Cheers and Jeers

U.S. Faulted in 3 Deaths; Sterilized Mom Testifies

Saturday, August 20, 2011


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In a landmark decision, an international tribunal has found the U.S. government responsible for human rights violations against a Colorado woman and her three deceased children, who were murdered by their father, the ACLU said in an Aug. 17 press statement.

Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States is the first case brought by a domestic violence survivor against the U.S. before an international human rights body, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The ruling also sets forth comprehensive recommendations for changes to U.S. law and policy pertaining to domestic violence.

The case concerns the 1999 incident in which police in Castle Rock, Colo., failed to respond to Jessica Lenahan's repeated calls for help after her estranged husband, Simon Gonzales, kidnapped their three young children in violation of a domestic violence restraining order. Ten hours after Lenahan's first call to the police, her husband drove up to the Castle Rock Police Department and began firing his gun at the police station. The police returned fire, killing Gonzales. Inside the truck, the police found the bodies of the three girls who had been shot dead. Local authorities failed to conduct a proper investigation into the children's deaths, resulting in questions about the cause, time and place of their deaths that remain to this day.

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"I have waited 12 years for justice, knowing in my heart that police inaction led to the tragic and untimely deaths of my three young daughters," said Lenahan. "Today's decision tells the world that the government violated my human rights by failing to protect me and my children from domestic violence."

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Around 1,000 women's rights supporters rallied in Tunis on Aug. 13 to the mark the anniversary of a key equal rights bill amid fears that gender equality may suffer if political Islam rises in post-revolution Tunisia, reported AFP Aug. 14.
  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Aug. 18 ensuring that sexual assault victims are not responsible for the costs of forensic examinations, reported the Atlantic Highlands Herald.
  • The HBO documentary on feminist icon Gloria Steinem, "Gloria: In Her Own Words," premiered on Aug. 15. The film chronicles Steinem's life as a journalist and later a prominent feminist and activist.
  • On Aug. 15 the University of North Carolina Hospital in Chapel Hill opened the country's first free-standing perinatal psychiatry unit to prevent postpartum depression in new mothers, reported  NPR Aug. 14.
  • Seoul, the South Korean capital, plans to introduce female-only subway cars in response to sexual assault complaints, reported AOL Travel Aug. 18.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking to block a new Kansas law that prohibits insurance companies from including abortion coverage in comprehensive health plans, reported The Wichita Eagle Aug. 17.


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Between 1929 and 1974, North Carolina sterilized more than 7,600 individuals in the name of "improving" the state's human stock, the Associated Press reported Aug. 15. By the time the program was halted, the majority of those who underwent the surgery were young, black, poor women. One of them, Elaine Riddick, continues to seek reparation and justice.

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