town of Castle Rock Colorado failed to enforce the protection order that was outstanding against her husband. Ms. Lenahan’s three daughters died as a result of the failure. 

Since 2011, ten other cities have enacted some form of the resolution.   Only Austin and Boston demanded some form of proactive implementation as part of adoption.  In Austin, a biannual domestic violence audit was structured in response to the resolution’s passage. 

In Boston, Councilman Charles Yancey, who co-sponsored the resolution along with Councilwoman Pressley, indicated that he wanted to see affirmative results from its passage.  He rightly insisted that the resolution be implemented as a proactive means of affirming Boston's Human Rights City status as well as its commitment to protect surviovrs.  Consequently, Mr. Yancey will convene a panel on domestic violence next month.  In addition, Mr. Yancey will seek funding that will permit the law students to develop a resource guide identifying survivor resources available in each of Boston's neighborhoods. In addition, the guide will  explain the fundamentals of obtaining a civil protection order. 

The Boston resolution cited a variety of categories of violence against women including sexual assault and teen dating violence as well as noting that domestic violence is not gender specific.  Councilman Yancey revised the resolution, making it even stronger.  The last paragraph of the resolution states:

Resolved:  That the Boston City Council, in meeting assembled, acknowledges that there is no singular, stereotypical example of domestic violence and that this issue affects every segment of society regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or annual income and recognizes that freedom from domestic violence is a fundamental human right that no person shall infringe upon. 

As human rights advocates search for ways to implement the Lenahan decision, partnering with local public representatives might provide an unexpected source of suggestions and resources.

Click here for Northeastern News’ coverage of the students’ work on the resolution.  The full resolution may be read here.



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