Women and Justice: Jurisdiction

International Case Law

Karen Tayag Vertido v. The Philippines CEDAW Committee (2008)

Gender discrimination, Sexual violence and rape

Karen Tayag Vertido, an employee of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Philippines, was raped by a former President of the Chamber in 1996. The case remained at the trial court level for eight years before the Regional Court of Davao City acquitted the defendant in 2005. The Court scrutinized Vertido’s testimony with “extreme caution,” and challenged her credibility on the ground that “an accusation of rape can be made with facility.” The Court specifically declined to apply Filipino Supreme Court precedent cases establishing that failure to escape does not negate the existence of rape, stating that Vertido had ample opportunities to escape her attacker. In her complaint to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Vertido argued that the Court’s actions subjected her to revictimization and violated articles 2(c), 2(f), and 5(a) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and CEDAW General Recommendation 19, which obliges a State to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, and practices that constitute discrimination against women. The Committee held that the State Court erred in relying on gender-based myths and stereotypes about rape and rape victims in Vertido’s case, and stressed that there should be no assumption in law or practice that a woman gives her consent where she had not physically resisted unwanted sexual conduct. The Committee recommended that the State provide Vertido with appropriate compensation, review the definition of rape under existing law to ensure that lack of consent is a essential element of the crime of rape, remove any requirement that sexual violence be committed by violence or force, and require appropriate training for judges, lawyers, and law enforcement officers in understanding crimes of rape and other sexual offenses.

Elisabeth de Blok et al. v. The Netherlands CEDAW Committee (2014)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Elisabeth de Blok and five other nationals of the Netherlands are self-employed women who gave birth between 2005 and 2006. Until 31 July 2004, self-employed persons were compulsorily insured against the risk of loss of income as a result of incapacity for work under the Incapacity Insurance Act. Under the Work and Care Act, self-employed women were also entitled to a State maternity benefits. On August 1, 2004, the Discontinuation of Access to Incapacity Insurance Act entered into force, ending the entitlement of self-employed women to maternity benefits. The six self-employed women complained to the District Court of The Hague, claiming that the State should have ensured an adequate maternity benefit scheme in keeping with article 11(2)(b) of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women. The District Court declared the claim unfounded. The Court of Appeal of The Hague upheld the judgment. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, ruling that the provisions of article 11(2)(b) of the Convention were insufficiently precise, thus making them unsuitable for direct application by national courts. In their complaint to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the six women argued that the State party violated their rights under article 11(2)(b) of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women by removing the existing maternity leave scheme applicable to self-employed women up to 2004. The Committee held that article 11(2)(b) is applicable also to self-employed women and not to female employees exclusively. Further, the Committee held that, contrary to the State party’s view, the provision was directly applicable. The Committee concluded that the State party’s failure to provide maternity benefits affected pregnant women adversely and therefore constituted direct sex and gender-based discrimination against women. The Committee recommended that the State party provide reparation, including monetary compensation, for the loss of maternity benefits to the six women. The Committee noted that the Sate party amended its legislation in June 2008 to ensure that a maternity leave scheme is available also to self-employed women. However, the Committee invited the State party to address and redress the situation of women similarly situated to the authors, who are self-employed and gave birth between 1 August 2004 and 4 June 2008, when no compensation scheme for self-employed women was in place.

R.P.B. v. The Philippines CEDAW Committee (2014)

Gender discrimination, Sexual violence and rape

R.P.B., a Filipina national born in 1989 who is both deaf and mute, was raped by her 19-year-old neighbor in 2006. The case remained at the trial court level for five years before the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City acquitted the defendant in 2011. Similar to a previous case from the Philippines heard by the CEDAW Committee in 2008, Karen Tayag Vetrido v. The Philippines, the Court again declined to apply Filipino Supreme Court precedent. Instead, the Court relied on gender-based myths and stereotypes about rape and rape victims, finding that the victim should have used every opportunity to escape or resist her attacker. In addition, State authorities did not provide any interpretation for R.P.B. In her complaint to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, R.P.B. argued that the Court’s actions violated article 1, and article 2(c), (d), and (f) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In addition to relying on gender based myths and stereotypes, R.P.B. also argued that the Court failed to provided her with accessibility, on an equal basis with other victims, to the court, as a woman who is also deaf and mute. The Committee held that the provision of sign language interpretation was essential to ensure R.P.B’s full and equal participation in the proceedings, in compliance with article 2(c) and 2(d) of the Convention. Further, the Committee held that the State party erred in relying on gender-based stereotyping, which resulted in sex and gender-based discrimination and disregard for the individual circumstances of the case, such as R.P.B’s disability and age. The Committee recommended that the State provide R.P.B. with the appropriate compensation and free-of-charge counseling, review the existing law and remove any requirement that sexual assault be committed by force or violence, guarantee the free and adequate assistance of interpreters, ensure that all criminal proceedings involving rape and other sexual offences are conducted in an impartial and fair manner, free from prejudices or stereotypical notions regarding the victim’s gender, age and disability, and provide adequate and regular training on the Convention, the Optional Protocol and the Committee’s general recommendations.

González Carreño v. Spain CEDAW Committee (2014)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

In 2003, a father murdered his seven-year-old daughter Andrea during a court-approved parental visitation. Ángela González, Andrea’s mother, had previously reported instances of physical abuse to the police on numerous occasions and sought court-ordered restraining orders against him to protect herself and her daughter. The father had refused to accept supervised visitations with his daughter. After killing his daughter, the father committed suicide. The mother brought suit in national court against Spanish authorities. The court ruled against her, deciding in April 2011 that the visit regime was sound and denied the case any constitutional relevance. As a result, the mother brought this complaint to the CEDAW Committee. The Committee found for the mother, stating that in deciding the parental visitation scheme the Spanish authorities should have taken into account the existing context of domestic violence in the family. Instead, the Spanish authorities had made a routine decision that this type of visitation scheme was appropriate without taking the specific facts of this case into consideration. The Committee held that the Spanish authorities thereby failed to take the best interest of the child into account. The Committee has repeatedly found that a State can be held responsible for acts of individuals if it fails to exercise necessary diligence in order to prevent violations of the CEDAW Convention. Specifically, Spain had violated articles 2 a), d), e) and f), 5 a) and 16 paragraph 1 of CEDAW. Additionally, CEDAW ruled that Spain must provide training to judges and other professionals to avoid similar failures in the future. Spain has since stated that it will introduce new mechanisms to protect children in gender violence cases, such as requiring judges to act with precaution in their decision-making.

En 2003, un padre asesinó a su hija Andrea, de siete años, durante una visita de padres aprobada por el tribunal. Ángela González, la madre de Andrea, había denunciado previamente casos de abuso físico a la policía en numerosas ocasiones y había solicitado órdenes de restricción ordenadas por el tribunal para protegerse a ella y a su hija. El padre se había negado a aceptar visitas supervisadas con su hija. Después de matar a su hija, el padre se suicidó. La madre presentó una demanda en el juzgado nacional contra las autoridades españolas. El tribunal falló en contra de ella, decidiendo en abril de 2011 que el régimen de visitas era sólido y negó al caso cualquier relevancia constitucional. Como resultado, la madre presentó esta queja al Comité de la CEDAW. El Comité determinó que la madre indicaba que, al decidir el plan de visitas de los padres, las autoridades españolas deberían haber tenido en cuenta el contexto existente de violencia doméstica en la familia. En cambio, las autoridades españolas habían tomado una decisión de rutina de que este tipo de esquema de visitas era apropiado sin tener en cuenta los hechos específicos de este caso. El Comité sostuvo que las autoridades españolas no habían tenido en cuenta el interés superior del niño. El Comité ha encontrado repetidamente que un Estado puede ser responsabilizado por actos de individuos si no ejerce la diligencia necesaria para prevenir violaciones de la Convención de la CEDAW. Específicamente, España había violado los artículos 2 a), d), e) yf), 5 a) y 16 párrafo 1 de la CEDAW. Además, la CEDAW dictaminó que España debe brindar capacitación a jueces y otros profesionales para evitar fallas similares en el futuro. Desde entonces, España ha declarado que introducirá nuevos mecanismos para proteger a los niños en casos de violencia de género, como exigir que los jueces actúen con precaución en su toma de decisiones.

S. V. P. v. Bulgaria CEDAW Committee (2012)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

S filed a complaint on behalf of her seven-year-old daughter, V, who was sexually assaulted by a neighbor. The perpetrator, B, was indicted for sexual molestation, at which time, was not a ‘serious crime’ under the State’s criminal code and thus permitted B to enter into a plea-bargain agreement under which he admitted guilt and received a three-year suspended sentence. S brought a civil tort claim on behalf of V as she was not permitted to bring a civil claim against B in connection with B’s prosecution and received a judgment of approximately EUR 15,000 for moral damages two years later. The law did not provide for a state actor to enforce the judgment, and S was only able to collect approximately EUR 500 from B. B continued to live in the vicinity of V’s home, and she repeatedly expressed fear of further harm from him. After the assault, V was diagnosed as a person with disability. S brought a communication before the CEDAW alleging violations by Bulgaria of Articles 1, 2(a), (b), (c), (e), (f) and (g), 3, 5, 12 and 15 of CEDAW by failing to effectively protect V against sexual violence and compensation, to ensure V’s rights to health, including reproductive health and education, to provide V with proper rehabilitative services, and to guarantee V’s right against re-victimization by B. The Committee upheld all of S’s claims, ordered the State to provide V with appropriate reparations and addressed the State to adopt specified changes to State laws, including amendments to provide effective protection from re-victimization and to provide appropriate support and financial compensation to victims, and enact new policies, including health care protocols and hospital procedures, to address sexual violence against women and girls.

Jallow v. Bulgaria CEDAW Committee (2012)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination

J moved from the Gambia to Bulgaria after marrying A.P., a Bulgarian national. Once in Bulgaria, A.P. subjected J to physical and psychological violence, including sexual abuse, and attempted to force her to take part in pornographic films and photographs. He also abused their daughter, M.A.P. A.P. called the Child Protection Department to stop J from breastfeeding M.A.P, during which onsite visit the social workers learned of A.P’s abuse, called the police and advised J to seek refuge but provided no guidance about where or how to do so. J found refuge for several days in an NGO-run shelter, but A.P. later found her and forced her to return to the family home. Prosecutors refused to continue investigating the alleged domestic violence due to insufficient evidence. At no time did the authorities interview J. Later, A.P. filed an application with the Sofia Regional Court alleging him being a victim of domestic violence and requesting an emergency protection order. The Court granted the order, along with temporary custody of M.A.P, based solely on his statement and without consideration of the alleged domestic violence he committed against J. Authorities did not provide J with information about M.A.P’s whereabouts or her condition, despite repeated requests. The Court dismissed A.P.’s application for a permanent protection order but the emergency order remained effective. J later agreed to a divorce, including to numerous unfavorable conditions, to regain her custody of the daughter. J submitted a communication before the CmEDAW on behalf of M.A.P. and herself alleging violations by Bulgaria of Articles 1, 2, 3, 5 and 16 (1)(c), 16(1)(d), 16(1)(f) and 16(1)(g) of CEDAW by failing to provide effective protection against domestic violence and sanction A.P. for his behavior, to consider domestic violence as a real and serious threat, to adopt effective measures to address gender-based violence against women, gender discrimination and to provide illiterate migrant woman as herself to access justice. The Committee upheld all her claims, urged Bulgaria to compensate J and M.A.P, and recommended that the State Party adopt measures to ensure that women victims of domestic violence, including migrant women, have effective access to justice and other services. It also called on the State Party to provide regular training on CEDAW and the Optional Protocol and to adopt legislative and other measures to ensure that domestic violence is taken into account in determining custody and visitation rights of children.

Kell v. Canada CEDAW Committee (2012)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

K, an Aboriginal woman from the Rae-Edzo community in the Northwest Territories (N.W.T.) of Canada, bought a house from the N.W.T. Housing Corporation, with S her common law partner, as co-owners of the property. S subjected K to domestic violence, including economic abuse, over the subsequent three-year period. Following a request from S, a then board member of the Housing Authority, and without K’s knowledge, the N.W.T. Housing Corporation on instruction from the Rae-Edzo Housing Authority removed K’s name from the Assignment of Lease, making S the sole owner of the property. S then evicted her from the property while she sought protection in a shelter. K filed proceedings against S in the N.W.T. Supreme Court seeking compensation for domestic violence and loss of use of her home, fraudulently obtained by S, aided and abetted by the N.W.T. Government. S subsequently died, following which K’s lawyer initiated proceedings against his estate and the N.W.T. Housing Corporation. They offered K a monetary settlement but K refused as her key concern was regaining the property. The Supreme Court dismissed both proceedings for “want of prosecution.” Costs were imposed against K and subsequent appeals were unsuccessful. K filed a third action related to her interest in and right to the leasehold title and possession of the property. The property had then been sold and the Court dismissed the matter. K brought a communication to the CmEDAW alleging violations by Canada of Articles 1, 2(d), 2(e), 14(2)(h), 15(1)-15(4), 16(1)(h) of CEDAW by allowing its agents – the N.W.T. Housing Corporation and the Rae-Edzo Housing Authority – to discriminate against her on the grounds of sex, marital status and cultural heritage and failing to ensure that its agents afford women and men equal rights in respect of ownership and enjoyment of property. The Committee found that Canada was responsible for K losing ownership of the property, in violation of Articles 2(d), 2(e), and 16(1)(h) of CEDAW, read with Article 1. However, it found that Canada had not violated Articles 14(2)(h) or 15(4), as there was no evidence K had been discriminated against as a rural woman or prevented from residing in another property in the community. The Committee recommended that Canada compensate K and provide her with appropriate housing. It also recommended recruiting and training more Aboriginal women to provide legal aid and reviewing the legal aid system to ensure Aboriginal women who are victims of domestic violence have effective access to justice.

L.C. v. Peru CEDAW Committee (2011)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

An 11-year-old girl was repeatedly raped by a 34-year-old man. As a result, she became pregnant and consequently attempted to commit suicide by jumping from a building. She survived the suicide attempt but sustained serious injuries which required emergency surgery. The hospital declined to perform the surgery based on the risk posed to the pregnancy, and refused to perform an abortion despite that therapeutic abortion is legal in Peru and that the pregnancy posed a danger to her physical and mental health. As a consequence, she was completely paralyzed from the neck down. The Center for Reproductive Rights and the Center for the Promotion and Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights filed a human rights petition on behalf of her against Peru before CEDAW alleging violations of Articles 1, 2 (c) and (f), 3, 5, 12 and 16 (e) of CEDAW by failing to implement measures that guarantee a woman’s ability to obtain essential reproductive health services in a timely manner. The Committee upheld the claim and asked Peru to provide L.C. reparation, including physical and mental rehabilitation, and issue necessary measures so that no other woman is denied her right to comprehensive healthcare and therapeutic abortion. This decision demonstrate a willingness on the part of the CEDAW to view the denial of reproductive rights as a discrimination issue and is flagged as an innovative juridical resource for reforming abortion laws.

R.K.B. v. Turkey CEDAW Committee (2012)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

R.K.B.’s employer dismissed her but not the male colleague whom she was accused of having an affair with, and threatened to “spread rumours about her relationships with other men” to pressure her to sign a document, attesting that she had been paid all her benefits upon termination. R.K.B. filed a claim to the Kocaeli 3rd Labour Court against her employer alleging unfair termination based on gender stereotypes. The Court decided that the termination of her contract was not justified but not dismissing the male colleague was not discriminatory. R.K.B. appealed to the Court of Cassation, which dismissed the appeal without reference to gender discrimination. The CEDAW held that the Turkish court violated Articles 5(a), 11(1a) and 11(1d) of CEDAW by basing their decisions on gender stereotypes, tolerating allegations of extramarital relationships by male employees but not by female employees. It recommended adequate compensation to be paid to R.K.B, issued the State to take measures to implement laws on gender equality in the work environment; and to provide training to judges, lawyers and law enforcement personnel on women’s rights and gender-based stereotypes. The decision is of particular importance in a country where almost 80% of women are unemployed (Richinick) and where women’s participation in the labor force has been declining. It also stresses that mere adoption of laws is not enough to protect rights – implementation is the key. The decision also emphasizes the role of the courts (and not the executive branch) as ultimately responsible for rights’ violation.

Abramova v. Belarus CEDAW Committee (2011)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Ms. Abramova, a citizen of Belarus, is a journalist who was arrested for her activism on behalf of the “For Freedom” movement and convicted of “minor hooliganism.” She was held in a temporary detention facility for five days, where she shared a small, unheated cell with an unenclosed toilet area that lay in open view of the all-male staff. During her detention, the male prison staff directed numerous humiliating comments at Ms. Abramova, treatment that the male detainees at the facility did not receive. Upon her release, Ms. Abramova submitted a complaint of violation of her rights in detention to authorities at the Interior Department, who informed her that her allegations had not been verified. Ms. Abramova then filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office, again with a response that her claims had not been confirmed. Next, Ms. Abramova filed an application to the District Court under civil procedure, but the court claimed that it lacked jurisdiction and rejected her application. She appealed, and the Judicial Board rejected her appeal. Ms. Abramova proceeded to file a complaint to the District Court under administrative procedure, which again refused to initial civil proceedings. On appeal, the Judicial Board reversed the decision of the District Court and remanded the case for new consideration; on remand, the District Court dismissed Ms. Abramova’s complaint on procedural grounds. She submitted a complaint to the CEDAW Committee alleging that the conditions under which the State detained her constituted inhuman and degrading treatment, and that such treatment amounted to discrimination against her on the basis of gender. The Committee found that Ms. Abramova’s temporary detention in poor, unhygienic conditions, in a facility staffed exclusively by men, amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment and discrimination on the basis of her gender. Further, the Committee found that the State was in violation of its obligations under the Convention (CEDAW).

Teixeira v. Brazil CEDAW Committee (2011)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Gender discrimination, International law

An Afro-Brazilian woman suffered a high-risk pregnancy and was repeatedly denied timely care at public health facility, before dying of a digestive hemorrhage following delivery of her stillborn fetus. Her death is not an isolated case; Brazil's maternal mortality rates are disproportionately high for a country of its economic status and the chances of dying in pregnancy and childbirth are greatest among indigenous, low-income, and Afro-descendant women. The husband of the deceased then filed a civil claim for material and moral damages, and twice requested the judicial mechanism of injunctive relief (tutela antecipada), which requests the judge to anticipate the protective effects of a decision. The first request was ignored and the second denied. The mother of the deceased then submitted a complaint to CEDAW Committee, alleging that the Rio de Janeiro State violated her daughter’s right to life and health under the Convention (CEDAW). The State contended that the evidence offered no link between the deceased’s gender and the possible errors committed, and that such errors therefore did not fall within the definition of discrimination set out in the Convention. Upon consideration, the Committee found that the death of the deceased must be regarded as maternal, that the deceased was denied appropriate services in connection with her pregnancy, that the State failed to fulfill its obligations under the Convention pursuant to the right to health, and that the State’s lack of appropriate maternal health services has a differential impact on the right to life of women. The Committee directed the State to take the following steps: compensate the deceased’s family, ensure women’s right to safe motherhood and affordable access to adequate emergency obstetric care, provide adequate professional training for health workers, ensure that private health care facilities comply with national and international standards on reproductive health care, and ensure that sanctions are imposed on health professionals who violate women’s reproductive health rights.

A vítima, uma mulher afro-brasileira que sofria com uma gravidez de risco, foi morta em razão do descaso do sistema público de saúde do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, após diversas negativas de atendimento apropriado a ela, ocasionando sua morte e de seu filho natimorto. Sua morte não se trata de um caso isolado. Com efeito, as taxas de mortalidade de gestantes são desproporcionalmente altas para um país com o status econômico do Brasil. Nesse aspecto, o risco de mortalidade durante a gravidez ou durante o parto é maior entre a população indígena, de baixa renda e afrodescendentes, o que explica o porquê desse caso ser relevante. O marido da vítima entrou com Pedido de Reparação de Danos Morais e Materiais e com dois pedidos de Tutela Antecipada, a fim de antecipar os efeitos da decisão. Contudo, o primeiro pedido de tutela antecipada não foi analisado pelo Judiciário, enquanto o segundo pedido foi negado. Em vista da ineficiência do Poder Judiciário brasileiro, a mão da vítima submeteu uma reclamação ao Comitê da CEDAW, sob o argumento de violação dos direitos à vida e à saúde de sua filha por parte do Estado do Rio de Janeiro. O Estado do Rio de Janeiro, por sua vez, argumentou acerca da inexistência de conexão entre o gênero da vítima e os possíveis erros médicos ocorridos, não sendo aplicável a definição de discriminação estabelecida pela CEDAW. Quando da análise do caso, o Comitê entendeu que: (i) a morte da vítima deveria ser considerada uma “morte materna” evitável, uma vez que foi negado atendimento apropriado relativo à gravidez da vítima; (ii) o Estado do Rio de Janeiro falhou em garantir o direito à saúde no termos da Convenção da CEDAW; e (iii) a ausência de atendimento médico adequado às gestantes por parte do Estado impacta diferentemente no direito à vida das mulheres. O Comitê ainda estabeleceu medidas a serem tomadas pelo Estado do Rio de Janeiro, tais como compensação à família da vítima, garantia do direito da mulher em ter uma gestação segura e atendimento obstétrico adequado, realizar atendimento adequado aos profissionais da saúde, garantir que o atendimento médico atenda o padrão nacional e internacional relativo à saúde reprodutiva, bem como garanta que as penalidades sejam imposta aos profissionais de saúde que violem os direitos reprodutivos das mulheres.

A.S. v. Hungary CEDAW Committee (2006)

Forced sterilization

Andrea Szijjarto was sterilized without her informed consent by a Hungarian hospital during an emergency cesarean section procedure. While in a state of shock due to blood loss, Szijjarto was asked to provide her written consent to tubal ligation by signing an illegible hand-written note describing the procedure in terms she did not understand. Szijjarto charged the hospital with negligence in failing to obtain her full and informed consent to the coerced sterilization. Both the town and county courts held that the hospital was at least partially negligent in its legal duties to Szijjarto, but rejected her claim and appeal for failure to prove a lasting handicap and causal relationship between permanent loss of reproductive capacity and the conduct of the hospital’s doctors. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women held that Hungary violated Szijjarto’s rights under article 10(h) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on access to information on family planning, article 12 guaranteeing women appropriate medical services in connection with pregnancy, and paragraph 1(e) of article 16 on a woman’s right to freely choose the number and spacing of her children. The Committee recognized the serious consequences of coercive practices including forced sterilization under its General Recommendation No. 21, and held that the Hungary had violated Szijjarto’s right to information on family planning and the sterilization procedure. The Committee also held that lack of informed consent constituted a breach of the obligation under article 12 and General Recommendation No. 24 to ensure the delivery of acceptable medical services in a manner that respects a woman’s dignity. Accordingly, the Committee recommended the State provide compensation to Szijjarto and amend its Public Health Act allowing doctors’ discretion to administer sterilization procedures when “appropriate in given circumstances.”

Salgado v. United Kingdom CEDAW Committee (2007)

Gender discrimination

Constance Ragan Salgado, a British citizen, moved to Colombia with her husband, a Colombian, and gave birth to a son. Salgado attempted to obtain British nationality for her son, but the British Consul in Bogotá stated that British nationality passed only though the paternal line. Although the British Nationality Act of 1981 amended British law to confer equal rights to men and women, Salgado’s son did not qualify because he was over 18. The Legislation again changed in 2002 with the passage of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act which allowed children born to British mothers between 1961 and 1983 to register as British nationals if they satisfied certain other conditions. Salgado’s complaint alleged sex-based discrimination under the British Nationality Act of 1948 which restricted nationality descent to British fathers. Salgado raised issues under article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which calls for the elimination of all discriminatory laws, regulations and customs that discriminate against women, and article 9 paragraph 2 under which State parties must grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children. She claimed that the discrimination was ongoing because her son failed to qualify for citizenship under the various amendments to the Act. Although the Committee held that the complaint was inadmissible ratione temporis because the events occurred before the Covention’s entry into force in the United Kingdom, it based its decision on the fact that Salgado’s son had reached the age of majority, at which time he could have applied for British nationality on his own. The Committee noted that the United Kingdom had enacted the challenged legislation prior to the Optional Protocol’s entry into force. The Committee also recommended that Salgado challenge the legislation by way of judicial review in the British High Court before turning to the Committee for further redress.

V.K. v. Bulgaria CEDAW Committee (2011)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination

Ms. V.K., a Bulgarian citizen residing in Poland, sought to obtain a divorce from her husband after years of physical, emotional and economic abuse. Following a series of incidents in which her husband physically abused and intimidated both mother and children, Ms. V.K. took her children and left Poland for Bulgaria in order to hide from her husband and to seek protection and support from her family and the State. Once in Bulgaria, Ms. V.K. filed an application pursuant to the State’s Law on Protection against Domestic Violence, asking for an immediate protection order against her husband, invoking the Convention (CEDAW) and other human rights treaties. The District Court issued the order for immediate protection, but rejected Ms. V.K.’s application for a permanent protection order. On appeal, the Regional Court upheld the decision of the District Court. After exhausting all available domestic remedies, Ms. V.K. lodged a complaint with the CEDAW Committee alleging that the State had failed to provide her with effective protection against domestic violence, in violation of the Convention. She further claimed that the absence of a special law regarding the equality of women and men in the State, and the lack of recognition of violence against women as a form of discrimination, interfered with her human rights. Upon consideration, the Committee found that the refusal of the State’s courts to issue a permanent protection order against Ms. V.K.’s husband, along with the unavailability of shelters for battered women, violated the State’s obligation to effectively protect her against domestic violence. The Committee further concluded that the refusal of the State’s courts to issue a permanent protection order against Ms. V.K.’s husband was based on discriminatory notions of what constitutes domestic violence.

N.S.F. v. United Kingdom CEDAW Committee (2007)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence

N. S. F., a Pakistani national, experienced repeated ill-treatment from her husband, including marital rape, until they divorced in 2002. Although N. S. F.’s husband continued to harass her after she moved to a nearby village, the police did not offer her any protection. When her ex-husband came to her new home with other armed men and threatened to kill her, N. S. F. fled to the United Kingdom and applied for asylum, claiming that her forced return to Pakistan would constitute violations of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. N. S. F. appealed the dismissal of her application for asylum by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office, and on appeal the Adjudicator denied N. S. F.’s application on the grounds that N. S. F. could relocate further away from her husband within the country, and that she would receive protection in Pakistan on account of her being divorced from her husband. The Immigration Appeal Tribunal rejected N. S. F.’s application for permission to appeal, and the High Court of Justice, Queens Bench Division, Administrative Court affirmed the decision upon challenge. Her complaint alleged that the asylum and human rights-based procedures were not fair, and that if deported back to Pakistan, N. S. F.’s husband would kill her and put her children’s education at risk. Although the Committee found the complaint inadmissible because N. S. F. did not exhaust all domestic remedies, the Committee noted that the complaint raised concern for women who have fled their country because of fear of domestic violence. It recalled its General Recommendation No. 19 on violence against women, and concluded that Pakistan’s assertion that N. S. F.’s claims do not amount to an allegation of sex discrimination needed to be reconsidered in light of this Recommendation. The Committee suggested that N. S. F. apply to the High Court for judicial review of her application for asylum, and that the Court take her allegations of sex discrimination under consideration.

A.T. v. Hungary CEDAW Committee (2005)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

A.T. is a Hungarian woman whose husband subjected her to continued domestic violence resulting in her hospitalization and ten medical certificates documenting separate incidents of abuse. Hungarian law did not provide a mechanism for A.T. to obtain a protection order against her husband, and accordingly, A.T. submitted a motion for injunctive relief for her exclusive right to the family apartment. The Budapest Regional Court denied the motion and held that A.T.’s husband had a right to return and use the apartment, stating that A.T.’s battery claims against him lacked substantiation and that the court could not infringe on her husband’s right to property. Her complaint to the Committee called for the introduction of effective and immediate protection for victims of domestic violence in Hungary, as well as effective interim measures to prevent irreparable damage to A.T.’s person in accordance with article 5, paragraph 1 of CEDAW’s Optional Protocol. The Committee held that Hungary’s domestic violence jurisprudence was deeply entrenched in gender stereotypes which constituted a violation of Hungary’s obligation under article 2 of CEDAW to promote gender equality through appropriate legislation. Hungary’s lack of specific legislation to combat domestic and sexual violence led the Committee to conclude that the State had violated its article 5 obligation to eliminate prejudices and customs grounded in female inferiority, and article 16 obligation to end discrimination against women in matters relating to marriage and the family. The Committee recommended that Hungary enact domestic and sexual violence legislation and allow victims to apply for protection and exclusion orders which forbid the abuser from entering or occupying the family home.

Dung Thi Thuy Nguyen v. The Netherlands CEDAW Committee (2006)

Gender discrimination

Dung Thi Thuy Nguyen worked part-time as a salaried employment agency worker as well as together with her husband as a co-working spouse in his enterprise. For her salaried employment, Nguyen was insured under the Sickness Benefits Act (ZW), and for work at her husband’s enterprise she was insured under the Invalidity Insurance (Self-Employed Person) Act (WAZ). When Nguyen applied for maternity leave in 1999, she received benefits from her ZW insurance, but her WAZ insurance denied her coverage because of an “anti-accumulation clause” which allowed payment of benefits only insofar as they exceed benefits payable under the ZW policy. Nguyen objected to the withholding of her benefits and applied for review with the Breda District Court, who dismissed the complaint. The Central Appeals Tribunal upheld the lower judgment on appeal, stating that the WAZ insurance policy did not result in unfavorable treatment of women as compared to men. Nguyen’s complaint to the Committee cited a violation of article 11, paragraph 2 (b) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women under which the State party is obligated to introduce maternity leave with pay or with comparable social benefits without loss of former employment, seniority, or social allowance. The Committee held that it is state’s discretion to determine the appropriate maternity benefits within the meaning of article 11 for employed women, and separate rules for self-employed women accounting for fluctuated income and related contributions did not amount to a violation. The dissent, however, argued that the law of the Netherlands which provides for a financially compensated maternity leave for women who are both salaried and self-employed does not take into account the situation of these women who work more hours per week than a full-time salaried employee entitled to full maternity benefits. The anti-accumulation clause, therefore, constitutes indirect sex-discrimination because the policy assumes that mainly women work as part-time salaried employees in addition to working as family helpers in their husband’s enterprises.

Zhen Zhen Zheng v. The Netherlands CEDAW Committee (2007)

Trafficking in persons

Petitioner was trafficked into the Netherlands and request for asylum was denied because she could not give details about her trip from China and did not have identity documents. Although the Committee held complaint to be inadmissible for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies, the dissent found that due to vulnerable situation of victims of trafficking, the complaint should be admissible and that the State did not act with due diligence in failing to recognize that Ms. Zheng may have been victim of trafficking.