Women and Justice: Keywords

International Case Law

Boso v. Italy European Court of Human Rights (2002)

Gender discrimination

In 1984, Ms. Boso, an Italian citizen who is married, decided to have an abortion despite her husband’s opposition. Mr. Boso initiated a suit against his wife claiming that the termination deprived the unborn child of its right to life. He also challenged the constitutionality of Italian legislation which provided that women could unilaterally decide whether to have an abortion. The European Court of Human Rights dismissed the complaint which alleged that the termination of a pregnancy by the applicant´s wife violated the right to life under the Convention and also his rights under Articles 8 and 12 of the Convention. The Constitutional Court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that the decision to grant the mother full responsibility was logical given the effects of pregnancy, both physical and mental, on the pregnant woman. Mr. Boso’s appeal to the Venice District Court alleging violations of Article 2, 8 and 12 of the Convention was also dismissed. The applicant’s final appeal to the Court of Cassation, again on constitutional and convention grounds, was similarly dismissed.

Domestic Case Law

R. v. Morgentaler Supreme Court of Canada (1988)

Gender discrimination

Prior to this case, a woman had to get the approval from the therapeutic abortion committee of an approved hospital before she could get an abortion in Canada. Abortions performed without this approval were illegal. Three doctors, including Dr. Morgentaler, set up a clinic to perform abortions for women who did not have the necessary approval and the doctors were criminally charged. They argued that the abortion laws violated a woman’s right to security of the person. The Supreme Court of Canada decided that the Criminal Code’s restrictions on abortion were unconstitutional because they increased health risks to women, depriving them of the right to security of the person. Since this decision, no abortion laws have been enacted. Therefore, this decision has had the practical effect of giving women the freedom of choice.