UN Specijalna izvestacicaDecember 15, 2022  At the invitation of the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences, to submit a report on cases of child abuse, violence against women and violence against children, the Autonomous Women's Center prepared a report on the quasi-scientific concept of "alienation from parents" and its use in education of experts, in the practice of social and child protection, as well as in court practice in Serbia.

Reference was made to the recommendation of the GREVIO expert group in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, which calls on the authorities in Serbia to take necessary measures, including amendments to the law, to ensure that the courts are obliged to :

  1. consider all issues related to violence against women when determining custody and visitation rights;
  2. ensure the recognition of witnessing violence against a close person as compromising the best interest of the child;
  3. restrict custody and visitation rights where this is warranted to guarantee  the child’s best interest and safety;
  4. end the practice of removing children from non-abusive parents and placing them into foster care (paragraph 172).

Data were pointed out that confirm that in Serbia preventive protection against domestic violence rarely includes children who have witnessed violence against their mothers, and sometimes not even children who are direct victims of violence. In addition, in recent years, the education of experts on "high-conflict divorce" and "parental alienation" or "child alienation" has become popular. Such trainings are accredited by the Chamber of Social Protection, as well as by the Republic Institute for Social Protection (the latter has also developed professional-methodological instructions for social welfare centers in which this quasi-scientific concept is defined and used, without specifying the theoretical and research data that support and challenge). It was also pointed out that civil organizations that deal with the protection of children's rights have become promoters of this concept. A particularly sharp campaign to popularize the concept of "parental alienation" is carried out by portals and organizations of men/fathers, whose founders and followers were often themselves punished for violence against their partners, and who, through the selection and manipulation of information, justify typical prejudices against women/mothers (about false reports for violence and separating children from their fathers).

The letters sent by AWC to the relevant institutions and organizations in order to point out the harmful consequences of the introduction of the controversial concept of "parental alienation" and its related terms into professional practice, invoked no positive reaction. The fact that there is not enough professional knowledge in the Republic of Serbia, which adversely affects professional practice and has negative consequences for service users, is also indicated by the recommendation from the basic GREVIO report (para. 81). Numerous individual and systemic failures in the evaluations and activities of experts in connection with protection from domestic violence were determined by the Protector of Citizens (in procedures for controlling the legality and regularity of work). The fact that the situation has not changed (progressed) is also confirmed by the latest case of the murder in Vršac of a minor girl in the procedure of protection against domestic violence conducted only in relation to the mother, in which the custody of the child was not regulated (because no lawsuit for divorce was filed), so the competent authorities interpreted these circumstances as if both parents had the right to take care of the child. Also, individual cases of women seeking support and help from the AWC confirm that, when a mother reports suspected sexual abuse of her child (especially when the child is of young age), regardless of how convincing the child's statement about the event may be, if the child is not afraid of the father, forensic experts generally treat the child's statement as unreliable and influenced by the mother.

All of the above shows that the professional public in the Republic of Serbia are not aware and have no knowledge of the limitations, unscientific nature and risk of applying the concept of " parental alienation" and related terms, but that there is a growing trend of conducting education and creating guidelines/instructions that normalize its use. For now, in Serbia, there is no official administrative data on the number of court cases in which the concept of "parental alienation" appears, nor on their outcomes. In 2023, the AWC plans to conduct the first case law survey on the subject.

You can read the entire report of the AWC sent to the UN Special Rapporteur HERE.