Rewriting Human Rights Decisions
Edited by Eva Brems and Ellen Desmet
Chapter 6: Caring, rescuing or punishing? Rewriting RMS v Spain (ECtHR) from an integrated approach to the rights of women and children in poverty
The ‘rescuing’ of children from poor and otherwise ‘deviant’ families is a longstanding and yet unsettled concern in many countries. In 2005 Spanish social services removed a girl aged nearly 4 years old and placed her in foster care on the sole account of her mother’s poverty. Mother and daughter were never reunited. In 2013 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found a violation of the applicant’s right to family life, but dismissed her complaint on discrimination. Albeit the judgment is welcome and offers grounds for praise, its reasoning is fragmentary. This chapter analyses and rewrites the ECHR judgment in RMS by integrating the perspective of the rights of women and children living in poverty. First, the chapter problematizes the allocation of children’s care and well-being to the ‘private’ realm of families, and questions the way the Court addressed the impermissibility of family separation on the ground of poverty. Second, attention is drawn to compounded stereotypes and dominant notions on valued families underlying the decisions of the Spanish authorities and which the ECHR failed to uncover. Third, the chapter revisits the ECHR scrutiny of the domestic judicial control and decision-making process over the girl’s removal and placement.
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