Advice Column, Parenting

The Women’s Coalition International heads to South Africa to fight against Gender-Based Violence in SA Courts

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“You strike the women, you strike the rock” – inspiring words from the famous resistance song have come to symbolise the courage and strength expressed at the Women’s March of 1956 as South African women refused to give in to increasing oppression without some form of protest.

The Women’s Coalition, an international NGO founded in 2003 in the United States to fight against a legalised industry which routinely takes children away from loving mothers and gives custody to controlling and abusive fathers, has elected Kara Fox (surname withheld as minor children are involved) as their leader in South Africa. 

Kara says that the local coalition’s mission is to raise awareness about the crisis that is happening in South African Courts and to unite with other women’s groups fighting Gender-Based Violence. Importantly, it gives mothers who have lost their children via South African courts, a voice and a support group. Women are increasingly coming forward with their tragic stories and information about lawyers, ‘hired gun’ experts, judges and trial outcomes.

Legalised gender-based violence in our courts

“Children are being greatly harmed and women are being emotionally and financially devastated by losing contact, their parenting rights and being unable to protect their children”, says Kara. 

“In South Africa this is facilitated by what Americans call the cottage industry, an unholy trinity of attorneys, advocates and ‘hired gun’ social workers or psychologists (“experts”). They work together as teams in a proven model to play the legal system and sway our judges. The way it works is that someone on the team identifies a wealthy litigant and shows them how they will win sole custody of children in exchange for eye-watering amounts of money,” she says. 

“This problem does not arise in the case of a divorce between two parents who genuinely want what’s best for their children, where both parties do their best to separate in a way that takes the least emotional toll on everyone. It arises when vengeful, abusive men use the legal system to “buy” back control over ‘their’ women and children, who they see as their possessions and they are furious that they have dared to leave the abusive marriage,” Kara says. 

While children have an undeniable right to live with their primary attachment figure which is what’s best for them and for their healthy development, according to The Women’s Coalition International website, both male and female judges routinely enforce systemic male entitlement and take children away from their mothers. 

The pervasive pattern is that women, who start out as primary nurturers of the children, end up with little, supervised or zero contact after litigation. It doesn’t matter whether the father is a narcissist, sociopath, abuser or just selfish. He will get what he wants in court because he’s the father and he’s got money to spend on winning at any cost. 

How children and mothers’ rights are crushed by “hired guns” in South Africa

“Unfortunately, few South African women entering a highly contested divorce know about the cottage industry nor about getting help from the Office of the Family Advocate,” says Kara. Instead, she says, mothers find themselves coerced into assessments by private practitioners in social work or psychology, ostensibly to establish the best interests of the children. This “consulting expert” is paid by the father and works with the father’s legal team to ensure the report produced at the end of the assessment process is damning against the mother.  

“However,” Kara says “what happens next is nothing but an ambush. The expert submits a damning report of the mother, alleging mental instability and suggesting she is a danger to the children, while the father is never assessed. The mother then faces an urgent application to appear in court with little time to instruct an attorney or get a second opinion from any other more suitably qualified expert. Based on the biased report of a sole ‘expert’ the judge makes a judgement removing the children from their mother’s primary care and placing them with the father. Then follows her endless nightmare of fighting for unsupervised contact, enduring expensive and traumatic assessments by forensic psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, psychometric testing and bringing of court applications to regain her right to parent children.”

Kara voices the pain of all mothers in this situation: “She has to attempt this without access to funds, often unrepresented, when the father has been the breadwinner and is in control of the finances. There are no words to describe the heartache and grief of witnessing your children’s anguish and confusion: “Why can’t I live with you mommy? Why can’t we sleep at your house anymore?’ and hearing their screams at the end of supervised visits as they are dragged away by their fathers. 

“Maternal fears, grief, and suffering are compounded by seeing them change from happy, confident little children into crushed, anxious shadows of their former selves, and seeing their neglect from uncaring paid child minders and au pairs,” she says.

Guidance for South African women facing this situation

  • Do not allow you and your family to be assessed by anyone paid for by your husband, no matter how it is described, without advice from an attorney specialising in Family Law.
  • Insist on involving the Office of the Family Advocate.
  • Do not move out of the family home. If necessary, lay a charge at the police station if the husband is violent, and do not be dissuaded from this course by your sadness at his behaviour or hopes that he will change. 

The Women’s Coalition in South Africa would like to see a standardised structure implemented for reports submitted by “experts” to the courts. Currently there are no rules and these “experts” can and do frequently say whatever their client needs to win custody at any cost. These reports should follow a specific set of standards and be reviewed by other impartial experts before they are allowed to be filed in court. 

The Women’s Coalition International regards ‘shared parenting’ as a deceptive euphemism for ‘forced equal parenting’ which is harmful to abused women and children.

The Office of the Family Advocate in South Africa

The Office of The Family Advocate is a government body which assists the parties to reach an agreement on disputed issues, namely care and contact, access and guardianship. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the Family Advocate evaluates the parties’ circumstances in light of the best interests of the child and makes a recommendation to the Court. The recommendation of the Family Advocate is intended to assist the Court in adjudicating a matter and arriving at a particular decision before handing down an enforceable Court Order.

About The Women’s Coalition International

Author and founder of The Women’s Coalition International, Cindy Dumas, M.A. has been researching, writing, and raising awareness about the Custody Crisis since 2003, when she was unable to protect her child from his sexually abusive father. She fled into hiding when Family Court failed her and was tricked into returning home, after which her son was given to his abusive father. 

There is a wealth of information and research on
 about the epidemic of judges around the world awarding custody to abusive fathers.  

For further information or interviews, contact Kara Fox at or 073 032 1212

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One Comment

  • Michelle T July 1, 2020 at 10:40 am

    Wow. This is eye-opening and devastating. How often does this happen in our country?


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