NEW YORK (December 11, 2007) — New York City fails to adequately protect racial minority and immigrant domestic violence victims from abuse and discrimination, says a new report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), drafted in part by Columbia Law School students.
The report, Race and Realities in New York City, shows how the extra burdens of domestic violence on racial minorities violate United States’ international treaty obligations to prevent and remedy racial discrimination. The report details New York City’s numerous violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (“ICERD”).
The report describes the intersection of race, discrimination and gender-based violence at local, state and national levels and demonstrates New York City’s failure to fulfill its obligations.
“By examining domestic violence through the lens of racial discrimination, this report prompts all advocates to see and expose the harsh consequences of domestic violence generally, and the disparate impact on particular groups,” said Sadie Holzman, a Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic law student who worked on the report, “be it racial minorities, immigrants or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender individuals or the effect of gender based violence in some other form.”
Students at Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Clinic and Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic, along with the Urban Justice Center’s Domestic Violence Project and Voices of Women Organizing Project are the report’s co-authors. “This report shows that New York City has not fulfilled its obligation to provide its residents with protection from violence, whether in public or private settings,” said Crystal López, a Columbia Human Rights Clinic law student who worked on the submission.
In February 2008, the CERD Committee will review the report as it assesses the United States’ compliance with its ICERD obligations.
Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, Director of the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic said, “By exposing the city’s deadly lack of response to domestic violence and showing how that failure affects the most underserved communities, this report aims to spark change at the global and local levels.”
Students from Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Clinic — Sadie Holzman ’09, Jonathan Lieberman ’08 and Simrin Parmar ’08, and the Human Rights Clinic — Crystal López ‘09, Shilpi Agarwal ’09 and Annie Gell ’09, researched, drafted and edited the domestic violence report. The students spent months searching for data on intimate partner violence and race and participated in local conferences on domestic violence.
Domestic violence — a crime committed primarily against women — is among the most dangerous and common forms of gender-based violence in New York. It is also a crime with serious race- and immigration-related consequences.
New York City’s legal system often fails to respond to those most at risk, with problems ranging from inappropriate police response, to inadequate translation services in the criminal justice system and lack of access to Family Court for unmarried victims who do not have a child in common with their abuser. Minority and immigrant women face substantial barriers when seeking aid from the legal system to escape violent abuse. Tragically, they are often left with no public resources or assistance and are effectively silenced.
“As the most populous city in the United States, the need for domestic violence services in New York City is enormous,” said Caroline Bettinger-López, Columbia Human Rights Clinic Fellow and Lecturer in Law who coordinated Columbia Law School’s participation. “Minority and immigrant victims in New York City are among those greatest at risk when the government turns a blind eye on the domestic violence epidemic.”
Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic addresses cutting edge issues in sexuality and gender law through litigation, legislation, public policy analysis and other forms of advocacy. Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Clinicexposes students to the practice of law in the cross-cultural context of international human rights litigation and advocacy.
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, and criminal law.