Britney Spears’ conservatorship an example of domestic abuse, experts warn

‘This horrendous experience must be stopped,’ says leading domestic abuse charity’s director

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Friday 25 June 2021 18:23 BST
<p>Spears lost an appeal to stop her father from being her sole conservator in November last year</p>

Spears lost an appeal to stop her father from being her sole conservator in November last year

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Britney Spears’ conservatorship is an example of domestic abuse as her father is exerting control over all dimensions of her life, experts have warned.

The pop megastar is legally prohibited from making key choices about her personal life or her finances without gaining her father’s permission.

Spears, who lost an appeal to stop her father, James “Jamie” Spears from being her sole conservator in November last year, addressed her controversial conservatorship for the first time in court in Los Angeles this week.

The musician said her father and “anyone involved in this conservatorship, including my management” should be “in jail”.

“I want to be able to get married and have a baby,” 39-year-old said. “I have an IUD inside of myself right now, so I don’t get pregnant. I wanted to take the [IUD which is a form of contraception] out so I could start trying to have another baby.”

Spears added: “But this so-called team won’t let me go to the doctor to take it out because they don’t want me to have children – any more children”.

It is Spears’ first public statement about her conservatorship since a slew of bombshell documentaries about her case, which came out earlier this year, fuelled anger from the Free Britney movement.

Farah Nazeer, chief executive of leading UK domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid, told The Independent: “What Britney Spears described in her testimony this week is a situation where every element of her life is being controlled by her father through law, violating her human rights.

“This control, which means that Britney can no longer see her friends and has been told what medication she must take, has been described as ‘abusive’ by the singer and given what we know of the case, not acceptable.

“Coercive control has been illegal in England and Wales since 2015, yet in the US the courts have allowed Britney’s father to be able to exercise control over every part of her life, down to forced contraception and if she can get married.

“This horrendous experience must be stopped - women’s bodies do not belong to men, and these decisions are limiting her life choices.”

Ms Nazeer said Britney has informed the court the arrangement she is in is “abusive” - adding that those working at Women’s Aid “back Britney’s right – and every woman’s right – to have control over their own lives”.

She added: “Any mental illness experienced by women should never be managed legally or medically in a way that removes their right to freedom, dignity and respect”.

Her father has been assigned as her conservator since 2008, with the set-up starting after Spears had a breakdown that same year.

Charlotte Kneer, chief executive of Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid refuge in Surrey, told The Independent: “If Britney’s claims that she was forced to have an IUD are true this is a horrific example of control.

“I cannot think of a more blatant display of power over her womanhood that could be exercised. Abuse is about power and control and this is a perfect example that demonstrates abuse.”

She said reproductive coercion is something her service frequently witnesses in domestic abuse cases but it is more common for contraception to instead be removed.

Ms Kneer, a domestic abuse survivor whose violent partner was jailed for seven years in 2011, added: “In most cases it is used to remove the right of a woman to prevent pregnancy, enabling the abuser to keep the victim pregnant and dependent. Reproductive coercion in general is a clear power display that the woman does not have the right to choose.”

Spears’ father responded to the claims, telling the court he was “sorry” to hear how his daughter was suffering.

”He is sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain,“ the statement said. ”Mr Spears loves his daughter very much.”

A spokesperson for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), the UK’s largest abortion provider, defined reproductive coercion as being forced to terminate or carry on with a pregnancy, or “tampering with contraception such as hiding pills and sabotaging or removing condoms, or partners lying about their fertility status”.

The representative added: “It’s disturbing that in the past piercing condoms or hiding pills was seen as a joking matter when it’s actually a really insidious problem, and we do see women coming to us to terminate pregnancies that are the result of reproductive coercion”.

“Research on long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) provision in the UK produced by BPAS alongside Decolonising Contraception, Shine Aloud UK, and academics at Lancaster University found that particular groups can be targeted for LARC use based on judgments and assumptions about who is fit to be a parent, or who is sufficiently responsible to manage user dependent methods of contraception.”

Paula Avila-Guillen, Executive Director of the Women’s Equality Center, based in New York, said reproductive freedom is a “basic human right” as she noted women are entitled to have autonomy over their bodies.

She added: “If a celebrity like Britney Spears’ body can be legally controlled by outside individuals, then imagine what low-income women around the world have to deal with.”

The Independent previously revealed one in seven women in the UK have been bullied into either getting pregnant or having an abortion.

An exclusive study found 14 per cent of women have experienced coercion over reproduction, having either felt pressured into conceiving or having a termination. While some eight per cent of women have experienced pressure to become pregnant, seven per cent of women have been pushed into having an abortion, the research by polling company D-Cyfor concluded.

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