Getting ‘Hagued’: How One International Law Enables Intimate Partner Violence – Women’s Media Center

The 1980 Hague Convention defines international child abduction as the “wrongful” removal or retention of children away from their country of “habitual residence,” accompanied by a parent or custodian. “Wrongful,” in this instance, refers to the disapproval of the trip — or its eventual extension — by the “left-behind parent,” who then calls for the child’s return.

103 nations and counting have joined the treaty, including the United States, which has the greatest incidence rates for both incoming and outgoing procedures under the Hague Convention. (In 2022 alone, the US had a total of 657 active abduction cases.)

In 75 percent of cases today, the “left-behind parent” is the father, according to the latest official data from the Hague Conference of Private International Law (HCCH).

Getting “hagued” is a term triggered as soon as the international “abductor” is notified to return the child. National authorities from the country of habitual residence — and of the left-behind parent — request the child’s return under penalty of facing courts and even Interpol. Not all countries criminalize abduction (meaning that the parent removing the child does not always face criminal penalties), but the repercussions for the child’s custody are far-reaching.

A return order acknowledges that the child was in fact “abducted,” so mothers are considered a risk to their children; they are not allowed to be alone with them again until custody has been settled.

In the 21st century, their stories have grown all too common: women travel and live abroad, fall in love, and start a family away from their home country.

“When it doesn’t work out, of course you want to go back to your homeland, where you count on emotional and logistical support, even your language,” said Spanish attorney Carolina Marín Pedreño, who also litigates in England.

In the last decade, an estimated 15,000 women across the globe have been accused of abducting their own children (according to data from official reports in 2008, 2015, and 2021).

In lack of agreement with the father, these foreign mothers are then confronted with only three choices over their children: abide, abduct, or abandon.

Abiding means remaining in the country where their children were born, where the mothers are likely seen as outsiders and struggle without family, community, or support. In many cases, these circumstances also trap them in risky situations of domestic and intimate partner violence.

Mothers who abduct often do so as a desperate measure to seek support. Whether aware of the Hague Convention or not, most of them are trying to protect themselves and their children from abuse.

In 2008, 24-year-old Cassandra Hasanovic was brutally murdered by her ex-husband mere months after returning to England to pursue a custody battle with her abuser. She had fled with their children to escape him and got “hagued” in Australia, where she had relatives.

Hasanovic was on her way to a women’s refuge — a journey for which she’d pleaded for a police escort but was denied — when her ex-husband appeared, dragged her out of the car, and stabbed her to death in front of their children and Hasanovic’s mother.

Source: Getting ‘Hagued’: How One International Law Enables Intimate Partner Violence – Women’s Media Center

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