Women and Justice: Keywords

International Case Law

Diene Kaba v. Canada Human Rights Committee (2008)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Female infanticide and feticide, Forced and early marriage, Harmful traditional practices

Diene Kaba was severely beaten by her husband when she intervened to prevent the clitoral excision of her six-year-old daughter. Both mother and daughter fled Guinea and arrived in Canada where Kaba claimed refugee status for herself and her daughter on the grounds of membership of a particular social group as single women and victims of domestic violence, and in view of the serious risk of her daughter’s excision. The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) refused to grant refugee status for lack of credibility. Kaba then applied for an exemption to the permanent resident visa requirement on the basis of humanitarian and compassionate considerations, as well as a pre-removal risk assessment. The IRB rejected both applications and ordered her removal from Canada. Kaba included supporting documents in each application, including reports confirming the risk of excision in Guinea and a letter from her uncle in Guinea that attested to her husband’s threats to harm Kaba if he ever saw her again, or kill her if she did not return his daughter to him. Kaba’s husband had subsequently obtained a court order forcing Kaba’s brother and mother to do everything possible on pain of severe penalties to return his daughter to him in Guinea. The affidavits for the order show that Kaba’s daughter faced certain excision and forced marriage upon her return to Guinea. In her complaint to the Committee, Kaba cited violations of several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including article 7 prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment. The Committee held that there was no question that subjecting a woman to genital mutilation amounted to treatment prohibited under article 7 of the Covenant, and although Kaba’s daughter was fifteen at the time the Committee addressed the communication, the context and particular circumstances of her case demonstrated a real risk of genital mutilation upon her forced return to Guinea.

Domestic Case Law

Smt. Seema v. Ashwani Kumar Supreme Court of India (2007)

Forced and early marriage, Harmful traditional practices

The Supreme Court ordered that all marriages be registered in order to prevent child marriage.

Ashok Kumar v. Birakishore High Court of India (2004)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

A father alleged that his son-in-law had kidnapped his daughter.  The daughter showed that she was of age and had married of her own free will.  The court held that a family can have no control over who an adult chooses to marry.

Association for Social Justice Research v. Union of India Supreme Court of India (2010)

Harmful traditional practices

A father married his 11–12 year old daughter to an adult man.  When an NGO intervened, the father and "husband" argued that no money had been exchanged and that the girl would have a better life in marriage.  The Court held that marriage of a minor girl is presumptively invalid unless the girl decides otherwise when she reaches 18 years of age.