Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Children of domestic abuse victims are more likely to die before their fifth birthday than similarly situated children of mothers who were not abused, according to a new study by Samantha Rawlings and Zahra Siddique, Domestic Abuse and Child Health. In addition to child mortality data, the study examined other critical health issues including low birth weight and stunting, finding that “children of domestic abuse victims face an important long term disadvantage over their lifetime.”
Though the study focused on developing countries, it is consistent with results from studies in the U.S. and a reminder that adverse consequences for children are often unseen. In the U.S., more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in the home each year. The high profile case of Ray Rice generated justifiable outrage over his violent acts against his fiancé (now wife). Yet there was little mention of the impact on and consequences for their young daughter.
Human rights law is unequivocal: domestic violence is a human rights violation. The Convention on the Rights of the Child also mandates in article 19:
“States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”
This obligation encompasses the harms suffered from witnessing abuse of other family members.
The child health consequences also remind us of the interrelated and interdependent nature of rights. Importantly, this includes vertical relationships among rights. Ensuring the rights of women can advance the rights and wellbeing of children. Similarly securing rights for all children, including girls, can ensure that girls develop into women who are aware of and able to realize the full range of their rights, including the right to live free of violence. Too often the connections between rights—both vertical and horizontal—are under-appreciated.
Ultimately, securing the rights of all individuals will require greater recognition of and accounting for the interdependent nature of rights and more partnerships between advocates focused on different treaties and rights.
For more information on the interrelated nature of rights, see:
Gillian MacNaughton & Diane F. Frey, Decent Work for All: A Holistic Human Rights Approach , 26 Am. U. Int'l L. Rev. 441 (2011),
Jonathan Todres, Rights Relationships and the Experience of Children Orphaned by AIDS , 41 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 417 (2007)