Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

Khaki v. Rawalpindi Supreme Court of Pakistan (2009)

Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

The Supreme Court of Pakistan considered the social status and injustices caused to the transgender population. The Court noted that under the Constitution of Pakistan, transgender individuals are entitled to enjoy constitutional rights like every other citizen of Pakistan. Over the years, transgender individuals in Pakistan have been deprived of inheritance, other property rights, voting rights, education, and employment due to the stigma and exclusion they have suffered. The Court directed the National Database and Registration Authority to adopt a strategy for recording exact status in the electoral list and the Federal and Provincial Governments to ensure that transgender individuals receive childhood education. The Court directed the Chief Secretaries/Commissioners to consult with the Social Welfare Department to implement the order and prepare a policy that would allow transgender individuals to vote during elections.

HKSAR v. Hoque Court of First Instance (2014)

Sexual violence and rape

The court considered the issues of open justice, fair trials, and the right of the accused to confront the accuser. The prosecution in a rape case applied to the court for orders permitting the complainant to leave the courtroom without going through the public gallery and to give her evidence behind a screen so that she would be shielded from view by members of the public gallery.  The defendant opposed the application for the screen, claiming that it would be prejudicial to him.  The Court of First Instance held that the use of the screen to shield the witness from the public did not infringe on the right of an accused to confront the accuser, since the screen did not shield the complainant from the defendant.

Leung Chun Kwong v Secretary for the Civil Service Court of Appeal (2018)

Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

The plaintiff, a gay man, challenged the government’s denial of spousal benefits to his husband. The couple had been married in New Zealand. The court observed that Hong Kong law does not recognize same-sex marriage; the Marriage Ordinance defines marriage as “the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.” The court concluded that the government’s denial of spousal benefits therefore did not violate the Basic Law, Bill of Rights, or common law. The plaintiff plans to appeal to Hong Kong’s highest court, the Court of Final Instance.

Clubb v. Edwards (2019)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

The appellant challenged section 9(2) of the Tasmanian Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Act 2013 which prohibits protests that can be seen or heard within 150 meters of an abortion clinic. The appellant was convicted under the Act after standing on a street corner within the protest zone, holding placards with depictions of fetuses and statements about the “right to life.” He sought review of the conviction on the grounds that the law impermissibly burdens the freedom of communications on governmental and political matters, a right implied in the Australian Constitution. The High Court dismissed the appeal unanimously holding that the statute aims to protect the safety, wellbeing, privacy, and dignity of women, and in doing so, adequately balances the right to political communication and protection of those in need of medical assistance. Because the statute is limited in geographical reach and does not discriminate between sources of protest within the protected zone, the burden upon political communication within the Act is minor and proportionate.

Mokhele and Others v. Commander High Court of Lesotho (2018)

Gender discrimination

The applicants were female soldiers who were discharged from the army by the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force on the grounds of pregnancy. The reason listed for the discharge of the applicants was pregnancy and a contravention of the army’s Standing Order No. 2 of 2014, which states that a soldier may not become pregnant during the first five years of service. The High Court stated that case before it was a “challenge to the culture of patriarchy in the military and an assertion of sexual and reproductive rights in military service. What is being contested is the idea that female soldiers are incapable to bear arms and babies at the same time and, on that account, are not fit for military purpose.” The court stated that to allow the dismissal from work on the grounds of pregnancy would amount to discrimination on the basis of sex because pregnancy affects only women. The Standing Order had profound effects on the reproductive rights, freedoms, and careers of female soldiers, and the five-year prohibition period was arbitrary in nature. The court held that the applicants must be reinstated back to their positions and ranks in the Lesotho Defence Force without any loss of benefits.

Makafane v. Zhongxian Investment Pty Ltd. Labour Court of Lesotho (2014)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The applicant was dismissed by her employer, the respondent, because of operational requirements. The applicant was employed by the respondent from 1 November 2007 until her dismissal on 24 October 2012. The applicant claimed that she was dismissed unfairly because she was pregnant. Prior to her dismissal, the applicant delivered a letter from the Qacha’s Nek Hospital stating that she was pregnant and would be required to attend monthly clinics until she delivered her baby. The respondent then dismissed the applicant, claiming that her employment could not continue because of her pregnancy. The Labour Court referred to subsection 3(d) of the Labour Code Order 24 of 1992, which provides that pregnancy, among others, does not constitute a valid reason for terminating employment. The court stated that this type of dismissal carried an element of discrimination, the freedom against which is protected by the Constitution of the Kingdom of Lesotho, the highest law of the land. The court held that the dismissal of the applicant was unfair, that the respondent must reinstate her to her former position, and that the respondent pay for her lost earnings following dismissal.

Uganda v. Hamidu and Others High Court of Uganda (2004)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Sexual violence and rape

Here, the Court rejected defendant’s argument that his mistaken belief that the complainant was his wife was a sufficient defense against a conviction of rape. The Court, relying on Article 31 of the Constitution, stated that both husband and wife enjoy equal rights in marriage and stated that the complainant’s dignity was trampled upon. The Court thus extends access to justice by construing the existing law on rape through the reasoning that the constitutional provisions on equality in marriage and the recognition of the equal dignity of women and men had effectively amended Sections 9 and 123 of the Penal Code. These sections at face exclude husbands from being held criminally liable for marital rape.

Mukasa and Oyo v. Attorney General High Court of Uganda (2008)


Here, the Court held that government officials violated the constitutional rights of the plaintiff by illegally raiding plaintiff’s home without a search warrant, seizing plaintiff’s documents related to her work as an advocate for the human rights of LGBTQ persons, and illegally arresting a guest present at plaintiff’s home during the raid. Later, at the police station, plaintiff’s guest was forcibly undressed and fondled to “determine” her sex. The Court held that plaintiff and plaintiff’s guest were treated in an inhuman and degrading manner amounting to sexual harassment and indecent assault.

Attorney General of Botswana v. Rammoge Court of Appeal (2016)


The Court of Appeal held here that the Department of Civil and National Registration’s refusal to register Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) was an unjustifiable limitation of its members’ rights. The Court of Appeal held that the right to form associations to advocate for legal change is a fundamental component of the right to freedom of assembly and association, and it dismissed the Department of Civil and National Registration’s argument that LEGABIBO’s objectives were contrary to public morality and would encourage the commission of criminal offenses. In its holding, the Court of Appeal protected the right of LEGABIBO and other LGBT advocacy groups to promote the rights of LGBT individuals and to lobby for legal reform. 

Motshidiemang v. Attorney General Botswana High Court of Botswana (2019)

Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

Here, the High Court of Botswana held in a unanimous opinion that Section 164(a)/(c), 165, and 167 of the Botswanan Penal Code were unconstitutional. These sections criminalized same-sex relations. The Court held that 164(a)/(c), 165, and 167 violated Sections 3 (liberty, privacy, and dignity), 9 (privacy), and 15 (prohibiting discrimination) of the Botswanan Constitution. The Court modified Section 167, which criminalized the offence of gross indecency, to remove reference to private acts. The case overturned Kanane v State.

Decisión nº 002-16 de Corte de Apelaciones de Violencia contra la Mujer (Número de Expediente: CA-1708-14VCM) Corte de Apelaciones de Violencia contra la Mujer (Court of Appeals for Violence Against Women) (2016)

Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

The defendant was convicted for the crimes of human trafficking and association to commit crimes on May 15, 2014 in the state of Nueva Esparta.  In its decision, the lower court said that in cases of rape and trafficking of persons, anyone who has been accused of having a relationship or knowledge of such crime could be deprived of liberty during trial, if it is deemed appropriate by the authorities.  In the defendant’s case, he was accused of seducing and luring the female victim into the island of Margarita, where she was subjected, tortured, drugged, and raped.  The defendant appealed the decision, alleging that it violated his right to be judged in freedom.  The Court of Appeal for Violence Against Women on January 8, 2016 dismissed the appeal action and ratified the decision of the lower court and determined that the apprehension of the accused before his conviction did not represent a violation of the law.  The appellate court ratified the criteria of the lower court according to which those defendants who are linked to the act of people trafficking and gender violence can be arrested before issuing a conviction decision, if deemed appropriate by the authorities. 

Habeas Corpus 124.306 Superior Tribunal de Justiça (Superior Court of Justice of Brazil) (2016)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Gender discrimination

The Superior Court of Justice of Brazil revoked the pretrial detention order issued against staff and patients of a clinic that was alleged to have been performing clandestine abortions. The Court found that criminal laws against abortion were unconstitutional, and the criminalization of voluntary termination of pregnancy during the first three months was incompatible with the protection of multiple fundamental rights of women. The decision set an important precedent for the sexual and reproductive rights of women in Brazil. The court also discussed that the criminalization of abortion disproportionately affected women living in poverty who do not have access to private or public abortion clinics. Judge Barroso stated that while the potential life of the foetus is important, the criminalisation of abortion before the end of the first three months of pregnancy violated several fundamental rights of women granted by the Brazilian Constitution of 1988 (personal autonomy, physical and mental integrity, sexual and reproductive rights and gender equality). This decision does not decriminalize abortion but suggests that abortion may be legalised in the future. This is perhaps a softening of the law regarding abortion in Brazil.  

Direct Action of Unconstitutionality (ADI) 4275 Supremo Tribunal Federal (Supreme Federal Court of Brazil) (2009)

Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

Brazil’s Supreme Court decided by a majority that transgender individuals could change their legal name and gender marked in the civil registry. The court stated that this does not require psychological evaluation, hormonal treatment, transition surgery, or any other medical procedure. The court recognized the right of transgender persons to change their civil registry without gender change or even judicial authorization. All the justices of the court recognized the right and the majority understood that no judicial authorization is necessary of the amendment.

Habeas Corpus 106.212 Supremo Tribunal Federal (Supreme Federal Court of Brazil) (2011)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

This case refers to a writ filed by the accused in order to not apply to his case Article 41 of Law 11.340/ 2006 (Maria da Penha Act). Article 41 states that the domestic crimes committed against women cannot be tried by the procedural rite of 9.099/1995 (Small Courts Act), which regulates the trial of petty offenses. The accused argued that his conduct did not fit into Article 41, and that applying this article would be unconstitutional for giving special treatment to women. The Supreme Court of Brazil denied the order and declared Article 41 constitutional. They found that the Constitution gave the legislator freedom to define which crimes will be considered petty offenses. The Court decided that the domestic crimes against women imply greater complexity because they are crimes against the family institution, for which the Constitution has established special protection.

Decision of the Constitutional Tribunal, Case 1961/2013 Constitutional Tribunal (2013)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination

The Constitutional Tribunal held that the conduct of the municipal authorities forcing a victim of gender violence to reconcile with her aggressor under the threat of taking her children to a shelter violates the right of women to live free from violence. The Tribunal held that this conduct constituted undue harassment.

El Tribunal Constitucional sostuvo que la conducta de las autoridades municipales, obligando a una víctima de violencia de género a reconciliarse con su agresor bajo la amenaza de llevar a sus hijos a un refugio es contra el derecho de las mujeres a vivir libres de violencia. El Tribunal sostuvo que esta conducta constituía indebida acoso.

Decision of the Constitutional Tribunal, Case 0206/2014 Constitutional Tribunal (2015)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Gender discrimination

Patricia Mansilla Martínez, a member of the Bolivian Parliament, challenged the constitutionality of several articles of the Criminal Code on the basis that they discriminated against women. The Court held that some of the challenged articles were unconstitutional and upheld others. On the grounds of gender discrimination, the Court found unconstitutional Article 56, which prevented imprisoned women from being employed outside of prisons while allowing imprisoned men outside employment, and Article 245, which recognized as a defense to the offense of falsifying a birth record the motive of protecting the honor of one’s wife, mother, daughter, or sister. The Court declared unconstitutional the words “fragility” and “dishonor” in Article 258 regarding infanticide also due to gender discrimination, although this did not affect the operation of the offense. The final unconstitutional issue was that Article 250 criminalized an unmarried man abandoning a woman who became pregnant with him, but did not criminalize a married father’s abandonment of his pregnant wife. The Court was unwilling to hold restrictions on abortion unconstitutional. As such, receiving an abortion remains prohibited under Articles 263 and 264, and the performance of abortion is prohibited under Article 269. However, the Court did declare unconstitutional the requirements in Article 266 that a woman inform the police and obtain judicial authorization in order to obtain an abortion in the case of rape or incest (article 266).

Patricia Mansilla Martínez, quien es miembro del Parlamento boliviano, cuestionó la constitucionalidad de varios artículos del Código Penal sobre la base de que eran discriminatorios contra las mujeres. El Tribunal sostuvo que varios de los artículos impugnados eran inconstitucionales: el Artículo 56, que impedía que las mujeres encarceladas fueran empleadas fuera de las cárceles mientras que los hombres encarcelados, por otro lado, podían tener empleo y el Artículo 245, que reconocía la protección del honor de la esposa, la madre, la hija o la hermana de uno como defensa al delito de falsificar un registro de nacimiento. Ambos Artículos se consideraron inconstitucionales sobre la base de la discriminación de género. La Corte declaró que las palabras "fragilidad" y "deshonra" contenidas en el Artículo 258 en asociación con el infanticidio eran inconstitucionales por la misma base, aunque esto no afecta el funcionamiento del delito. Además, la distinción dentro del Artículo 250 que penalizaba el abandono por parte de un padre de una mujer que no es su esposa después de dejarla embarazada pero que no se aplicaba a la esposa de un padre también se consideró inconstitucional. La Corte no estaba dispuesta a mantener las restricciones sobre el aborto como inconstitucionales. Como tal, recibir un aborto sigue prohibido según los Artículos 263 y 264, y el aborto está prohibido según el Artículo 269. Sin embargo, la Corte declaró inconstitucional los requisitos del Artículo 266 de que una mujer informe a la policía y obtenga la autorización judicial para obtener un aborto en caso de violación o incesto (artículo 266).

Moosa N.O. and Others v. Harnaker and Others High Court of South Africa: Western Cape Division (2017)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

The deceased was married to the second and third applicant under Islamic law. The marriage of the deceased and the third applicant was entered into before the marriage between the deceased and the second applicant. However, the deceased and the second applicant entered into a civil marriage to qualify for a home loan. Following the death of the deceased, The Registrar of Deeds, Cape Town, refused to register the title deed to the family home in the name of the third applicant. The Registrar’s refusal was premised on the meaning of the term “surviving spouse” as contemplated in terms of section 2C(1) of the Wills Act 7 of 1953 (the “Wills Act”). According to the Registrar, the only recognised surviving spouse of the deceased is the second applicant as they entered into a civil marriage. The Court declared section 2C(1) of the Wills Act unconstitutional as it does not recognise the rights of spouses married under Islamic law nor multiple female spouses married to a deceased testator in polygynous Muslim marriages.

Die oorledene is volgens die Islamitiese Wet met ‘n tweede en derde applikant getroud.  Die huwelik van die oorledene en die derde applikant is aangegaan voor die huwelik tussen die oorledene en die tweede applikant.  Die oorledene en die tweede applikant het egter ‘n siviele huwelik aangegaan om te kwalifiseer vir ‘n huislening.  Na die afsterwe van die oorledene het die Registrateur van Aktes, Kaapstad, geweier om die titel-akte van die gesinshuis in die naam van die derde aansoeker te registreer.  Die weiering van die registrateur is gegrond op die betekenis van die term “oorlewende gade” soos beoog in terme van artikel 2C(1) van die Wet op Testamente 7 van 1953 ( die “Testamente Wet”). Volgens die registsrateur is die enigste erkende oorlewende gade van die oorledene, die tweede aansoeker aangesien hulle ‘n siviele huwelik aangegaan het.  DIe hof het artikel 2C(1) van die Wet op testamente ongrondwetlik verklaar aangesien dit nie die regte van gades wat kragtens die Islamitiese wet getroud is, erken nie asook nie veelvuldige vroulike eggenote wat met ‘n oorlede testateur in ‘n poligamiese moslemhuwelik verbind is nie.

Hassam v. Jacobs NO Constitutional Court (2009)

Gender discrimination

The applicant was in a polygamous Muslim marriage. After her husband died intestate, the respondent, the executor of the deceased’s estate, refused the applicant’s claims on the basis that polygynous Muslim marriages were not legally recognised under the Intestate Succession Act. The court held that precluding the applicant from an inheritance unfairly discriminated on the grounds of religion, marital status, and gender, and was therefore inconsistent with section 9 of the Constitution. The court found that section 1 of the Intestate Succession Act was inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid to the extent that it did not include more than one spouse in a polygynous Muslim marriage in the protection afforded to “a spouse.” Accordingly, the applicant could inherit from her late husband’s estate.

Die applikant was in ‘n poligame Moslem-huwelik.  Nadat haar man intestaat gesterf het, het die respondent, die eksekuteur van die oorledene se boedel, die applikant se eise geweier op grond daarvan dat poligame Moslem huwelike nie wettiglik erken word onder die Intestate Erfreg Wetgewing nie. Die hof het bevind dat daar onbillik gediskrimineer was teen die applikant op grond van godsdiens, huwelikstatus en geslag, was dus strydig met Artikel 9 van die Grondwet.  Die hof het bevind dat Artikel 1 van die Intestate Wet strydig was met die konstitusie (Grondwet) en ongeldig is tot die mate dat dit nie meer as een gade in ‘n poligame Moslem-huwelik insluit tot die beskerming wat aan ‘n eggenoot gegee word nie.  Gevolglik kon die applikant uit die boedel van haar oorlede man erf.

Daniels v. Campbell and Others Constitutional Court (2004)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The applicant was a woman married according to Muslim rites and whose husband had died intestate. The marriage was not solemnized by a marriage officer under the Marriage Act 25 of 1961. The house in which the applicant and her husband had lived was transferred to the deceased’s estate. The applicant was told that she could not inherit from the estate of the deceased because she had been married according to Muslim rites, and therefore was not a “surviving spouse.” A claim for maintenance against the estate was rejected on the same basis. The Court held that the word “spouse” as used in the Intestate Succession Act includes the surviving partner to a monogamous Muslim marriage and that the word “survivor” as used in the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act 27 of 1990, includes the surviving partner to a monogamous Muslim marriage.

Die applikant was ‘n vrou wat volgens Moslem tradisie getroud is en wie se eggenoot intestaat gesterf het. Die huwelik is nie volgens die huwelikswet 25 van 1961 deur ’n huweliks beampte bekragtig nie. Die huis waarin die applikant en haar man gewoon het is na die oorledene se boedel oorgeplaas. Die applikant is meegedeel dat sy nie uit die boedel van die oorledene kon erf nie omdat sy getroud was volgens die Moslem tradisie en is dus nie 'n "oorlewende gade" nie. ’n Eis vir onderhoud teen die boedel is op dieselfde basis verwerp. Die hof het beslis dat die woord "gade" soos gebruik word in die Wet op Intestate Erfopvolging, die oorlewende maat van ’n monogame moslem-huwelik insluit. Die woord "oorlewende” wat gebruik word vir die Wet 27 van 1990 vir die onderhoud van oorlewende eggenote, sluit die oorlewende eggenoot in van 'n monogame Moslem huwelik

Bhe and Others v. Khayelitsha Magistrate Constitutional Court (2004)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

This judgment constituted three related cases (Bhe, Shibi and SAHRC), which were decided together and concerned the African customary law rule of primogeniture. In Bhe, a mother brought an action to secure the property of her deceased husband for her daughters. In Shibi, the applicant was denied the right to inherit from her deceased brother’s intestate estate under African customary law. In SAHRC, the South African Human Rights Commission and the Women’s Legal Centre Trust brought an action in the public interest to declare the rule of male primogeniture contained within section 23 of the Black Administration Act 38 of 1927 invalid. The Constitutional Court declared section 23 invalid, meaning that all deceased estates were to be governed by the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987, under which widows and children can benefit regardless of their gender or legitimacy. The Court also ordered the division of estates in circumstances where the deceased person was in a polygamous marriage and was survived by more than one spouse and ordered that, in such instances, a surviving spouse shall inherit a child’s share of the intestate estate or so much of the intestate estate as does not exceed in value the amount fixed by the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development by notice in the Gazette.

Hierdie uitspraak het bestaan uit drie verwante sake (BHE, Shibi en SARK) wat saam beslis is en het betrekking op die Afrika gebruiks regsreël van eersgeboortereg. In BHE het 'n moeder 'n saak gemaak om die eiendom van haar oorlede man vir haar dogters te verseker. In Shibi is die applikant volgens die Afrika gewoontereg, die reg ontsê om van die intestate boedel van haar broer te erf.  In SAHRC het die Suid-Afrikaanse Menseregte Kommissie en die "Women’s Legal Centre Trust" 'n saak in die openbare belang gebring om die reël van manlike eersgeboortereg wat in artikel 23 van die Swart Administrasie Wet 38 van 1927 ongeldig te verklaar. Die Konstitusionele Hof het artikel 23 ongeldig verklaar wat beteken dat alle boedels van oorledenes onderworpe sal wees aan die Intestaat Opvolgwet 81 van 1987 waaronder weduwees en kinders voordeel kan trek ongeag hul geslag of wettigheid. Die Hof het ook gelas dat boedels onderverdeel word in omstandighede waar die oorledene in ’n poligame huwelik was en deur meer as een eggenoot oorleef word. In welke geval ’n oorlewende eggenoot ’n kind se deel van die intestate boedel erf of ’n waarde van die intestate boedel wat nie die bedrag wat deur die Minister vir Justisie en Grondwetlike Ontwikkeling vasgesteld is, oorskry word soos die kennisgewing in die Staatskoerant nie.

Women's Legal Centre Trust v. President of the Republic of South Africa and Others High Court of South Africa: Western Cape Division (2018)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

The plaintiff petitioned to bring three consolidated actions directly to the Constitutional Court.  They sought a declaratory order that the President recognize Muslim marriages as valid for all purposes in South Africa.  The Constitutional Court dismissed the plaintiffs’ plea for direct access and instead directed them to the High Court.  The High Court held that the State’s failure to enact legislation recognising religious Muslim marriages violated the rights of Muslim women based on religion, marital status, gender, and sex.  The court directed the President, Cabinet, and Parliament to prepare and bring into operation legislation to recognise marriages performed in accordance with Sharia law.

Die eiser het 'n versoek om drie gekonsolideerde aksies direk na die Konstitusionele Hof te bring.  Hulle het 'n verklarende-bevel aangevra dat die President, Moslem-huwelike as geldig vir alle doeleindes in Suid-Afrika erken. Die Konstitusionele Hof het die eisers se pleit vir direkte toegang van die hand gewys en het hulle eerder aan die Hooggeregshof verwys.   Die Hooggeregshof het bevind dat die staat se versuim om wetgeving te aanvaar wat erkenning gee aan huwelike wat godsdienstig Moslem is, die regte van Moslemvroue gekend het op grond van godsdiens, huwelikstatus, geslag en seks.  Die hof het die President, die Kabinet, en die Parlement oprag gegee om wetgeving voor te berei en in werking te stel om huwelike wat volgens die sharia-wetgewing uitgevoer is, te erken.

Hosho v. Hasisi High Court of Zimbabwe (2015)

Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

This was a dispute involving property in the name of the plaintiff and occupied by the defendant. The plaintiff sought an order for the eviction of the defendant, claiming that he had lawfully acquired the property. The defendant claimed that she was the rightful owner as the surviving spouse of the previous owner of the property through an unregistered customary law union. The court held that defendant had no right to the property as there was no concrete evidence supporting the existence of her customary marriage. The court explained that although the absence of a formal marriage certificate is not fatal to the recognition of a customary law union in matters of inheritance and constitutional protections for surviving spouses and children, the union must be proven to exist. Payment of a roora/lobola, or bride price, remains the most cogent and valid proof of a customary union/marriage, particularly where it has not been formally registered because the ceremony itself involves representatives from both families and others who could attest to the process having taken place. Furthermore, there is often documentary evidence of what had been paid and what remained to be paid. Here, the court held for the plaintiff because there was no evidence of a roora/lobola payment and the defendant could not prove her customary marriage to the deceased.

U.S. v. Robinson United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (2012)

Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

A federal grand jury convicted the defendant-appellant of child sex trafficking in violation of 18 U.S.C. A minor victim testified that she started dating the defendant when she was 17 years old but had told him and others that she was 19 years old. She insisted that the defendant was only living off her income as a prostitute and was not a pimp facilitating prostitution.  However, the prosecution introduced videotaped statements in which the defendant repeatedly implored Doe to make money for him and threatened her when she failed to deliver the money. Following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of two counts of sex trafficking of a minor. On appeal, the Second Circuit considered the construction of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(c), an evidentiary provision added by the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (“TVPRA”), which provides that “[i]n a prosecution . . . in which the defendant had a reasonable opportunity to observe [the victim], the Government need not prove that the defendant knew that the person had not attained the age of 18 years.” The Second Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding that this provision imposes strict liability with regard to the defendant’s awareness of the victim’s age and relieves the government’s usual burden to prove knowledge or reckless disregard of the victim’s underage status under § 1591(a). The Second Circuit rejected the defendant’s challenges to this provision as lacking merit and affirmed the judgment of the district court.

McGlothlin v. Bristol Obstetrics, Gynecology and Family Planning, Inc. Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville (1998)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

A mother and daughter sued an abortion provider for having performed an abortion on the minor daughter without first obtaining her parents’ approval, which was in violation of a Tennessee statute. The daughter was 17 years and ten months old at the time. The trial court dismissed the complaint because the statute was unconstitutional as applied to the abortion rights of minors. The Court of Appeals of Tennessee affirmed, finding that the statute in question violated the privacy rights of minors seeking abortions.

Berning v. State Department of Correction Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Nashville (1999)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff, the manager of the Tennessee Department of Correction’s Murfreesboro probation office, was fired after an anonymous letter was sent to the department alleging that the office was rife with sexual harassment, creating a hostile work environment. An administrative law judge reviewed the plaintiff’s termination and found it to be warranted. The plaintiff appealed the administrative law judge’s decision to the Davidson County Chancery Court, which affirmed the order. The Court of Appeals of Tennessee affirmed the Chancery Court’s decision, holding in part that the conduct for which he was fired was not protected speech under the First Amendment.

Tennessee Department of Health v. Boyle Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Nashville (2002)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

A Tennessee statute required private clinics providing a “substantial number” of abortions to obtain a “certificate of need” from the Health Facilities Commission and a license from the Department of Health. The Department of Health denied a license to plaintiffs, and then sued to enjoin them from performing abortions. Defendants alleged that the licensing requirement violated the United States and Tennessee Constitutions as they relate to women’s right to privacy. The Davidson County Chancery Court upheld the statute and enjoined the defendants from performing abortions. The Court of Appeals of Tennessee reversed, holding that the statute was unconstitutional.

Sanders v. Lanier Supreme Court of Tennessee (1998)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff worked as a youth services officer with the Dyer County Juvenile Court, where she alleged that a Chancery Court judge sexually harassed her verbally and physically. When she rejected his advances, the judge demoted her from her supervisory position, denied her salary increases, and altered her job requirements weekly. She sued the judge for quid-pro-quo sexual harassment, in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”). The Dyer County Chancery Court determined that the State was not the plaintiff’s employer for purposes of the THRA and dismissed her complaint for failing to state a cause of action. The Court of Appeals of Tennessee reversed and the Supreme Court of Tennessee affirmed the Court of Appeals decision. The Supreme Court of Tennessee held that the plaintiff did state a cause of action because the State was the plaintiff’s employer and the defendant was a supervisor acting in the scope of his employment, making the employer strictly liable under an “alter-ego” theory of liability.

Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee v. Sundquist Supreme Court of Tennessee (2000)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

A Tennessee criminal statute required that physicians warn their patients that “abortion in a considerable number of cases constitutes a major surgical procedure,” that second-trimester abortions be performed in a hospital, and that women wait two days after meeting with a physician to receive an abortion. The plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of these provisions. The Davidson County Circuit Court struck down as unconstitutional the statutory warning and two-day waiting period as unconstitutional, but allowed the hospitalization requirement. The Court of Appeals of Tennessee reversed, finding each requirement constitutional. The Supreme Court of Tennessee reversed the Court of Appeals, holding that none of the provisions could be deemed constitutional under the proper strict scrutiny framework.

Women's Medical Center of Providence, Inc. v. Roberts United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island (1982)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Gender discrimination

This case struck down provisions of the Rhode Island “Informed Consent for Abortion” Act for failure to demonstrate a compelling state interest to justify its interference with women’s rights to abortion including: (i) a provision that required women be informed of “all medical risks” associated with the abortion procedure, including “psychological risks to the fetus,” as such a provision was unconstitutionally vague; (ii) a provision requiring a woman seeking abortion to give written consent to the procedure at least 24 hours prior to her scheduled operation, as such a provision imposed a legally significant burden on a woman’s fundamental right to terminate her pregnancy, and the state did not demonstrate a compelling state interest necessitating such waiting period. However, the Court upheld a provision requiring that an abortion patient be informed of the “nature of her abortion,” i.e., that the abortion will irreversibly terminate her pregnancy.

Constitutional Right to Life Committee v. Cannon Supreme Court of Rhode Island (1976)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

A non-profit corporation filed a claim protesting the validity of a regulation requiring specified facilities, procedures, and personnel whenever a pregnancy is terminated within the geographical boundaries of Rhode Island, arguing that the regulations failed to consider the life of the unborn child. The Supreme Court of Rhode Island held that the regulation did not improperly disregard the life of the unborn child because, as a matter of constitutional law, the only interest that a state may assert in regulating abortion procedures prior to the time of a child’s viability is during the second trimester when the state may regulate abortion procedure to the extent that the regulation reasonably relates to the preservation and protection of maternal health.

State v. Ware Supreme Court of Rhode Island (1980)

Statutory rape or defilement

The Supreme Court of Rhode Island rejected the argument that the state’s criminal statute outlawing carnal knowledge of a girl under 16 years of age violated equal protection of the law, even though it created a classification based on sex by designating females as the only possible victims and subjecting only males to conviction under the statute. In rejecting the defendant’s argument, the court applied the rule that sex-based classifications that served important governmental objectives and were substantially related to the achievement of those objectives were not unconstitutional. The court cited the fact that the classification was substantially related to the important state’s interest in protecting female children “from the severe physical and psychological consequences of engaging in coitus before attaining the age of consent in the statute.” Therefore, the classification based on sex did not violate the constitution’s equal protection law.

Niese v. City of Alexandria Supreme Court of Virginia (2002)

Sexual violence and rape

The plaintiff alleged that she was raped several times by a police officer who had been assigned to help her deal with her son’s behavioral issues.  The plaintiff reported the rapes to municipal mental health and domestic abuse entities, and she alleged that these entities violated their statutory duty to report these incidents or take further action.  Consequently, the plaintiff sued the Alexandria Police Department for intentional tort and negligent hiring.  The issue before the Court was whether the sovereign immunity doctrine barred the plaintiff from suing municipal entities for both intentional torts and negligence in failing to act upon plaintiff’s reports and in hiring and retaining the offending officer. The Virginia Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the action as barred by sovereign immunity, explaining that a municipality is immune from liability for negligence associated with the performance of “governmental” functions, which include maintaining a police force and the decision to retain a specific police officer.  It declined to adopt an exception to sovereign immunity for the tort of negligent retention, as it had done in the context of charitable immunity.  The Court observed that whether a municipality is liable for an employee’s intentional torts was an issue of first impression in Virginia, but the Court relied on Fourth Circuit precedent to conclude that sovereign immunity applies in this context.  Finally, the Court held that the then-applicable statute requiring officials to make a report whenever they have “reason to suspect that an adult” has been “abused, neglected, or exploited” imposed a discretionary duty and not a ministerial duty upon the individuals subject to the reporting requirements and thus dismissed the claim. (i.e., ministerial duties make actions necessary when conditions for their performance arise while discretionary duties make actions optional, subject to the official’s judgment.)

Robinson v. Salvation Army Supreme Court of Virginia (2016)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff sued her former employer, alleging wrongful termination because she refused her supervisor’s request for unmarried sex in violation of a statute that proscribed fornication. The plaintiff alleged that her supervisor also made frequent lewd requests and comments when he was alone with her as well as suggestive gestures and inquiries concerning her romantic life. After plaintiff played secret recordings of these conversations to human resources she was terminated without explanation.  The issue before the court was whether termination for refusing to engage in unmarried sex could be the basis of a public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine. In rejecting the plaintiff’s claim, the court reasoned that a public policy argument cannot be based on an unconstitutional statute. Further, that a statute that sought to regulate private consensual sexual activity between adults was unconstitutional. Here, plaintiff could not base her claim on the statute that forbade unmarried sex because such a statute sought to regulate private consensual activity between adults and was therefore unconstitutional. This case is significant because the court reached this conclusion even though the conduct at issue was economically coercive and the same alleged facts could arguably have supported a wrongful discharge claim based on statutes concerning gender discrimination or “criminal acts” of “adultery and lewd and lascivious cohabitation,” statutes, which the court did not purport to overrule.   

Operation Rescue-National v. Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas Supreme Court of Texas (1998)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

Doctors and clinics sued anti-abortion activist group Operation Rescue for invasion of privacy, tortious interference, and civil conspiracy. Anti-abortion activists planned to picket and obstruct abortion clinics and homes of physicians who worked for the clinics to coincide with the 1992 Republican National Convention. The district court granted a permanent injunction to restrict anti-abortion demonstrations, which prohibited activists from, among other things, demonstrating within specified areas of each clinic. Operation Rescue appealed. Pursuant to free speech principles, the Court held that the injunction must burden no more speech than necessary to serve a significant government interest. The Court upheld the injunction as it related to physicians’ homes, but found the injunction overbroad because it limited peaceful communication within speech-free zones, such as peaceful sidewalk counseling and prayer. The Court modified the injunction, allowing no more than two demonstrators within a zone. These two demonstrators may individually sidewalk counsel patients in a normal speaking voice, but must retreat when the patient or physician verbally indicates that they wish to be alone. Otherwise, the lower court’s judgment was affirmed.

In re: Jane Doe Supreme Court of Texas (2000)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

A pregnant minor applied for judicial bypass to have an abortion without notifying her parents. The trial court denied her application, finding that she was neither mature nor well-informed enough to consent to an abortion without parental notification. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that Doe showed that she was sufficiently well-informed. The trial court specifically denied Doe’s application because she was allegedly unaware of the intrinsic benefits of alternatives to abortion such as parenting and adoption. The Supreme Court held that even though a minor may not share the court’s views about what the benefits of her alternatives might be, it does not follow that she has not thoughtfully considered her options or acquired sufficient information about them. The Court noted that she had read about abortion, spoken to women who have had abortions, and discussed potential mental effects with a counselor. Moreover, she expressed that she was not ready for parenthood and that keeping the child would prevent her from going to college or having a career. The Supreme Court thus reversed the trial court and granted Doe’s judicial bypass, holding that when a minor has established that she has engaged in a rational and informed decision-making process and concluded that realistic concerns foreclose her alternatives, she cannot be denied the statutory bypass for failing to list general benefits seen by others.

In re Doe Supreme Court of Texas (2002)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

Pregnant minor filed an application for judicial bypass to receive an abortion without notifying her parents. The district court did not rule on the application or make findings of fact, but issued a writing that sua sponte concluded that the parental bypass law was unconstitutional. Doe appealed due to uncertainty about the judgment, and the court of appeals dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court held that because the judge did not issue findings of fact within two business days, her application was deemed granted.

In re: Jane Doe 10 Supreme Court of Texas (2002)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

A pregnant minor applied for judicial bypass to have an abortion without notifying her parents. The trial court denied the application on a form, but made no ruling and no findings of fact on one of the bases for judicial bypass—whether notifying her parents would lead to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of the minor. Under the Texas Family Code, the court was required to issue a ruling and written findings of fact and conclusions of law within two business days after the application was filed. Doe argued that because the trial court did not comply with the Family Code, she was denied a timely and complete judgment, and her application should be deemed granted. The Supreme Court agreed, deeming her application for judicial bypass granted based on possible abuse.

Bell v. Low Income Women of Texas Supreme Court of Texas (2002)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Gender discrimination

Physicians and clinics sued the Commissioner of Health sued, claiming that Texas Medical Assistance Program’s (“TMAP”) abortion funding restrictions for indigent women violated their constitutional rights under the Equal Rights Amendment and Equal Protection Clause of the Texas Constitution, and their rights to privacy. TMAP was prohibited from authorizing abortion services without matching federal funds. The relevant federal law, the Hyde Amendment, prevented TMAP from funding abortions unless the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or placed the woman in danger of death. The plaintiffs argued that the restriction constituted sex discrimination because the state funded virtually all medically necessary services for men while refusing to fund abortions that are medically necessary even though the woman is not at risk of death. The Supreme Court held that although any restriction related to abortion would only affect women, TMAP’s restriction was not “on the basis of sex,” but rather due to the nature of abortion as a medical procedure involving potential life, which has no similar treatment method. The Court noted that other than medically necessary abortions, TMAP funded virtually all other medical treatment for women, and funded abortions to the extent that matching federal funds were available. The Court held that the discouragement of abortion through funding restrictions cannot, by itself, be considered purposeful discrimination against women as a class. The Court recognized the state’s interest in encouraging childbirth over abortion and held that the right to choose an abortion does not translate into a state obligation to subsidize abortions. The Court thus held that the funding restrictions did not violate the Texas Constitution, reversing the Court of Appeals and entering judgment for the defendant.

Texas Family Code: Child in Relation to the Family - Limitations of Minority - Notice of and Consent to Abortion (2016)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

Texas prohibits pregnant unemancipated minors from obtaining abortions unless the physician performing the abortion gives at least 48 hours actual notice of the appointment, in person or by telephone, to the minor’s parent, managing conservator, or guardian. If the parent or guardian cannot be notified after a reasonable effort, the physician may perform the abortion after giving 48 hours constructive notice by certified mail to the guardian’s last known address. A minor may obtain an abortion without parental notification if the minor receives a court order authorizing the minor to consent (judicial bypass), or if the physician finds a medical emergency, certifies the medical emergency in writing to the Department of State Health Services, and notifies the parent of the medical emergency. If a physician intentionally performs an abortion without complying with this code, the offense is punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000.

Rhode Island Depositors Economic Protection Corp. v. Brown Supreme Court of Rhode Island (1995)

Gender discrimination

In this case, the Rhode Island Supreme Court set out the standard of scrutiny with which to view the constitutionality of laws that discriminate based on gender: “If an act employs a gender-based classification, it is subject to a middle-tier scrutiny in which the classification must be substantially related to the achievement of the statutory objective.”

Roe v. Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region Supreme Court of Ohio (2009)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

The parents of a minor who received an abortion sued Planned Parenthood, which they alleged had performed the abortion illegally because the clinic did not notify them in advance. The plaintiffs sought the medical records and any reports of abuse relating to minors who had received abortions in the prior 10 years. The defendant refused to produce the records of nonparty patients on the ground of physician-patient privilege. The trial court ordered the defendant to produce the non-party records with identifying information redacted, but the Court of Appeals of Ohio reversed. The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed the Court of Appeals’ ruling, holding that the medical records of non-party patients were not discoverable.

Women's Medical Professional Corp. v. Voinovich United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (1997)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

The plaintiff-appellant, an abortion clinic, sued the Governor of Ohio, the Attorney General of Ohio, and the prosecuting attorney for Montgomery County, challenging the facial constitutionality of an Ohio law regulating abortions. The district court ruled (i) that the prohibition on dilation and extraction abortions placed substantial, and hence unconstitutional, obstacles in the way of women seeking pre-viability abortions; (ii) that the combination of subjective and objective standards without scienter requirements rendered the “medical emergency” and “medical necessity” exceptions to the abortion prohibitions were unconstitutionally vague; and (iii) that the constitutional and unconstitutional provisions in the law could not be severed. The district court thus struck down the entire law and prohibited its enforcement. The Sixth Circuit affirmed.

Williams v. General Motors Corp. United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (1999)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff-appellant, who worked for General Motors for more than 30 years, sued the company for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, claiming that she experienced a hostile work environment and retaliation. She alleged that she suffered a variety of sexually harassing comments, as well as other slights such as being the only employee denied a break and the only employee without a key to the office. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of her employer on both her hostile work environment and retaliation claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the plaintiff’s retaliation claim, but reversed and remanded the lower court’s ruling on her hostile work environment claim, finding that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether her allegations were sufficiently severe or pervasive enough to violate Title VII.

Smith v. City of Salem United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (2004)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff-appellant a trans woman lieutenant in the Salem, Ohio, Fire Department, sued the City of Salem, alleging discrimination based on sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, after she began expressing a more feminine appearance at work on a full-time basis, her co-workers informed her that she was not acting masculine enough. She then notified her immediate supervisor that she had been diagnosed with gender identity disorder and that she planned to physically transition from male to female. The plaintiff’s supervisor met with the City of Salem’s Law Director and other municipal officials, who required the plaintiff to undergo three psychological evaluations. The plaintiff retained legal counsel, received a “right to sue” letter from the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, and was shortly thereafter suspended for one 24-hour shift, allegedly in retaliation for retaining counsel. The district court dismissed his complaint, but the Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the plaintiff sufficiently plead a prima facie case of retaliation under Title VII, as well as claims of sex stereotyping and gender discrimination.

Barnes v. City of Cincinnati United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (2005)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff-appellant, a trans (“a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual”) police officer, applied to be promoted to sergeant within the Cincinnati Police Department. The plaintiff passed the sergeants exam but failed a rigorous training program and was denied promotion. The plaintiff sued the City of Cincinnati, alleging that the denial of her promotion was due to sex-based discrimination and failure to conform to male sex stereotypes, such as wearing makeup, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause. The district court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and awarded her $320,511 as well as attorney’s fees and costs. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the plaintiff met all four requirements of a claim of sex discrimination: that the plaintiff is a member of a protected class, that she applied and was qualified for a promotion, that she was considered for and denied a promotion, and that other employees of similar qualifications who were not members of the protected class received promotions.

Women's Medical Professional Corp. v. Baird United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (2008)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

The plaintiff-appellant operated an abortion clinic in Dayton, Ohio. Ohio law required it to be licensed, which in part required it to enter into a written transfer agreement with a Dayton-area hospital. When no hospital would enter into such an agreement with the plaintiff, it sought a waiver of the transfer agreement requirement. Even though the plaintiff had both a back-up group of physicians ready to provide emergency care and a letter from Miami Valley Hospital confirming that it would admit patients in the event of an emergency, the Director of the Ohio Department of Health denied the plaintiff’s request for a waiver and ordered that it immediately close. The plaintiff sought a temporary restraining order and an injunction against the Department of Health’s order. The District Court granted both requests and awarded attorney’s fees and expenses to the plaintiff. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the plaintiff’s procedural due process rights were violated, but vacated the permanent injunction and remanded the case for a hearing on the denial of the plaintiff’s application.

Thornton v. Federal Express Corp. United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (2008)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff-appellant, a former employee of FedEx, the defendant, was discharged when she did not return from work after a 16-month leave of absence. She took this leave because of stress she suffered after being sexually harassed by her immediate supervisor, and she did not return to work because her health care providers had not released her from treatment for panic disorder and fibromyalgia. The plaintiff sued for sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well as discrimination based on disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of FedEx, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the plaintiff did not establish either that she was disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act or that she suffered an adverse employment action.

Gilbert v. Country Music Association, Inc. United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (2011)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ, Sexual harassment

After the plaintiff-appellant, a theater professional who was openly homosexual, complained that a coworker had threatened him based on his sexual orientation and a union hiring hall of which the plaintiff was a member refused to provide him with work. Gilbert sued his union and a collection of various employers, alleging, among other claims, discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The district court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, holding that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court observed that, while Title VII prohibits sex discrimination, and that this prohibition includes “sex stereotyping” whereby a plaintiff suffers an adverse employment action due to his or her nonconformity with gender stereotypes. The court held that Gilbert had not plead a sex stereotyping claim since other than his sexual orientation, the plaintiff fit every male stereotype, and sexual orientation did not suffice to obtain recovery under Title VII: “[f]or all we know,” the Court stated, “Gilbert fits every ‘male stereotype’ save one—sexual orientation—and that does not suffice to obtain relief under Title VII.”

Kalich v. AT&T Mobility United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (2012)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff-appellant sued his employer, AT&T, in state court under Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, and AT&T removed the action to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The plaintiff alleged that his immediate supervisor made a series of sexually inappropriate comments to him over the course of a year that created a hostile work environment. These comments included calling him by a girl’s name and telling him he looked like a girl. The district court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that his supervisor’s conduct toward him was because of his gender. The appellate court noted that the plaintiff stated in his deposition that he believed that his supervisor made these derogatory comments because he knew or suspected that the plaintiff was gay and that sexual orientation discrimination was not a protected classification under Title VII or Michigan law.

Mathis v. Wayne County Board of Education United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (2012)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The plaintiff-appellants’ sons were members of their middle school basketball team who were victims of sexual harassment by their teammates. The harassment ranged from arguably innocent locker room pranks to sexual violence. The plaintiffs sued the Wayne County Board of Education, alleging that the school board was deliberately indifferent to student-on-student sexual harassment in violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. The District Court denied the defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law and awarded the plaintiffs $100,000 each in damages. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the plaintiffs had established the following elements of a deliberate indifference claim: that the sexual harassment was so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it could be said to deprive the plaintiff of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school; that the funding recipient (i.e. the board of education) had actual knowledge of the sexual harassment, and the funding recipient was deliberately indifferent to the harassment.

EEOC v. New Breed Logistics United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (2015)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff-appellant, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, initiated sexual harassment and retaliation claims under Title VII against New Breed Logistics, the defendant, on behalf of three employees. The plaintiff alleged that Calhoun, a supervisor at New Breed sexually harassed three female employees and then retaliated against the women after they complained. The plaintiff further alleged that Calhoun retaliated against a male employee who verbally objected to Calhoun’s harassment of the women. The evidence presented to the district court that showed that each woman communicated her intent to complain about Calhoun’s sexual harassment shortly after which all three women were fired or transferred. One of the women lodged a complaint through the company’s complaint line but the company asked Calhoun five questions about his conduct and determined there was no misconduct. A jury found the defendant liable under Title VII for Calhoun’s sexual harassment and retaliation, and the district court denied the defendant’s post-trial motions for a new trial and judgment as a matter of law. The district court determined that complaints to management and informal protests were protected activities under Title VII. Therefore, the three employees’ demand that Calhoun stop harassing them were considered protected activity under Title VII, and retaliation constituted a violation of Title VII. The defendant appealed, challenging the district court’s denial of its post-trial motions. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s decisions, finding that sufficient evidence supported the district court’s rulings and that the district court did not abuse its discretion when providing instructions to the jury.

Jackson v. VHS Detroit Receiving Hospital, Inc. United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (2016)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The plaintiff-appellant worked as a mental health technician for the defendant, Detroit Receiving Hospital’s Mental Health Crisis Center. Her duties included assisting registered nurses with treating psychiatric patients. A few days after assisting a nurse with the mistaken discharge of a patient who should not have been discharged, the plaintiff’s employment was terminated, even though she consistently received high ratings on her performance evaluations. The plaintiff sued the defendant for sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, but the Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the plaintiff had established a prima facie case of sex discrimination, in part because two men committed “nearly identical” infractions of “comparable seriousness” and were not terminated like the plaintiff. The appellate court remanded the case for trial proceedings.

Simpson v. Vanderbilt University United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (2017)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The plaintiff-appellant was a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine who solicited clients for her own private business, which the defendant, Vanderbilt University, considered to be a violation of its Conflict of Interest Policy, its By-Laws, and its Participation Agreement. The defendant terminated the plaintiff’s employment and she sued the defendant, alleging that her termination was due to gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Tennessee Human Rights Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, holding that the plaintiff failed to identify a suitable male comparator and thus did not establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding key differences between the plaintiff’s conduct and that of the male comparator she identified, including most notably the fact that the male comparator had disclosed his work outside of Vanderbilt University on his conflict of interest form.

Chairperson of the Immigration Selection Board v. E.F. and Another Supreme Court of Namibia (2001)

Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

The respondent, a German national, was denied permanent residence in Namibia despite being in a committed relationship with a Namibian woman, residing in Namibia for many years, and having a highly skilled job in Namibia. The respondent claims that the only reason her application was denied is because she was a lesbian woman in a homosexual relationship. She therefore filed suit against the Immigration Selection Board (“ISB”), arguing that it had discriminated against her in denying her application. The lower court found in favor of the respondent and ordered the ISB to grant the respondent’s application. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the decision, finding that the respondent had not proven discrimination and that the ISB had wide discretion to deny applications. However, the Supreme Court judge explicitly stated: “I must emphasize in conclusion: Nothing in this judgment justifies discrimination against homosexuals as individuals, or deprive [sic] them of the protection of other provisions of the Namibian Constitution.”

F.N. v. S.M. High Court of Namibia (2012)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence

The appellant and respondent are divorced parents of three children. At the time of the divorce, custody of the children was awarded to the respondent. The appellant then moved for an interim protection order, claiming that the respondent physically abused their minor children. A court granted the interim protection order on October 3, 2011, and awarded the appellant interim custody of the children, subject to visitation by the respondent, and ordered respondent to cease abusing the children. The Magistrate’s Court subsequently discharged the interim order on October 24, 2011, based on Section 12 of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act 4 of 2003, reasoning that the beatings were an isolated incident and were only meant to punish the children for bad behavior. The appellant challenged the discharge. The appellate court agreed with appellant and granted a final protection order effective through July 2013, which awarded the appellant custody of the children with visitation for the respondent on alternate weekends and holidays. In its decision, the appellate court stated the importance of rooting out the “evil that is domestic violence in order to give effect to the protection of the constitutional value of human dignity.”

Causa Nº 4.792/13 Ex Juzgado de Instrucción Formal Quinta Nominación (2014)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Femicide, Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

Defendant Mr. H.R.A was convicted of aggravated homicide based on his prior ties and relationship with the victim, Ms. N.A. (his partner), whom he murdered with a gun.  Mr. H.RA. was sentenced to life in prison pursuant to Law No. 26,791, Article 80, which provides that “[l]ife imprisonment or confinement shall be imposed upon a person that murders an ascendant, descendent, spouse or ex-spouse or a person that kills another with whom he or she maintains a relationship, irrespective of whether they maintained a joint household.”  The defendant challenged the constitutionality of the statute, arguing that it violates principles of equal protection because it does not afford (or it is not clear that the statute affords) equal protection to similarly situated homosexual couples.  In rejecting the defendant’s challenge, the court notes (1) Supreme Court precedent making clear that holding legislation unconstitutional is a grave act that should be taken as a last resort and when it is clear that the legislation is clearly unconstitutional, and (2) the legislation in question sought to introduce as aggravating circumstances factors that had previously been ignored, extending the definition of the concept of “family” to include different family realities.

El acusado, el Sr. H.R.A fue condenado por homicidio con acciones agravadas debido a sus vínculos anteriores y su relación con la víctima, la Sra. N.A. (su pareja), a quien asesinó con un arma. El Sr. H.RA. fue condenado a cadena perpetua con conformidad con la Ley Nº 26.791, Artículo 80, que dispone que “se impondrá la reclusión o el encarcelamiento a una persona que asesine a un ascendiente, descendiente, cónyuge o ex cónyuge o una persona que asesine” otro con quien él o ella mantiene una relación, independientemente de si mantuvieron un hogar conjunto ”. El acusado impugnó la constitucionalidad de la ley, argumentando que violaba los principios de protección igualitaria porque no permite (o no está claro si el el estatuto otorga igual protección a las parejas homosexuales en situación similar). Al rechazar la impugnación del acusado, el tribunal señala (1) el Tribunal Supremo precedente, dejando en claro que mantener la legislación inconstitucional es un acto grave que debe tomarse como último recurso y solamente cuando está claro que la legislación es claramente inconstitucional, y cuando (2) la legislación en cuestión buscaba introducir como circunstancias agravantes factores que anteriormente se habían ignorado, extendiendo la definición del concepto de "familia" para incluir diferentes realidades familiares.

Hicks v. State of Alabama Supreme Court of Alabama (2014)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

The defendant was charged with chemical endangerment of a child for ingesting cocaine while pregnant, which resulted in her child testing positive for cocaine at birth. The defendant was convicted after a guilty plea, but challenged her conviction on appeal, arguing that the legislature did not intend for Alabama’s chemical endangerment statute to apply to unborn children. Additionally, she alleged that if the statute applied to unborn children, the law was: (1) bad public policy because it does not protect unborn children and (2) unconstitutionally vague. The Alabama Supreme Court rejected Hicks’ claims, relying on an Alabama Court of Appeal decision, Ankrom v. State, 152 So.3d 373 (Ala. Crim. App. 2011), in which the court held that the plain language of the statute included an unborn child or viable fetus in the term “child.” The Alabama Supreme Court refused to consider the defendant’s public policy arguments, stating that policy arguments are ill-suited to judicial resolution and should instead be directed at the legislature. Finally, the court concluded that the law was not vague, as it “unambiguously protects all children, born and unborn, from exposure to controlled substances.”

Reproductive Health Services, et al. v. Marshall, et al. United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama Northern Division (2017)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

A licensed abortion facility and its owner sued Alabama’s Attorney General and the Montgomery County District Attorney. Among Plaintiffs claims were allegations that the 2014 amendments to Alabama Code Title 26’s judicial bypass law violated the due process rights of minor patients seeking abortions because it failed to provide an adequate judicial bypass by permitting adverse parties and the court to disclose private information about the minor to others. Citing Supreme Court precedent enshrining a minor’s constitutional right to seek an abortion through judicial bypass without outside interference violating her privacy, the court ultimately agreed with the plaintiffs and severed the unconstitutional provisions allowing the participation of (1) the district attorney, (2) the minor’s parents, and (3) a guardian ad litem for the fetus from the judicial bypass process.

A.F. re: Self-Satisfying Measure Corte Suprema de Justicia de la Nación (Supreme Court of Argentina) (2011)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, International law, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

A.F. sought an abortion for her 15-year-old daughter, A.G., whose stepfather raped and impregnated her.  The courts of first and second instance rejected A.F.’s petition because Argentina’s criminal code permits abortion in cases of sexual assault of a mentally impaired woman and A.G. is not mentally impaired.  The appellate court, however, authorized the abortion, holding that the relevant statute should be read broadly to encompass all pregnancies resulting from sexual assault.  Following the abortion, the local guardian ad-litem and family representative (“Tutor Ad-litem y Asesor de Familia e Incapaces”) challenged the appellate court’s decision on the basis that the appellate court’s broader interpretation of the statute violated constitutional protections for the fetus as well as protections found in treaties to which Argentina is a signatory.  Despite the abortion having already been performed, the Supreme Court agreed to adjudicate the matter given its importance and affirmed the appellate court’s ruling, noting that (1) certain of the referenced treaties had been expressly amended to permit abortions resulting from sexual assault and (2) any distinction between victims of sexual assault who are mentally impaired in relation to those who are not is irrational and therefore unconstitutional.  

González de Delgado and Others v. Universidad Nacional de Córdoba Corte Suprema de Justicia de la Nación (Supreme Court of Argentina) (2000)

Gender discrimination, International law

Parents of students enrolled at Colegio Nacional de Monserrat, a private all-male high school, filed suit to prevent the implementation of an order of the High Council of the National University of Córdoba (Consejo Superior de la Universidad Nacional de Córdoba) mandating that the high school admit female applicants. They argued that parents have the right to choose the type of education their children receive. The court of first instance found partially in favor of the parents, which was overturned by the appellate court.  Among other reasons, the Supreme Court upheld the appellate court ruling on the basis that (1) the High Council of the National University of Córdoba acted within its statutory authority, (2) the Argentine constitution does not guarantee the right to enroll children in schools limited to a specific gender, (3) mixed gender schools do not infringe on the rights of parents to elect the type of education their children receive, and (4) establishing a mixed gender school is the only alternative compatible with the constitutional principles of equality and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women to which Argentina is a signatory.

De Sousa v. Administración de Parques Nacionales Camara Federal de San Martin (Federal Court of San Martin) (2018)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, International law

On July 6, 2016, the plaintiff notified the defendant-employer of her pregnancy and intention to take maternity leave.  As of the date of notification, the plaintiff held a temporary executive position.  On July 11, 2016, the defendant notified the plaintiff that her temporary designation as an executive was of no effect.  The defendant subsequently provided a maternity compensation package beginning on the date her temporary designation was revoked, but it did not reflect her higher earnings as a temporary executive.  The court of first instance granted the plaintiff maternity leave at a salary corresponding (1) to her executive status as from the date she provided notice until 30 days before the probable date of birth and (2) to her non-executive status during the 100 days following the birth of the plaintiff’s child.  On appeal, the plaintiff challenged the trial court’s ruling denying her executive pay for the 100-day period following the birth of her child, while the defendant challenged the trial court’s ruling granting the plaintiff executive pay from the date of notice of her pregnancy because of the subsequent cancellation of the plaintiff’s executive status on July 11, 2016.  The appellate court found in favor of the plaintiff, noting that (1) the Argentine Constitution provides for the full protection of women during pregnancy and breastfeeding, (2) the International Treaty for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (to which Argentina is a signatory) requires the adoption of laws that prevent discrimination based on marriage or pregnancy, and (3) the failure to award the plaintiff maternity compensation corresponding to her executive status would result in a failure to ensure employment stability.  The appellate court ruled against the plaintiff’s request to return to her executive position following maternity leave on the basis that the designation was temporary in nature and that laws protecting women during maternity leave cannot alter the fundamental nature of the relationship prior to maternity.

Sentenza N. 10959/2016 Corte de Cassazione: Sezioni Unite (Supreme Court: Joint Sections)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Femicide, Gender-based violence in general, International law, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Stalking, Statutory rape or defilement

The Supreme Court, in deciding upon the applicability of certain procedural rules, confirmed the main international definitions of violence within gender relationships. Particularly, the local court dismissed the case against a man charged with the crimes of stalking and mistreatment in the family pursuant to articles 612-bis and 572 of the Italian Criminal Code, without giving any notice thereof to the person injured by the crime in accordance with Article 408 of the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure. In deciding the case, the injured person appealed the decision of the local court and requested the Italian Supreme Court to declare the dismissal of the case null and void. In deciding the procedural issue at hand, the Italian Supreme Court pointed out that the Italian criminal law has drawn the definitions of gender violence and violence against women mainly from international law provisions, which are directly enforced in the system pursuant to Article 117 of the Constitution. In this decision the Italian Supreme Court gave all the definitions of violence within gender relationships in consideration of international conventions and specifically European law, and concluded that such definitions, even if not directly included in domestic regulations, “are fully part of our national system through international law and are therefore enforceable.” According to this interpretation, the definitions of gender violence given by the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence are directly applicable in the Italian legal framework. On this basis, the Court ruled that notice of dismissal of the case must always be served on the person injured by crimes of stalking and mistreatment in the family pursuant to articles 612-bis and 572 of the Italian Criminal Code, as those provisions relate to the gender violence notion set forth under the international and EU provisions applicable in the Italian legal framework.

Sentenza n. 6575/2016 Corte di Cassazione: Sezione Lavoro (Supreme Court: Labor Section) (2016)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

An employer fired a woman after learning of her intention to start an assisted reproduction process. The local court and the court of appeal stated that such dismissal was substantially due to gender discrimination against the employee who wanted to start the assisted reproduction process. Such decisions were challenged by the employer who argued that the dismissal of the employee was not connected to any gender discrimination but rather to the absences for illness that would have affected the efficient management of the work. The Italian Supreme Court confirmed that the dismissal was null and void due to a gender discrimination, irrespective of the fact that the assisted reproduction process had been commenced or not and sentenced the employer re-hire the employee and to pay her the relevant salaries as if she had never been fired.

Sentenza n. 937/2017 La Corte d'Appello di Torino: Sezione Lavoro (Court of Appeal of Turin: Labor Section) (2017)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The Court of Appeal of Turin upheld the lower court’s judgment deeming a clause of a collective agreement negotiated at the enterprise level to be discriminatory because it infringed on Articles 3 and 37 of the Constitution, Article 25, para 2bis, of Decree No. 198/2006 and Article 3 of Decree No. 151/2001. Under the relevant clause the “real presence at work” was as an eligibility criterion to receive an additional remuneration, it being understood that any family-related leave, including any compulsory maternity leave, parental leave. and/or leave for illness, could affect the employees’ level of performance in that respect. The Court maintained that even though the criterion was formally neutral, it resulted in an indirect pay discrimination since female workers usually take more family-related leave than male workers. Moreover, during the trial, the company failed to provide a permissible justification regarding the requirement of “real presence at work.” Therefore, the employer was ordered to (1) cease the discrimination by computing leave as actual time worked for the purposes of achieving the real presence requirement and becoming eligible for the  additional remuneration, (2) to pay the additional remuneration incentive to the plaintiffs, and (3) to enhance a plan to remove the discrimination by avoiding the inclusion of the above criterion in any future collective bargaining at the enterprise level. The latter was promoted by the intervention of the Regional Equality Adviser as a case of collective discrimination.

The Queen v. D.A. Supreme Court of the Northern Territory (2017)

Sexual violence and rape

The complainant, a 32-year-old nurse, woke up to the sound of someone breaking into her house in the early hours.  She screamed and struggled for 20 minutes as the perpetrator attempted to have sexual intercourse with her, eventually succeeding.  The victim managed to call the police as the perpetrator was masturbating, which caused the perpetrator to flee the scene.  The accused, who was 16 years old at the time of the offense, pleaded not guilty to having sexual intercourse with the victim without the victim’s consent while knowing or being reckless as to the lack of consent.  DNA tests revealed a match between the DNA of the perpetrator and the sperm found in the victim.  The accused challenged the admissibility of the DNA test, arguing that he did not properly consent to the test.  The court held that the benefit the public would gain from admitting the DNA evidence outweighed any undesirability of admitting the evidence, such as encouraging improper police conduct.  Accordingly, the evidence was ruled admissible.

Gandhi v. Perak, et al. Federal Court of Malaysia (2018)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Gender discrimination, International law

The appellant, Pathmanathan (husband), and the respondent, Indira Gandhi (wife), were married and had three children. In March 2009, the husband converted to Islam. In April 2009, the husband obtained certificates of conversion to Islam issued by the Pengarah Jabatan Agama Islam Perak over all three children as well as an ex-parte interim custody order over the children. In September 2009, he obtained a permanent custody order from the Syariah Court. In 2013 and 2014, the mother obtained orders from the High Court annulling the unilateral conversions and the Syariah Court’s custody order, inter alia, on the grounds that vesting equal rights to both parents to decide on a minor child’s religious upbringing and religion would be in accordance with international human rights principles, specifically the convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and CEDAW.  The first appeal in this case concerned the validity of the conversion of the children to Islam. The majority in the Court of Appeal allowed the husband’s appeal and held that the Syariah Court had exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of the children’s conversion to Islam. Dealing with the issue of whether the conversions violate international norms, the Court noted that international treaties do not form part of domestic law unless those provisions have been incorporated into domestic law and that the High Court’s approach of following very closely the standard of international norms in interpreting the Federal Constitution is not in tandem with the accepted principles of constitutional interpretation. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal did not declare that the conversions of the children were invalid. The Federal Court overturned the lower courts’ decisions on appeal, reasoning that the children had not met the statutory requirements of conversion. Specifically, the Court found that the children did not state the two clauses of the Affirmation of Faith in Arabic as the Perak Enactment requires for a valid conversion to Islam.  In addition, the Federal Court held that mothers have parental rights equal to fathers, so the permission of both parents is required for a child’s religious conversion.

Ministério Público v. [Undisclosed Parties], 6/08.1ZRPRT.P1 Tribunal da Relação de Porto (Court of Appeal of Porto) (2014)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

The Public Prosecutor (Ministério Público) filed charges of human trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors against the defendants, “B” and “C” (names omitted from public record). Evidence demonstrated that B and C would transport women and minors from Italy to Portugal and hold them against their will to work as prostitutes at adult entertainment facilities. The Lower Court found B and C guilty on charges of both human trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors, which constitute separate crimes under the Portuguese Penal Code. B appealed to the Appellate Court, arguing that she could not be sentenced twice for the same conduct. The Appellate Court affirmed the Lower Court’s decision, and held that the crimes of human trafficking and of sexual exploitation of minors violate different rights of the victims, which warrants the stacked sentences of both crimes as provided under Sections 160 and 175 of the Penal Code.

Sentencia nº 965 de Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (Número de Expediente: 11-1310) Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (2012)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

A mother was charged with sexual abuse of her own son and daughter.  The trial court issued an order of detention pending trial.  When the mother brought an extraordinary constitutional petition seeking protection against the order, the court of appeals declined to hear the petition on the ground that such a petition can heard only after ordinary remedies have been exhausted.  On appeal to the Supreme Court, the mother argued that the underlying order of detention suffered from various constitutional defects, mainly that special courts have exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases involving sexual violence against a girl and that the trial court therefore lacked jurisdiction.  (The mother argued, moreover, that she was being prosecuted and detained in order to prevent enforcement of her visitation rights—this after she had already been deprived of them the two years prior.)  The Supreme Court affirmed the appellate decision, noting that the mother had not exhausted any of the three remedies still available to her:  motion for reconsideration, motion for substitution, and an ordinary appeal. 

Sentencia nº 1325 de Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (Número de Expediente: 11-0645) Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (2011)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, International law

An indigenous man was charged with physical violence and threats against his ex-partner (a non-indigenous woman), a violation of the Organic Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence (the “statute”), which created special courts with exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases under the statute.  The special court issued a restraining order in lieu of detention pending trial.  Prosecutors appealed.  While the appeal was pending, the man violated the restraining order.  The court of appeals vacated the restraining order and ordered detention.  On a constitutional appeal to the Supreme Court, the defendant argued that, because of his identity as an indigenous person, his community’s authorities had exclusive jurisdiction to hear the case.  The Supreme Court acknowledged that (1) the Organic Law on Indigenous Peoples and Communities creates special jurisdiction authorizing indigenous communities to resolve controversies arising among their members within their lands, (2) this special jurisdiction allows the communities to apply their own laws, and (3) the national courts must recognize the decisions of the communities.  But the Court also stressed that international conventions, the national constitution, and special laws (such as the statute) placed limitations on that jurisdiction.  The Court cited, for example, Article 9 of the ILO Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which provides that “the methods customarily practiced by the peoples concerned for dealing with offenses committed by their members shall be respected,” but only “[t]o the extent compatible with the national legal system and internationally recognized human rights.”  More precisely, the Court noted that the statute itself established that indigenous authorities could serve as agents for receiving complaints of violence against women, but only without prejudice to the victim’s right to seek remedy in the special courts.  Based on that analysis, the Court held that the special courts have exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases under the statute, regardless of the defendant’s ethnic identify.  Notably, the Court ordered that its holding be published as binding precedent.   

Sentencia nº 235 de Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (Número de Expediente: C15-366) Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (2016)

Sexual violence and rape

In the predawn hours of a Sunday morning, police officers came upon a cab parked in a secluded location.  A woman (apparently an adolescent) emerged from the car naked and told the officers she was being raped by the driver, who was found with his pants down.  Prosecutors charged the driver with attempted sexual violence.  After the driver pled guilty and was sentenced to 50 months of imprisonment, the victim appealed the classification of the offense and prosecutors opposed the appeal.  Based on evidence in the record, the court of appeals modified the conviction to sexual violence, doubling the time of the prison sentence.  On the driver’s cassation appeal, the Supreme Court held that, by upgrading the conviction beyond the driver’s plea, the modification denied the driver the opportunity to present a defense and thus violated his right to due process.  The Supreme Court accordingly vacated the modification and remanded the case for rehearing of the victim’s appeal. 

Clark v. Clinton-Johnson Supreme Court of Liberia (2015)

Sexual violence and rape

The Act Creating Criminal Court E, Section 25.3(a), requires magistrates to forward a case alleging a sexual offense to the circuit court within 72 hours of arrest without first investigating the charge. However, the Constitution of Liberia, Article 21(f), requires courts in general criminal matters to conduct an investigation, known as a preliminary examination, within 48 hours to determine whether a prima facia case exists, thereby prohibiting preventively detaining the accused. The petitioner was arrested for rape, and the magistrate forwarded the case to the circuit court without first conducting a preliminary examination. The Supreme Court of Liberia held that forwarding such a case to the circuit court under the Act does not violate the Constitution, notwithstanding the additional time and its potential characterization as preventive detention, because magistrate courts are not equipped to protect witnesses from public exposure and the psychological harm resulting from directly facing the defendant. The objective of promoting witness protection having outweighed the additional time required by forwarding such cases to the circuit court, the Constitution is not violated, and Section 25.3(a) stands.

Application by Tuğba Arslan Constitutional Court (2014)

Gender discrimination

A judge removed Tuğba Arslan, a member of the Ankara Bar Association, from a hearing because Arslan was wearing a headscarf while representing a party. The judge postponed the hearing and ordered alternate counsel in Arslan’s place. Turkish Bar Association rules prohibit attorneys from wearing headscarves during hearings. Arslan appealed to the Constitutional Court, claiming that because no legislation prohibited headscarves during hearings, her rights to freedom of religion and equal treatment had been violated. The Court agreed, holding that women may wear headscarves in accordance with Islam and the practice is common in Islamic society; therefore, the Arslan’s religious right was violated. Further, the Court stated that some limitations could be placed on rights but that such limitations, among other requirements, must be prescribed by law. Moreover, the Court reasoned that Arslan’s removal violated the non-discrimination principle, since on the one hand, women attorneys who do not wear headscarves are permitted to attend hearings while Arslan, on the other hand, is not.

Application by Gülsim Genç Constitutional Court (2013)

Gender discrimination, International law

Gülsim Genç petitioned the court of first instance to allow her to use her maiden name only, which the Turkish Civil Code prohibits. The court had previously filed an unsuccessful application to the Constitutional Court to annul this provision and, therefore, dismissed Genç’s petition accordingly. Genç appealed to the court of appeals, which affirmed the court of first instance’s dismissal. Genç then filed an application to the Court. The Court referred to Article 17 of Turkish Constitution, which reads as follows: “every person has the right to preserve and improve one’s existence, both materially and spiritually.” Genç asserted that her surname formed part of this spiritual existence. The Court acknowledged that rights and freedoms may be limited under certain conditions, and when a limitation is placed on those rights, the Court should assess whether such limitation is permitted by law. Under Turkish law, if a contradiction exists between Turkish codes and international agreements on fundamental rights and freedoms, such international agreement shall prevail and apply to the case at hand. The European Court of Human Rights’ rulings indicate that forbidding women to use their maiden name violates the European Convention of Human Rights’ non-discrimination article. The Court remanded the case to the court of first instance for proceedings consistent with the Convention to the extent that the Turkish code violates the Convention. The Court repeatedly referenced the application by Sevim Akat Eşki, which is an indication that similar future rulings may result.

Application by Sevim Akat Eşki Constitutional Court (2013)

Gender discrimination, International law

The applicant petitioned the court of first instance to allow her to use her maiden name only, which the Turkish Civil Code prohibits. The court had previously filed an unsuccessful application to the Constitutional Court to annul this provision and, therefore, dismissed Eşki’s petition accordingly. Eşki then filed an individual application to the Court asserting discrimination and other violations. The Court referred to Article 17 of Turkish Constitution, which reads as follows: “every person has the right to preserve and improve one’s existence, both materially and spiritually.” Eşki asserted that her surname formed part of this spiritual existence. The Court acknowledged that rights and freedoms may be limited under certain conditions, and when a limitation is placed on those rights, the Court should assess whether such limitation is permitted by law. Under Turkish law, if a contradiction exists between Turkish codes and international agreements on fundamental rights and freedoms, such international agreement shall prevail and apply to the case at hand. The European Court of Human Rights’ rulings indicate that forbidding women to use their maiden name violates the European Convention of Human Rights’ non-discrimination article. The Court remanded the case to the court of first instance for proceedings consistent with the Convention to the extent that the Turkish code violates the Convention.

Applications by Various Courts of First Instance to Annul a Certain Civil Law Constitutional Court (2011)

Gender discrimination

The Turkish Civil Code permits a married woman to use her maiden name only if the maiden name is used in conjunction with her husband’s surname. Three applicants, each in separate petitions to courts of first instance, sought to use their maiden names only. The courts of first instance applied to the Constitutional Court, which denied the request because the legislature did not abuse its discretion in determining that the husband’s surname should be the family surname, and this did not violate the Constitution’s equality principle. The Court reasoned that surnames are important for identifying not only the individual, but also the family and ancestry. Consequently, the law requiring women to take their husbands’ surnames benefits public welfare and order. The Court also reasoned that having (the husband’s) surname is a personal right that cannot be renounced or alienated. Moreover, the fact that the surname is an individual right does not mean that the legislature cannot act to ensure public welfare and order. The Constitution states that the family is the foundation of the Turkish society and requires the State to promulgate necessary regulations to preserve the family.

Application by Court of First Instance Court to Annul a Certain Criminal Provision Constitutional Court (2016)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The Turkish Criminal Code, Article 103, Number 5237, provides sentencing for child sexual abuse without graduating the sentence in proportion to the child’s age. The Bafra High Criminal Court applied to the Constitutional Court to annul this provision, and the Court annulled the following two provisions: (1) child sexual abuse carries a sentence between eight and fifteen years; (2) child sexual molestation carries a sentence between three and eight years. The Court reasoned that the legislature may consider the country’s moral values and social and cultural structure in determining the punishment, and while heavier sentences for crimes against younger children who are more vulnerable to sexual assault would be reasonable, the Court opined that in some cases the crime and the punishment might not be proportional, which would violate the “state of law” principle. Therefore, the Court annulled the sentencing guidelines, effective six months following publication in the Official Gazette.

Application by Court of First Instance to Annul a Certain Civil Law Constitutional Court (2016)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Property and inheritance rights

During a divorce proceeding, a matter arose regarding contribution and participation receivables, particularly the application of the Turkish Civil Code, Number 4721, Article 219, Sub-Article 2, Sub-Paragraph 5, dated November 22, 2001, which provides that the income from a personal asset is such spouse’s acquired asset. The court of first instance held that this provision violated the Constitution, Articles 2 and 35, because it unreasonably interfered with property rights and would, therefore, prevent civil marriages. The Constitutional Court, considered the Constitution, Article 35, which simply states that property rights are universal, and this right shall only be limited if public welfare requires. The Court also considered Article 13, which states that fundamental rights and freedoms may be limited only by statute, so long as the core of such rights, as well as other relevant constitutional provisions, are not affected. The Court also noted that Article 41 establishes the state’s positive obligation to promulgate regulations to protect and preserve the institution of the family. The Court held that, while the law in question limits property rights, this limitation does not affect the core of the right and is based on justifiable purposes, and the law in question does not violate the Constitution. The justifiable purpose is protecting families, and especially women, by requiring income from a personal asset to be mutually distributed, thereby promoting public welfare.

Application by Court of First Instance to Annul the Surname Act in Part Constitutional Court (2012)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Gender discrimination

In 2001, a mother divorced her husband, who was her child’s father, and the court of first instance granted custody to the mother, who then filed a lawsuit to change the child’s name and surname because both names were causing the child problems in his social environment—his friends were making fun of him. The Surname Act provides that the husband, as the leader of the marriage union, shall choose the child’s surname, even after divorce. The court of first instance held that this provision violated the Constitution’s equality principle and requested that the Constitutional Court annul the provision.  The Constitutional Court unanimously agreed, holding that the Constitution, Article 41, establishes the equality between husband and wife; moreover, the right to choose a surname for the child was an element of custody. The Court noted that the Turkish Civil Code, Number 4721, had introduced material changes in husband–wife equality, and more importantly, articles that did not comply with the equality principle had been excluded from the law, such as the husband being the leader of the marriage union. The Court referenced the European Court of Human Rights, which held that any differing treatment based on gender, except for valid reasons, breaches the non-discrimination principle. According to the Constitutional Court, the wife and the husband were in the same position regarding their rights and obligations, both during marriage and in divorce; therefore, granting the right to choose the child’s surname exclusively to the father would have violated the Constitution’s equality principle.

Squire v. R. Court of Appeal (2015)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

On 24 May 2013, the applicant was found guilty of the abduction and rape of a 14-year-old girl. He had a good relationship with the parents of the girl and thus was a trustworthy person to her. The applicant’s first appeal application was denied. He renewed his application and the Supreme Court of Criminal Appeal granted the application. This time his conviction was quashed, the sentences were set aside, and the Court ordered a new trial at the next sitting of the Circuit Court. The applicant criticized the quality of the representation given by his counsel at the trial, arguing that his attorney did not provide an adequate defense and did not take full instructions from him. The attorney defending the applicant at the first trial argued that the applicant was properly defended, that the prosecutor also submitted that the defense was adequate and that, as the case turned on the contest of credibility between the complainant and the applicant, the jury’s verdict would have been the same, regardless of any omission by the defense counsel at the trial. Despite the seriousness of the alleged crime, the Court held that the applicant was denied the substance of a fair trial and quashed the conviction, setting aside the sentences, without doing a balancing test between the rights of the 14-year-old girl who was a victim of a crime, and the sex offender’s due process rights.

AP 2900/90 Tereza Usar Ustavni Sud Bosne i Hercegovine (Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2012)

International law, Property and inheritance rights

In 2007, Tereza Usar petitioned the Municipal Court in Mostar to recognize a common law marriage so that she could exercise her right to a family pension.  Usar had lived in a common-law marriage with Ivan Usar from July 1992 until September 1993 when he, a member of the Croatian Defence Council, was killed during the Bosnian War.  In the suit, Usar named as defendants the minor child she had with Ivan Usar and his legal heirs, his children from a previous marriage.  The Municipal Court dismissed Usar’s claim, finding her petition constituted a request to establish facts and not to enforce a right or legal relation because common-law marriage is not regulated by law, but is a factual situation of a union of a man and a woman.  The Cantonal Court in Mostar and the Supreme Court of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (“FBiH”) upheld the lower court’s dismissal.  In 2012, the Constitutional Court of BiH quashed the judgment of the Cantonal Court in Mostar, finding the Cantonal Court violated Usar’s right to a fair trial under Article II(3)(e) of the Constitution of BiH and Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.  The appellate court found the lower court had arbitrarily applied the law in determining that common-law marriage is a factual and not a legal relation.  The Cantonal Court’s decision directly conflicted with Articles 213, 230-234, 263, and 380 of the Family Law of the FBiH, which prescribe the manner for the maintenance of common-law partners and children from common-law marriages, their property relations, and the procedure for obtaining protection against domestic violence.  That is, according to the Constitutional Court of BiH, the legislature of the FBiH did not make any distinction between marriage and common-law marriage with respect to legal relations.  Thus, “a life in common-law marriage implies certain rights and obligations, and hence, the existence of a legal relation between the persons who live or who had lived in a common-law marriage.”

Decision available in English here.

Prosecutor's Office v. A.P. Ustavni Sud Bosne i Hercegovine (Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2004)

International law, Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

In 2002, the Basic Court in Doboj convicted A.P. of Trafficking of Minors for the Purpose of Prostitution under Article 188 of the Criminal Code of the Republika Srpska.  The Court sentenced A.P. to two years’ imprisonment and prohibited him from operating a catering business for five years.  A.P. appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court of the Republika Srpska and then to the Constitutional Court of BiH.  He argued his right to a fair trial under the Constitution of BiH and the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated because he did not have an opportunity to cross-examine the victims at his trial.  Instead, the statements of the victims were read aloud in court.  The Constitutional Court of BiH found that, despite A.P. not having an opportunity to cross-examine the victims, his right to a fair trial had not been violated.  First, the victims were not present at A.P’s trial because they are foreign nationals who no longer resided in the Republika Srpska.  Second, the victims gave their testimony in person during preliminary criminal proceedings, and A.P. was allowed to refute the statements at his trial.  Third, the judgment of the Basic Court was not based solely on the victims’ statements, but also on the testimony of a third witness – who had paid to have sex with one of the victims at A.P.’s establishment – and material evidence.  

Decision available in English here.

Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Bogdanović Sudom Bosne i Hercegovine (Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2015)

Gender violence in conflict, Sexual violence and rape

In May 1993, during the Bosnian War, Velibor Bogdanović, a member of the Croatian Defence Council, and five unidentified soldiers ransacked the home of a couple in Mostar.  The group stole jewelry from the home and took the husband to the local prison where he was unlawfully detained for 30 days.  In addition, Bogdanović raped the wife.  In 2011, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (“BiH”) found Bogdanović guilty of War Crimes against Civilians under Article 173(1), as read together with Article 180(1) and Article 29, of the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina (“CC BiH”).  In July 2015, the Constitutional Court of BiH overturned Bogdanović’s conviction, finding that it had been based on an inapplicable law.  And in September 2015, the Appellate Division of the Court of BiH revised Bogdanović’s sentence, finding him guilty of the criminal offense of War Crimes against Civilians under Article 142(1) of the Criminal Code of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia.  The Court imposed the minimum sentence on Bogdanović – five years imprisonment – reasoning that the accused was a married father, that he had been 22-years-old at the time that he committed the crime, that he had committed no criminal offense since the war, and that he had apologized to the victim after the war and offered her assistance.

Revised second instance verdict in English available here.

Jezile v. State High Court of South Africa: Western Cape Division (2015)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Forced and early marriage, Harmful traditional practices, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

The appellant was convicted in a regional magistrates' court of one count of human trafficking, three counts of rape, one count of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, and one count of common assault against a 14-year-old schoolgirl, whom he had married in accordance with customary marriage laws. After she ran away from the appellant, the appellant took the complainant to Cape Town by taxi, where they resided with the appellant's brother and his wife. There, the incidents of rape and assault occurred. The appellant raised as one of his defenses and as a ground of appeal that the alleged rapes took place in the context of a customary arranged marriage, or ukuthwala. According to expert evidence, ukuthwala was an irregular form of initiating a customary marriage. Experts have stated that, in its traditional form, ukuthwala was consensual and innocuous, but there existed an 'aberrant' form in which young girls were abducted and often raped and beaten to force them into marriage. The magistrate held that the matter was not about ukuthwala and its place in our constitutional democracy, but about whether the state had shown that the accused had committed the offences he was charged with and, if so, whether he acted with the knowledge of wrongfulness and the required intent. The court held that child-trafficking and any form of abuse or exploitation of minors for sexual purposes is not tolerated in South Africa’s constitutional dispensation. Furthermore, it ruled that the appellant could not rely on traditional ukuthwala as justification for his conduct because practices associated with an aberrant form of ukuthwala could not secure protection under the law. Thus, the Court could not find that he did not traffic the complainant for sexual purposes or that he had committed the rapes without the required intention  ̶  even on the rather precarious grounds of appellant’s assertion that his belief in the aberrant form of ukuthwala constituted a 'traditional' custom of his community.

Die appêlant is skuldig bevind in 'n streek magistraat hof op een geval van mensehandel, drie gevalle van verkragting, een geval van aanranding met die opset om ernstige liggaamlike skade te berokken en een geval van algemene aanranding teen ’n 14 jarige skoolmeisie met wie hy getroud is volgens die gebruiklike huwelikswette.  Nadat sy weggehardloop het van die appèllant, het die appèllant die klaer per taxi na Kaapstad geneem waar hulle by die broer van die appellant en sy vrou gewoon het.  Daar het die voorval van verkragting en aanranding gebeur.  Die appèllant het as verdediging en op gronde van ’n appel beweer dat die sogenaamde verkragting plaas gevind het binne konteks van ’n gebruiklike gerëelde huwelik of ‘ ukuthwala’. Volgens kundige getuienis was ukuthwala ’n onreëlmatige vorm om ’n gebruilike huwelik te begin.  Kenners meen dat ukuthwala in sy traditionele vorm, konsensueel en onskuldig was maar dat daar ’n afwykende vorm bestaan waarin jong meisies ontvoer en dikwels verkrag en geslaan is om hulle tot die huwelik te dwing.  Die landdros het gesê dat die aangeleedheid nie oor ukuthwala en die plek daarvan in ons grondwettige demokratse gaan nie maar wel of die staat bewys het dat die beskuldigde die misdrywe gepleeg het waarvoor hy aangekla is en indien wel, of hy opgetree het met die wete van onregmatigheid en die vereiste opset(intent).  Die hof het beslis dat mensenhandel of uitbuiting van minderjariges vir seksuele doeleindes nie geduld word in Suid-Afrika se gondwetlike bedeling nie.  Verder het dit beslis dat die appèllant nie op die tradisionele ukuthwala kon staatmaak as regsverdediging vir sy optrede nie omdat prakyke wat verband hou met ’n afwykende vorm van ukuthwala nie beskerming onder die wet verkry nie. Die Hof kon dus nie bevind dat hy die klaer nie vir mensenhandel met seksuele doeleindes gebruik het nie en dat hy die verkragtings sonder die verwagte intensie gepleeg het nie - selfs op die taamlike onveilige gronde van die bewering van die appellant dat sy geloof in die afwykende vorm van ukuthwala, ’n tradisionele gewoonte in sy gemeenskap is.

Levenstein v. Frankel Constitutional Court (2018)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The case was initially brought to the High Court by individuals who had suffered childhood sexual molestation by the deceased, a prominent financier and philanthropist, in the 1970s and ‘80s. The applicants were unable to pursue criminal charges due of the effect of s18(f) of the Criminal Procedure Act 1997, which imposed a 20-year statute of limitations for most sexual offences (excluding rape, sexual trafficking, and using a child or a mentally disabled person for pornographic purposes). However, the High Court found s18(f) to be unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court affirmed, removing the statute of limitations for prosecuting all sexual offences.

De Lange v. Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of South Africa for the Time Being Constitutional Court of South Africa (2015)

Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

After a Methodist Church minister (applicant) announced to her congregation her intention to marry her same-sex partner, the Methodist Church (respondent) suspended and subsequently discontinued her role as an ordained minister in early 2010. In March 2010, the applicant referred the matter to arbitration according to the Laws and Discipline of the Church. The parties could not agree on the applicant’s procedural rights and the arbitration convener proceeded with the process as provided by the Laws and Discipline of the Church. On her behalf, the convener then entered into a final agreement with the Church in May 2011. In 2012, the applicant approached the Western Cape High Court, Cape Town seeking an order to set aside the arbitration agreement in terms of the Arbitration Act. She contended that she was unfairly discriminated against on the basis of her sexual orientation. The High Court held that the applicant had not shown good cause to set aside the arbitration agreement. She then appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal. The majority judgment of that Court agreed with the finding of the High Court. The applicant sought leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court. In a unanimous judgment, the Constitutional Court made four findings. First, the applicant had not shown good cause to set aside the arbitration agreement. Because the issue related to interpretation of religious doctrine, arbitration would be the appropriate forum. Second, since the applicant had unequivocally disavowed her unfair discrimination claim before the High Court, she was not free to raise the claim for the first time on appeal. Third, pursuant to the principle of constitutional subsidiarity, the applicant should have first brought her unfair discrimination claim to the Equality Court. Finally, the applicant failed to file a notice in terms of the Uniform Rules of the High Court, an omission that deprived other interested parties including religious communities of the opportunity to intervene as parties to the dispute or seek admission as amicus curiae in the High Court. The Court accordingly dismissed the appeal. 

National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality v. Minister of Justice Constitutional Court of South Africa (1998)

Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

The case concerned a referral for confirmation to the Constitutional Court of an order made by the Witwatersrand High Court. The referral sought to affirm that the following laws are unconstitutional and invalid (a) the common law offence of sodomy, and (b) the inclusion of sodomy in schedules to, inter alia, the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, which prohibits sexual conduct between men in certain circumstances. Although technically the Constitutional Court only had to decide on the constitutionality of the inclusion of sodomy in the schedules and of the section of the Sexual Offences Act, it could not do so without also considering the constitutionality of sodomy as a common law offence. The Constitutional Court found that the offences, all aimed at prohibiting sexual intimacy between gay men, violated the right to equality by unfairly discriminating against gay men on the basis of sexual orientation. Such discrimination is presumed to be unfair since the Constitution expressly includes sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Mgolozeli v. Gauteng Department of Finance Labour Court of South Africa (2014)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The applicant, a male, applied for a senior managerial position previously occupied by a woman. After undergoing a psychometric assessment, he was recommended for appointment. The recommendation was turned down “due to the gender imbalance at SMS level”. The applicant claimed that he had been unfairly discriminated against on the basis of his sex because the target, set by the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, did not comply with the provisions of the Employment Equity Act (EEA), 55 of 1998. The respondent contended that, although it had not adopted an equity plan, it had set itself a target of 50% females in senior management positions. The Court noted that when the second respondent took the decision not to appoint the applicant, there was great confusion regarding the actual gender balance at the senior management level. However, the Court was prepared to accept that, at the time, females filled only 29% senior management posts. The EEA requires that equity plans must provide objectives for each year, their duration, and procedures for evaluating their implementation. The Court noted that, in SA Police Service v Solidarity obo Barnard (Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union as amicus curiae [2014] 11 BLLR 1025 (CC)), the Constitutional Court had confirmed that competent courts must ensure that validly adopted equity plans are applied lawfully. Apart from the fact that the respondent had no plan, it had no mechanism to track the levels of gender representation. The second respondent had applied the target without considering the panel’s reasons for its recommendation. Affirmative action had been applied ad hoc, in a haphazard, arbitrary, and random manner. The responsible official had applied a quota system and raised an absolute barrier, both of which were impermissible. The affirmative action measure applied by the respondents conflicted with both the Constitution and the EEA. Accordingly, the measure had unfairly discriminated against the applicant. The respondents were directed to appoint the applicant to the post concerned and pay him compensation equal to the difference between the salary he had earned and the salary he should have earned, with retrospective effect.

Ekhamanzi Springs Ltd. v. Mnomiya Labor Appeal Court of South Africa (2014)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The respondent was employed by the appellant to bottle Aquelle spring water. The appellant’s plant was located on property belonging to a religious mission, and to gain access to the workplace, the appellant’s employees had to cross the mission’s property. The mission’s security guards were instructed to bar entry to any persons who did not comply with its code of conduct; one provision, for example, prohibited “amorous relationships between any two persons outside of marriage”. The respondent and a colleague were denied access because they became pregnant outside of marriage. Consequently, the respondent and her colleague were not able to access the workplace, as they were refused access to the mission’s property. They were subsequently fired. The court ruled that the dismissal of the respondent employee was automatically unfair because she had been dismissed for her pregnancy. The court noted that all persons have a constitutional right to equality. Discriminatory dismissals, such as this one, are accordingly automatically unfair and higher compensation is allowed in such cases. Employers are obliged to avoid discriminating against employees directly or indirectly  ̶  protection against being discriminated against on the ground of pregnancy is not a preserve of married women. An agreement that denies pregnant employees access to the workplace is accordingly prima facie unenforceable unless it can be justified on grounds consistent with constitutional norms. The mission’s code of conduct interfered with the employment relationship between the appellant and its employees and created a situation in which breaches could lead to dismissal. Such provisions blurred the line between the appellant’s terms and conditions of employment and the mission’s code.  That the employee was not a party to the mission’s code proved decisive. As lessee, the appellant had legal remedies to compel the mission to allow full use and enjoyment of the leased property. The appellant’s faint plea of operational necessity could not serve as a defense because it had failed to exercise its rights as lessee to protect its pregnant employees. The employee had tendered her services, and the appellant’s refusal to accept the tender constituted a breach of contract. The court further held that the appellant’s acquiescence in the mission’s discriminatory practice of barring unwed pregnant women from the leased premises violated the appellant’s constitutional duty to treat its employees fairly and was a breach of its common law duty to accept the employees into service. The court, therefore, confirmed that the employee had been dismissed and that her dismissal was automatically unfair. The court also confirmed the remedy of 12 months’ compensation.

2007 (Gyo-Tsu) No. 164 Supreme Court of Japan (2008)

Gender discrimination

The issue before the Supreme Court was whether a part of a provision in the Japanese Nationality Act conformed with Article 14.1 of the Japanese Constitution, which prohibits discrimination based on race, belief, sex, social status, or lineage.  The provision at issue does not grant Japanese nationality to a child born out of wedlock to a non-Japanese mother and a Japanese father––even if the father formally declares and recognizes the father-child relationship––unless the child obtains legal recognition as a child of the man and the woman through their marriage.  The Supreme Court first noted that the Japanese Nationality Act does not grant Japanese nationality to a child in the aforementioned situation although it recognizes a parent-child relationship and grants Japanese nationality to a child born out of wedlock if (1) the child’s mother was Japanese or (2) the child’s Japanese father filed for the recognition of the father-child relationship before the child’s birth.  The Court found that, while creating this distinction was reasonable at the time of the legislation, such a distinction amounted to unjustifiable discrimination in present day Japan.  Thus, the Supreme Court found that the part of the provision at issue was unconstitutional and invalid.  In its reasoning, the majority opinion stated, inter alia, “under the Japanese Nationality Act that adopts the principle of jus sanguinis, maintaining a distinction in terms of eligibility to have Japanese nationality based on whether the Japanese parent is the mother or the father of the child at issue does not accord with the basic principle of equality of the sexes.”

2012 (Ku) No. 984 Supreme Court of Japan (2013)

Property and inheritance rights

In this appeal, a child born out of wedlock appealed the High Court’s finding that a relevant part of the proviso to Article 900.4 of the Japanese Civil Code was not inconsistent with Article 14.1 of the Constitution of Japan, prohibiting discrimination based on race, belief, sex, social status, or lineage.  The proviso set forth that the statutory share in inheritance of a child born out of wedlock is half of that of a child in wedlock.  The Supreme Court reversed the High Court’s ruling and found that the proviso was inconsistent with Article 14.1 of the Constitution.  In making this finding, the Supreme Court took into account the changes in the following, which have been observed since 1947––the year in which the Japanese Civil Code was revised after World War II:  Japanese society, forms of family, legislative acts in foreign countries, and relevant Japanese legal frameworks.  The Supreme Court noted that, even though the system of civil marriage is strongly respected in Japanese society, society has come to accept the idea that a child should not suffer disadvantages based on a factor that she/he did not cause or could not change––whether to have been born in or out of wedlock––and that a child’s rights need to be protected and she/he must be given respect as an individual. 

Resolution U.No. 137/2013 Constitutional Court (2014)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Gender discrimination, International law

A legal scholar and four non-governmental organizations filed an initiative with the Constitutional Court of Macedonia for the commencement of a procedure to review the constitutionality of the Law on Termination of Pregnancy ((“Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia”, nos.87/2013, 164/2013 and 144/2014”) (the “LTP”) and its compatibility with international law, on the basis that the LTP created “a possibility of state interference into the right of choice and free decision-making of the women (which was contrary to Article 41 paragraph 1 and Article 118 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia)”. Further, the applicants stated that the LTP contravenes Articles 11 paragraph 1, Article 39 paragraph 2 and Article 41 paragraph 1 of the Constitution, which provides that female citizens had sovereignty over themselves, their life, physical integrity and health. The applicants pointed out, inter alia, that the requirement to submit a written request, mandatory counselling, and waiting period were incompatible with the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of choice regarding childbirth. In addition, given that those provisions in the LTP did not exist for any other medical intervention, they represented a discrimination against women. All but one of the judges stated that they do not consider the LTP to be problematic and fully rejected the initiative. 

Decision U.No. 104/2016 Constitutional Court (2016)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

A 65-year-old woman working in a state institution requested to continue her employment for two more years was denied on the basis that, according to Paragraphs 2 and 4 of Article 104 of the Labour Law of Macedonia (the “Contested Provisions”), the age limit to which women can work is 65 years of age, while this limit for men is 67 years of age. The Union-National Council for Gender Equality and the Macedonian Women’s Lobby initiated proceedings in the Constitutional Court of Macedonia (the “Court”) challenging the constitutionality of the Contested Provisions on grounds that they contravene Articles 9 and 32 of the Constitution. The Court held that the Contested Provisions are not in accordance with the established constitutional principle of equality of citizens on grounds of sex per Article 9 of the Constitution, on the basis that the Contest Provisions impose termination of employment of female employees under different conditions than male employees. The Contested Provisions are thereby repealed.

Habeenzu v. The People Supreme Court for Zambia (2012)

Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was charged in the Subordinate Court of attempted rape contrary to Section 137 of the Penal Code, Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia. The statement of offence read defilement, contrary to Section 138 of the Penal Code. The appellant was convicted of indecent assault, a minor offence per Section 181(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code. The appellant appealed on two grounds. First, the statement of offence was defective, as (i) it did not specify the offence by section and subsection of the provision of the law contravened, and (ii) it was amended late which was unjust. Second, on the available evidence, a court could not have properly convicted appellant for attempted rape or indecent assault because the allegation of attempted rape impliedly includes both an allegation of assault and of indecency; on the facts, there was only an element of indecency (and not assault). The Supreme Court rejected both grounds of appeal on the basis that: (i), indecent assault, attempted rape, rape and defilement are offences of the same genus and therefore a defendant charged with attempted rape may be convicted of a lesser related charge like indecent assault; (ii) the appellant had an opportunity to defend himself in relation to the alternative charge, so there was no constitutional violation of the fairness of the trial; and (iii) the findings of fact were in accordance with the evidence on the record, as the appellant was ‘caught in the act’ and there was medical evidence of injuries sustained by the victim. Accordingly, there was no reason to interfere with the findings of fact or the minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment imposed by the sentencing judge. The Court dismissed the appeal.

Applicants McEwan, Clarke, et al. v. Attorney General High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature (2013)

Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

On February 6, 2009, four transgender individuals (A, B, C, D) identifying as female were arrested and charged with both Loitering and Wearing Female Attire.  The police detained the Applicants for the entire weekend without explaining the charges against them.  Wearing Female Attire is prohibited under Section 153(1)(XLV11) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, chapter 8:02.  At the hearing on February 9, 2009, the Chief Magistrate commented that the Applicants were confused about their sexuality and told them they were men, not women, and needed to give their lives to Jesus Christ.  The Applicants, who were all unrepresented at the time, pleaded guilty to the charge of Wearing Female Attire.  Applicants A, B and D were fined $7,500, and Applicant C was fined $19,500 (Guyanese dollars).  The loitering charges were eventually dismissed.  The Applicants contacted the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), the Equal Rights Trust’s Guyanese partner, about the case.  SASOD agreed to represent Applicants and filed a Notice of Motion challenging the Magistrate’s Court decision and seeking redress.  The Applicants argued that the police violated the Constitution because the officers failed to inform them of their arrest and did not permit the Applicants to retain counsel.  They also argued that Section 153 (1) (XLV11) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act 1893 is: (1) vague and of uncertain scope; (2) irrational and discriminatory on the ground of sex; and (3) a continuing threat to their right to protection against discrimination on the ground of sex and gender under the Constitution.  Applicants further argued that, by instructing the Applicants to attend Church and give their lives to Jesus Christ, the Chief Magistrate discriminated against them on the basis of religion, which violated a fundamental norm of the Co-operative of the Republic of Guyana as a secular state in contravention to the Constitution.  The Court upheld the Applicants’ claims in relation to their fundamental right to be informed of the reason for their arrest under Article 139 of the Constitution, but rejected all of their other claims.  The Court found that the prohibition of cross-dressing for an improper purpose was not unconstitutional gender or sex discrimination, impermissibly vague, or undemocratic.  The Court also struck SASOD’s application in full, finding that SASOD did not have standing to be an applicant in the case.

Institutional Violence Against Women (Docket XXVII.1o.3 C (10a.)) Mexico Supreme Court (2016)

Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, International law

This isolated thesis is a relevant example of gender perspective case law, as the criteria issued by the collegiate tribunal is binding on all cases resolved by such tribunal. In addition, such criteria issued may be persuasive in similar cases arising in other federal courts. The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women “Convention of Belém do Pará,” states that violence against women is an offense against human dignity, which constitutes a violation of fundamental rights. In addition, Article 18 of the General Law for Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence establishes that any public servant’s conduct, whether by act or omission, which is discriminatory or which impairs the woman’s human rights is considered institutional violence. Therefore, if a governmental authority deprives a woman of any right in the context of family law, the court shall acknowledge the authority’s intention to discriminate or impair the plaintiff’s human rights in its ruling. Further, any court ruling seeking to restore the woman’s rights shall identify the authority responsible for the violation. (Amparo Directo: http://sise.cjf.gob.mx/SVP/word1.aspx?arch=462/04620000174646210006004.d...)

Esta tesis aislada es un ejemplo relevante de la jurisprudencia de la perspectiva de género, ya que los criterios emitidos por el tribunal colegiado son vinculantes para todos los casos resueltos por dicho tribunal. Además, los criterios emitidos pueden ser persuasivos en casos similares que surjan en otros tribunales federales. La Convención Interamericana para Prevenir, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia contra la Mujer "Convención de Belém do Pará", afirma que violencia contra la mujer es un delito contra la dignidad humana y constituye una violación de los derechos fundamentales. Además, el artículo 18 de la Ley General para el Acceso de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia establece que la conducta de cualquier servidor público, ya sea por acto u omisión, que sea discriminatoria o que perjudique los derechos humanos de la mujer se considera violencia institucional. Por lo tanto, si una autoridad gubernamental priva a una mujer de cualquier derecho en el contexto del derecho de familia, el tribunal reconocerá la intención de la autoridad de discriminar o menoscabar los derechos humanos del demandante en su decisión. Además, cualquier fallo judicial que busque restaurar los derechos de la mujer deberá identificar a la autoridad responsable de la violación.

Femicide (Docket 1a/LIV/2016 (10a.)) First Collegiate Tribunal of the Twenty-Seventh Circuit (2016)

Femicide, Gender discrimination

This isolated thesis is a relevant example of gender perspective case law, as the criteria issued by the collegiate tribunal is binding on all cases resolved by such tribunal. In addition, such criteria issued may be persuasive in similar cases arising in other federal courts. The Mexican Supreme Court has determined that in order to determine whether a law is discriminatory a court must evaluate the following: (i) whether the purpose of such law is objective and not contrary to the Constitution; (ii) the means; (iii) that the purpose of the law and the means are proportional. The Mexican Supreme Court has determined that the state legislator can develop any mechanism to protect human rights. Therefore, given that femicide, as a felony, is designed to protect a disadvantaged segment of the population, any special treatment inherent to this felony cannot be interpreted as contrary to the human right to equality.

Esta tesis aislada es un ejemplo relevante de la jurisprudencia de la perspectiva de género, ya que los criterios emitidos por el tribunal colegiado son relevantes para todos los casos resueltos por dicho tribunal. Además, los criterios emitidos pueden ser persuasivos en casos similares que surjan en otros tribunales federales. El Tribunal Supremo de México ha determinado que para determinar si una ley es discriminatoria, un tribunal debe evaluar lo siguiente: (i) si el propósito de dicha ley es objetivo y no contrario a la Constitución; (ii) los medios para enforzarla; (iii) que el propósito de la ley y los medios sean proporcionales. La Corte Suprema de México ha determinado que el legislador estatal puede desarrollar cualquier mecanismo para proteger los derechos humanos. Por lo tanto, dado que el femicidio, como delito grave, está diseñado para proteger a un segmento desfavorecido de la población, cualquier tratamiento especial inherente a este delito grave no puede interpretarse como contrario al derecho humano a la igualdad.

Access to Justice in Equal Conditions (Docket 1a.J. 22.2016 (10a.)) Mexico Supreme Court (2016)

Gender discrimination

This jurisprudential thesis is a relevant example of case law, as the criteria issued by the Mexican Supreme Court is binding on all courts in the country. Every court shall rule based on a gender perspective. Therefore there should be a test to determine whether there is a gender violence case before the court. This test shall be performed by the court regardless of whether a party makes such a petition. The court shall take into consideration the following points: (i) if the particular case involves gender violence, taking into account the facts and the evidence, excluding any stereotype that the court may have; (ii) in the event that the evidence is insufficient to determine whether the case involves gender violence, the court shall request more evidence to make a determination; (iii) if the court determines that the case involves gender violence, it shall apply the relevant law to the particular case and issue a ruling; (iv) human rights shall be taken into consideration at all times during the process and; (v) the use of inclusive language to ensure access to justice that is free of gender-based stereotypes.

Esta tesis jurisprudencial es un ejemplo relevante de jurisprudencia, ya que los criterios emitidos por el Tribunal Supremo de México son vinculantes para todos los tribunales del país. Cada tribunal decidirá con una perspectiva de género. Por lo tanto, debe haber una prueba para determinar si hay un caso de violencia de género ante el tribunal. Esta prueba será realizada por el tribunal, independientemente de si una parte hace tal petición. El tribunal deberá tener en cuenta los siguientes puntos: (i) si el caso en particular involucra violencia de género, teniendo en cuenta los hechos y las pruebas, excluyendo cualquier estereotipo que el tribunal pueda tener; (ii) en el caso de que la evidencia sea insuficiente para determinar si el caso involucra violencia de género, el tribunal deberá solicitar más evidencia para tomar una decisión; (iii) si el tribunal determina que el caso involucra violencia de género, aplicará la ley pertinente al caso particular y emitirá un fallo; (iv) los derechos humanos se tendrán en cuenta en todo momento durante el proceso y; (v) el uso de un lenguaje inclusivo para garantizar el acceso a la justicia sin estereotipos o discriminación sexual.

Adequate Defense of Pregnant Women in Labor Matters (Docket 3.o.2 L (10a.)) Third Collegiate Tribunal in the Assistant Center of the Tenth Region (2016)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination


This isolated thesis is a relevant example of gender perspective case law, as the criteria issued by the collegiate tribunal is binding on all cases resolved by such tribunal. In addition, such criteria issued may be persuasive in similar cases arising in other federal courts. The labor law states that every person shall have an appropriate defense. In addition, this right acquires different considerations when the claimant is a pregnant woman. Historically, women in Mexico have been fired solely for being pregnant. Pregnant women are consequently considered a vulnerable group. Therefore, this isolated thesis requires the courts to inform the claimant of her right to have an attorney, and in those cases where the claimant cannot afford one, the court shall appoint one for her. (Amparo Directo Laboral: http://sise.cjf.gob.mx/SVP/word1.aspx?arch=484/04840000187544100005005.d...)




Esta tesis aislada es un ejemplo relevante de la jurisprudencia de la perspectiva de género, ya que los criterios emitidos por el tribunal colegiado son vinculantes para todos los casos resueltos por dicho tribunal. Además, los criterios emitidos pueden ser persuasivos en casos similares que surjan en otros tribunales federales. La ley laboral establece que cada persona tendrá una defensa apropiada. Además, este derecho adquiere diferentes consideraciones cuando el reclamante es una mujer embarazada. Históricamente, las mujeres en México han sido despedidas de sus empleos por estar embarazadas. En consecuencia, las mujeres embarazadas son consideradas un grupo vulnerable. Por lo tanto, esta tesis aislada requiere que los tribunales informen al reclamante de su derecho a tener un abogado, y en aquellos casos en que el reclamante no pueda pagar uno, el tribunal le asignará uno.

Public Safety (Isolated Thesis Docket XVI.1o.A.115 A (10a.)) First Collegiate Tribunal in Administrative Matters of the Sixteeth Circuit (2016)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, International law

This isolated thesis is a relevant example of gender perspective case law, as the criteria issued by the collegiate tribunal is binding on all cases resolved by such tribunal. In addition, such criteria may be persuasive in similar cases arising in other federal courts. The Mexican Supreme Court has previously determined the social benefits to which a former public safety employee is entitled at the time of her termination. The social benefits and salary must be paid upon termination and must account for both the period before and after an unjustified termination for pregnancy. The Mexican Constitution (Article 123, section B, item XI, subparagraphs (a) & (c)) recognizes the rights of pregnant women. These include social benefits during pregnancy. Consequently, the impairment that results from the termination must be paid and includes: (a) medical bills and payments made to private medical institutions due to the lack of social security benefits and (b) the payment of the full salary from the last month before birth as well as the two months after it, unless there is a court ruling in relation to unpaid wages. This provision of the Mexican Constitution, as well as other provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment And Eradication Of Violence Against Women “Convention of Belém do Pará” compels the courts to rule with a gender perspective in order to ensure justice for this historically vulnerable social group. (Amparo Directo Administrativo 121/2016: http://sise.cjf.gob.mx/SVP/word1.aspx?arch=1320/13200000186095880003003....)


Esta tesis aislada es un ejemplo relevante de la jurisprudencia de la perspectiva de género, ya que los criterios emitidos por el tribunal colegiado son relevantes a todos los casos resueltos por dicho tribunal. Además, dichos criterios pueden ser persuasivos en casos similares que surjan en otros tribunales federales. La Corte Suprema de México ha determinado previamente los beneficios sociales a los que tiene derecho un ex-empleado de seguridad pública en el momento de su despido. Los beneficios sociales y el salario deben pagarse a la terminación y deben tener en cuenta tanto el período antes como el de después de una terminación injustificada por embarazo. La Constitución mexicana (Artículo 123, sección B, artículo XI, subpárrafos (a) y (c)) reconoce los derechos de las mujeres embarazadas. Estos incluyen beneficios sociales durante el embarazo. En consecuencia, el deterioro que resulta de la terminación debe pagarse e incluye: (a) facturas médicas y pagos realizados a instituciones médicas privadas debido a la falta de beneficios de seguridad social y (b) el pago del salario completo del último mes anterior al nacimiento, así como los dos meses posteriores al mismo, a menos que exista un fallo judicial en relación con los salarios impagos. Esta disposición de la Constitución mexicana, así como otras disposiciones de la Convención sobre la Eliminación de Todas las Formas de Discriminación contra la Mujer (CEDAW) y la Convención Interamericana para Prevenir, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia contra la Mujer "Convención de Belém do Pará" obliga a los tribunales a gobernar con una perspectiva de género para garantizar la justicia para este grupo social históricamente vulnerable.

Ruling with a Gender Perspective (Isolated Thesis Docket XXI.2o.P.A.1 CS (10a.)) Second Collegiate Tribunal in Criminal and Administrative Matters of the Twentieth Circuit (2017)

Gender discrimination


This isolated thesis is a relevant example of gender perspective case law, as the criteria issued by the collegiate tribunal is binding on all cases resolved by such tribunal. In addition, such criteria may be persuasive in similar cases arising in other federal courts. Each case that is brought to court must be analyzed in order to determine whether there is a degree of vulnerability for each woman. Without such scrutiny, courts cannot provide a gender perspective analysis to a controversy, as gender perspective does not depend solely on gender but on other considerations, such as social vulnerability, which must be proven. In order to determine if a woman finds herself in a disadvantaged situation, the following issues must be taken into consideration: (a) if one or more parties find themselves in one of the categories identified in the Brasilia Regulations Regarding Access to Justice for Vulnerable People; (b) the gender disadvantage and the violence that prevails in the place of residence or the social core in which the parties may be involved, in order to clarify the possible existence of structural inequality; (c) education level, age, socioeconomic situation, and the particular characteristics of all of the people involved in the trial, in order to determine if a inequality actually exists; and (d) all proven facts in the docket, in order to identify the power relationships. Taking the aforementioned considerations into account, it must be determined if in the particular case it is optimal to order measures seeking to balance one or more differences and vulnerabilities that prevent the disadvantaged party from the enjoyment of its human rights. (Amparo Directo Agrario 163/2016 here: http://sise.cjf.gob.mx/SVP/word1.aspx?arch=752/07520000188524300006005.d...)



Esta tesis aislada es un ejemplo relevante de la jurisprudencia de la perspectiva de género, ya que los criterios emitidos por el tribunal colegiado son relevantes a todos los casos resueltos por dicho tribunal. Además, dichos criterios pueden ser persuasivos en casos similares que surjan en otros tribunales federales. Cada caso que se lleva ante el tribunal debe analizarse para determinar si existe un grado de vulnerabilidad unico para cada mujer. Sin tal control, los tribunales no pueden proporcionar un análisis de perspectiva de género a una controversia, ya que la perspectiva de género no depende únicamente del género, sino de otras consideraciones, como la vulnerabilidad social, que deben probarse. Para determinar si una mujer se encuentra en una situación de desventaja, se deben tener en cuenta los siguientes temas: (a) si una o más partes se encuentran en una de las categorías identificadas en el Reglamento de Brasilia sobre el acceso a la justicia para personas vulnerables ; (b) la desventaja de género y la violencia que prevalece en el lugar de residencia o el núcleo social en el que pueden participar las partes, a fin de aclarar la posible existencia de desigualdad estructural; (c) el nivel de educación, la edad, la situación socioeconómica y las características particulares de todas las personas involucradas en el ensayo, a fin de determinar si realmente existe una desigualdad; y (d) todos los hechos comprobados en el expediente, con el fin de identificar las relaciones de poder. Teniendo en cuenta las consideraciones mencionadas anteriormente, se debe determinar si, en el caso particular, es óptimo ordenar medidas que busquen equilibrar una o más diferencias y vulnerabilidades que impidan que las partes desfavorecidas disfruten de sus derechos humanos. 

Gumede v. President of the Republic of South Africa & Others Constitutional Court of South Africa (2008)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Gender discrimination, International law, Property and inheritance rights

Mrs. and Mr. Gumede, both domiciled in KwaZulu-Natal, entered into a monogamous customary marriage in 1968 and four children were born during their marriage.  Because she was forbidden by her husband to take up employment, Mrs. Gumede never worked and could not contribute to the accumulation of the family’s estate, which included two family homes.  She was always the primary caregiver of the children.  After forty years, the marriage broke down irretrievably.  Mrs. Gumede had no family and was dependent for financial support upon her children and her old-age pension.  In 2003, Mr. Gumede instituted divorce proceedings before the Divorce Court.  Mrs. Gumede also approached the High Court and obtained an order invalidating the discriminatory legislative provisions on which the Divorce Court could rely.  The Constitutional Court subsequently was approached by the Minister of Home Affairs and the KwaZulu-Natal Member of the Executive Council for Traditional Leaders and Local Government Affairs who resisted the order, for the reevaluation of the order of the High Court declaring constitutionally invalid certain sections of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, of the KwaZulu Act on the Code of Zulu Law 16 of 1985 and certain sections of the Natal Code of Zulu Law (Proc R155 of 1987), which regulate the proprietary consequences of customary marriages.  In a lengthy judgment, the Constitutional Court took great pains to explain that any distinction between the consequences of customary marriages entered into before and after the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act came into operation is discriminatory, inconsistent with the Constitution, and invalid.  The Constitutional Court noted the international instruments that South Africa has ratified that prohibit forms of discrimination against women, including CEDAW.  It held that the two provisions are patently discriminatory, unfair, and not justifiable.  In terms of the judgment, all monogamous customary marriages entered into before the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act came into operation are now ipso facto in community of property, excluding customary marriages which had been terminated by death or by divorce before the date of the judgment.  The Constitutional Court further held that the constitutional invalidity of Section 7(1) was limited to monogamous marriages and should not concern polygynous relationships or their proprietary consequences, determining that polygynous marriages should continue to be “regulated by customary law until parliament intervenes.”

Regina v. Gua High Court of Solomon Islands (2012)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination, International law, Sexual violence and rape

Macberth Gua was charged with the rape of his estranged wife of ten years.  The victim had not filed any divorce proceedings and there was no formal separation.  The defendant dragged the victim into his vehicle under the threat of violence and drove her to a remote location where he forced himself on her.  The defendant’s defense relied upon the antiquated common law maxim that a husband could not be liable for involuntary sexual intercourse with his wife (the “marital rape exception”), as her agreement to wed constituted an irrevocable consent to marital relations.  Moreover, Section 136 of the Penal Code of the Solomon Islands provides an excessively narrow definition of rape: “Any person who has unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of bodily harm, or by means of false representations as to the nature of the act, or in the case of a married woman, by impersonating her husband, is guilty of the felony termed rape.”  The question before the High Court was whether a husband could be held criminally liable for raping his wife.  The answer provided by the High Court was in the affirmative, which ruled that marriage is now regarded as a partnership of equals, and that this principle of equality has been reflected not only in international conventions to which the Solomon Islands is a party, but is also entrenched in the provisions of the Constitution.  In its rationale, the High Court noted that one of the international conventions to which the Solomon Islands is a party is CEDAW, which, in Article 15, calls on all State parties to accord women equality with men before the law and, in Article 16, calls for the same personal rights between husband and wife.  As for the Constitution, Sections 3 and 15 of the Constitution guarantee women equal rights and freedoms as men and afford them protection against all forms of discrimination, including discrimination on the ground of sex.  The High Court thus held that the rule exempting husbands from liability for rape on their wives is no longer applicable, that it is no longer supported by common law, and that it is offensive to modern standards and principles of equality found in international conventions and the Constitution.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, unfortunately in the sentencing decision following Regina v. Gua, the sentencing judge stated that “this is a case which has occurred as a result of domestic problems between a husband and his wife.  It is not an offence that has been committed to gratify one’s own sexual desires.  There is an underlying cause for the commission of the offence – the termination by the victim of her marriage to the accused.  Hence, the accused is not solely to be blamed for this incident.  The complainant must also share the blame.” 

TC/0003/17 Constitutional Court (2017)

Femicide, Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, International law, Sexual violence and rape

Due to the increase of femicide crimes in the Dominican society, the Constitutional Court proclaimed the termination of violence against women in all its forms as it is a violation of the Constitution. The proclamation was made in commemoration of the murder of Mirabal, Minerva, Patria and María Teresa, political opponents of the regime of Rafael Trujillo, and in accordance with the international agreements executed in defense of women's rights, as well as the laws issued against gender violence, sexual violence and femicide. 


Debido al aumento de los delitos de femicidio en la sociedad dominicana, el Tribunal Constitucional proclamó el cese de la violencia contra la mujer en todas sus formas, incluyéndolo como una forma de violación de la Constitución. Dicha proclamación se realizó en conmemoración del asesinato de Mirabal, Minerva, Patria, y María Teresa, quienes fueron opositores políticos del régimen de Rafael Trujillo. La proclamación está en conformidad con los acuerdos internacionales celebrados en defensa de los derechos de las mujeres y con las leyes emitidas contra la violencia basada en género sexual, violencia sexual en sí, y femicidio.

Sentencia TC/0599/15 Constitutional Court (2015)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

The foundations “Justicia y Transparencia”, “Transparencia y Democracia” and “Matrimonio Feliz” challenged the constitutionality of Articles 107, 108, 109 and 110 of the Criminal Code Law 550-14. Law 550-14 regulates abortion, including the adjudication of cases of exoneration from criminal liability such as the interruption of pregnancy based on the crimes of rape, incest or malformations of the embryo that may endanger life. The foundations alleged the violation of, among others, Articles 101, 102, 105 and 112 of the Constitution that provide for the process of enacting organic laws (defined as those that regulate fundamental rights), and the violation of Article 37 that provides the inviolability of the right to life from the conception to death. The Criminal Code was approved by a simple majority. However, as it restricts fundamental rights such as the right to freedom, it must be considered as an organic law and therefore, had to be approved by a two-thirds majority. Additionally, only one of the chambers reviewed the executive authority’s observations before the law was approved. Likewise, the foundations argued that admitting exemptions from criminal liability to those who perform abortions was contrary to the Constitution which protects life from conception. The Constitutional Court admitted the action and ruled that Law 550-14 was unconstitutional because it created a new Criminal Code without following the due process necessary for its promulgation. 

Las fundaciones “Justicia y Transparencia”, “Transparencia y Democracia” y “Matrimonio Feliz” desafiaron la constitucionalidad de los artículos 107, 108, 109 y 110 de la Ley 550-14 del Código Penal. La Ley 550-14 regula el aborto, incluyendo el fallo de casos que tratan con la absolución de responsabilidad penal, como la interrupción del embarazo por delitos de violación, incesto, u otras malformaciones del embrión que pueden poner en peligro la vida de la madre y del feto. Específicamente, las fundaciones alegaron la violación de, entre otros, los artículos 101, 102, 105 y 112 de la Constitución, los cuáles contemplan el proceso de promulgación de leyes orgánicas (definidas como aquellas que regulan los derechos fundamentales), y además la violación del artículo 37, el cual establece como inviolable el derecho a la vida desde la concepción hasta la muerte. El Código Penal fue aprobado por la mayoría. Sin embargo, como restringe derechos fundamentales como el derecho a la libertad, el Código clasifica como una ley orgánica y, por lo tanto, debe ser aprobada por una mayoría de dos tercios. Además, sólo una de las cámaras tribunales revisó las observaciones dadas por la autoridad ejecutiva antes de que se aprobara la ley. Las fundaciones argumentaron que abstener de responsabilidad penal a quienes realizan abortos era contrario a la Constitución, la cuál protege la vida desde la concepción. La Corte permitió la acción a proceder y declaró que la Ley 550-14 en violación de la Constitucion en base a que creó un nuevo Código Penal sin seguir el procedimiento necesario para su promulgación inicial. 

Sentencia TC/0070/15 Constitutional Court (2015)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Gender discrimination

Mrs. Angela Merici Mendoza Minier challenged the constitutionality of Article 35 of Law number 1306-Bis published on May 21st, 1937, which provided that a divorced woman could not marry within 10 months after the divorce. Mrs. Angela argued that Article 35 contravened the gender equality provision provided in Article 39 of the Constitution because the 10-month waiting period to remarry did not apply to men. Article 35 thus conferred a privilege only to men. The attorney-general disregarded the action on the basis that the petitioner lacked legitimate interest. However, the Constitutional Court determined that as a woman, Mrs. Angela could be affected by Article 35 and ruled that she therefore had a legitimate interest in challenging Article 35. The Constitutional Court subsequently admitted the action and nullified Article 35 on the basis that it no longer fulfilled its aim to prevent a woman from remarrying when already pregnant with her former husband’s child because it could have negative consequences for the child or the newly formed couple. As technology now allows women to know their state of pregnancy at an early stage, the restriction is no longer needed. Moreover, the Constitutional Court acknowledged that it is a woman’s decision to remarry, pregnant or not. 

La Sra. Angela Merici Mendoza Minier desafió la constitucionalidad del artículo 35 de la Ley número 1306-Bis publicada el 21 de mayo de 1937, la cuál establecía que una mujer divorciada no podría casarse por un período de 10 meses posteriormente a un divorcio. La Sra. Angela sostuvo que el artículo 35 era contrario a la disposición de igualdad de género garantizada en el artículo 39 de la Constitución porque el período de espera de 10 meses para volver a casarse no se aplicaba a los hombres. Ella propuso que el artículo 35 confería un privilegio único a los hombres. El fiscal general ignoró la acción basándose en que la peticionaria no tenía un interés legítimo en la acción. Sin embargo, el Tribunal Constitucional determinó que, como mujer, la Sra. Angela podría verse afectada por el artículo 35 y dictaminó que, por lo tanto, esto era un interés legítimo suficiente para impugnar el artículo 35. Posteriormente, el Tribunal Constitucional admitió la acción y anuló el artículo 35 sobre la base de que no cumplía su objetivo inicial de evitar que una mujer se volviera a casar mientras ya estaba embarazada con el hijo de su ex esposo, lo cual podría tener consecuencias negativas para el niño o para la pareja recién formada. Como la tecnología ahora permite a las mujeres conocer su estado de embarazo desde una etapa temprana, dicha restricción ya no es necesaria. Además, el Tribunal Constitucional agregó que es una decisión personal de la mujer volver a casarse, embarazada o no.

Case of Clarisa Velázquez de Acosta Supreme Court (1995)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Quijote, S.R.L., (the “Company”) fired the plaintiff while she was pregnant.  The Labor Appeals Court (the “Court”) found that the firing was illegal because the law seeks to protect pregnant women, and though the medical certificate is a guarantee for the employer, it is not a requirement.  The Court ordered the company to reinstate the plaintiff to her position and pay her lost wages.  The Company challenged the court order in 1993, but the Supreme Court dismissed the challenge as an unconstitutional action in 1995.  Consequently, the Labor Appeals Court ruling remained in effect.

Dlamini v. The Quadro Trust & 8 Others Supreme Court (2016)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

The appellant sought to set aside a lower court’s decision and remove his deceased paternal grandmother’s estate executors. The lower court found that the appellant had no locus standi to bring forth the application as he was not the lawful beneficiary of his grandmother’s estate—he was born out of wedlock and his father predeceased his now deceased paternal grandmother. Therefore, the appellant had no right of inheritance intestate. The Supreme Court found that Section 31 of the Constitution (the abolition of the common law status of illegitimacy of a person born out of wedlock) abolishes the principle that children cannot inherit from their father. The Court upheld the appeal and found that the applicant had locus standi to institute or defend legal proceedings relating the deceased estate.

Stapley v. Dobson High Court (2008)

Gender discrimination

This is a child custody case involving a father (the applicant) seeking custody of his minor child because the child’s biological mother, the respondent, sought to take the child to Sri Lanka without the applicant’s permission. The applicant and respondent were never legally married and the respondent had custody of the child. The Court found that Section 31 of the Constitution abolishes the status of illegitimacy of children but that Section 31 is silent on the status of the father of a child born out of wedlock. The Court held that until Parliament enacts the necessary laws under Section 29(7) of the Constitution (which specifically provides for the enactment of laws by Parliament to ensure children’s rights) the legal effects flowing from the fact that the child was born out of wedlock apply and the Court cannot grant guardianship of the minor child to the applicant. Section 31 of the Constitution relates, in part to the rights of children born out of wedlock to inherit from their father. The Court was satisfied that the mother showed careful preparation in her decision to move to Sri Lanka for better career opportunities. The application failed.  

Mabuza v. Shongwe Supreme Court of Appeal of Swaziland (2006)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

The appellant was the maternal grandfather of two minor children (the subject of the application). The appellant was appealing a decision of the trial court which ordered that the children be placed the custody of their biological father (the respondent). The children stayed with the appellant for a period of time while the respondent pursued his education in South Africa. Upon the respondent’s return, he fetched the children from the applicant’s residence. One of the appellant’s arguments was that because the marriage between the appellant’s deceased daughter and the respondent was invalid under Swazi law, the custody of the children should be with the maternal family (in accordance with Swazi law and custom). The Court stated that Section 29(4) of the Constitution removes the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children as it states that children whether born in or out of wedlock shall enjoy the same protection and rights. The Court found that the most important considerations were the welfare, interests and happiness of the children. The Court found that no evidence was adduced to prove that the respondent was not fit to have custody over the children and the appeal was dismissed. 

B.M. v. R.C. Constitutional Court (2009)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

Until 1976, the rules applicable on marriage and divorce originated in the Code Napoléon. At that time, the right to manage property within a marriage was held entirely by the man. To ensure that women would not suffer the negative consequences of bad management by their spouse (i.e., debts), in the event the marriage was dissolved they had the option to decline or to accept the division of assets and liabilities within a specified period. Silence meant that all matrimonial property rights and obligations were declined. The Civil Code was amended from mid-1976 by the Law of 14 July 1976 to remove this discrimination but contained transitional provisions requiring the old rules to continue to apply under certain circumstances. In the case at hand (in which the women failed to make a declaration within the old deadline), the Constitutional Court was asked if the old provisions still applied for marriages entered into before the amendments became applicable and dissolved after that date. The first court ruled that the deadline no longer applied (as there was no basis for it because men and women acquired equal rights to manage matrimonial property in 1976), but it took successive appeals, culminating in an appeal before the Belgian Supreme Court, to confirm this and annul the relevant transitional provisions.

Test-Achats Constitutional Court (2011)

Gender discrimination, International law

Following a proceeding brought by a Belgian consumer organization to seek the annulment of a law amending the Gender Law of 2007 in so far as it allowed certain differences in insurance premiums to be paid by men and women, the Constitutional Court (drawing on a judgment of the European Court of Justice as this concerned a question of the interpretation of a provision in a European Directive) ruled that such different treatment was permitted only for policies concluded before 21 December 2012.

L. Montre v. Institut national d'assurances Constitutional Court (1999)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Mr. Montre brought proceedings before the Antwerp Labor Court because the law applicable at the time (Royal Decree No 72 of 10 November 1967 on the retirement and survivors' pension for self-employed persons) allowed him to benefit from a full pension only as of the age of 65 and obliged him to accept a 25% reduction in his pension if he chose to retire at the age of 60 (5% per year before 65), while self-employed women could retire at the age of 60 and enjoy a full pension. Upon referral, the Constitutional Court ruled that there was no discrimination in this particular case because at that time, there were still long-standing differences between self-employed men and self-employed women as regards working opportunities and conditions. These objectively and reasonably justified a distinction as to the age of retirement: (i) Women had fewer opportunities to work as self-employed persons and as a result had lower pension entitlements as these were based on the length of career and women generally had shorter careers; (ii) To balance this inequality, a younger retirement age had been attributed to women and a pension reduction applied to men who retired before their normal retirement age of 65; (iii) It would take time to redress the low level of opportunities for women in the self-employment sector, so only a  progressive abolition of the retirement age difference could be appropriate.  This in turn would bring Belgium, an EU Member State, into line with EU regulations and case law on this topic. 

M.S. v. Markant Netwerk van Ondernemende Vrouwen Constitutional Court (2008)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The Labor Court of Ghent referred a number of prejudicial questions to the Constitutional Court in the context of a dispute between a woman who claimed that her employer dismissed her after having requested maternity leave, parental leave and the continuation of a related “time credit” contract. The Labor Court agreed that the company had not provided justification for the dismissal, but had questions about how to calculate the indemnity. The applicant claimed it should be calculated on the basis of full-time employment. The Constitutional Court, however, ruled that reducing an employee’s benefits proportionally for part-time workers (which disproportionately affects women) was not a form of discrimination as the regime applies equally to men and women.

Masupha v. Senior Resident Magistrate for the Subordinate Court of Berea High Court of Lesotho (Constitutional Division) (2013)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, Property and inheritance rights

The petitioner, Senate Masupha, is the firstborn, female child of a late principal Chief.  Because there were no firstborn males in his immediate family, upon his death, the late Chief’s wife and the petitioner’s mother was appointed as a caretaker Chief in accordance with the Chieftainship Act.  Following the death of the late Chief’s wife in 2008, the late Chief’s younger brother instituted a claim for inheritance of the chieftainship before a magistrate’s court, which was challenged by the late Chief’s son from a second wife, as well as that son’s mother.  The petitioner, who had not been included in the proceedings before the lower court, subsequently intervened to request a change of venue to the Constitutional Court, so that she could challenge the constitutionality of the provision in the Chieftainship Act under which she was precluded from seeking to succeed to the chieftainship, as she was the first-born child.  Masupha argued that the Chieftainship Act does not necessarily preclude her from inheriting the chieftainship and that, even if the Chieftainship Act in fact precludes her from doing so, it should be struck down, because it violates multiple provisions of the Constitution.  The High Court highlighted the fact that, in acceding to CEDAW, Lesotho specifically excluded itself from the provisions of that Convention in so far as it concerns the customary practices relating to succession to the throne and to chieftainship.  It therefore dismissed Masupha’s petition seeking to declare the Chieftainship Act provision preventing female offspring from inhering chieftainships discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional, finding that the Chieftainship Act was not discriminatory, because it allows the senior wife to inherit the title as a caretaker, if there are no living first-born males from any of the deceased’s marriages.  The High Court concluded that, when a wife succeeds her husband as a caretaker, the right to inherit reverts back to the male line of the family upon the death of the female chief.  The judgment was appealed to the highest court in the country, the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the High Court’s decision and upheld the customary law effectively denying women the ability to succeed to chieftainship.

Mmusi v. Ramantele High Court of Botswana at Gaborone (2012)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, Property and inheritance rights

Edith Mmusi and her sisters, all over 65 years of age, brought a case against their nephew, Molefi Ramantele, who claimed to have rightfully inherited the home that was occupied by Mmusi and her sisters and tried to evict them.  The sisters contested the eviction, arguing that they had paid for the home’s upkeep and expansion costs.  The applicable customary law, that of the Ngwaketse tribe, dictated that the family home of a deceased individual was to be reserved to the last born male child.  The rest of the property was to be divided among the children, regardless of gender.  The Lower Customary Court found in favor of the nephew; the Higher Customary Court held in 2008 that the home belonged to all of the children; and the Customary Court of Appeal, to which both parties appealed, held that the home should be inherited by the nephew.  The High Court noted that the issue of law being considered was whether the Ngwaketse customary law, to the extent that it denied the applicants the right to inherit the family residence intestate, "solely on the basis of their sex, violate[d] their constitutional right to equality under s 3(a) of the Constitution of Botswana.  On 12 October 2012, the High Court subsequently awarded the home to the sisters, ruling that the local customary laws prioritizing male inheritance were not in keeping with the promise of gender equality enshrined in the Constitution of Botswana and in international conventions such as CEDAW, thereby recognizing for the first time the right of women in Botswana to inherit property.  On 3 September 2013, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the High Court, observing that “Constitutional values of equality before the law, and the increased leveling of the power structures with more and more women heading households and participating with men as equals in the public sphere and increasingly in the private sphere, demonstrate that there is no rational and justifiable basis for sticking to the narrow norms of days gone by when such norms go against current value systems.”  This case was a landmark case that effectively ended the patriarchal inheritance system in Botswana.

Request to access conformity with the Constitution of procedural rules of the Provincial Assembly of Tanganyika (Requête en appréciation de la conformité à la constitution du Règlement intérieur de l’Assemblée provinciale du Haut-Uélé R.Const. 172) Constitutional Court (2015)

Gender discrimination

The Constitutional Court considered a challenge to the internal provincial government’s procedural rules which included, among other claims, that one Article of the procedural rules violated the gender equality requirement of Article 14 of the Constitution.  The Court found the procedural rules to conform to Article 14, provided that they must be understood and interpreted in light of line four of Article 14, which requires equitable representation of women in provincial institutions (available at pages 46-50 on linked site).

Planned Parenthood of Se. Pennsylvania v. Casey United States Supreme Court (1992)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Gender discrimination

In light of Roe v. Wade, the plaintiffs challenged various abortion-limiting restrictions in Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act. The Supreme Court created a new test that asks whether a state abortion regulation has the purpose or effect of imposing an “undue burden,” which the Court defined as a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” Pursuant to this test, the Court upheld nearly all of the restrictions in Pennsylvania’s state abortion law, including parental notification/consent requirements for minors and limitations on public funding of abortions. However, the Court did find that the statute’s husband notification requirement was unlawful. 

Kaunda v. Tukombo Girls Secondary School Industrial Relations Court of Malawi (2007)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The applicant and her husband were both employed by the respondent as an accounts clerk and teacher, respectively. After the applicant’s husband resigned to join the Public Service, the respondent terminated the applicant’s employment contract noting that her employment was tied to her husband’s. The applicant challenged the dismissal alleging that it was invalid. The Industrial Relations Court of Malawi (the “Court”) found that the respondent discriminated against the applicant on the basis of her marital status. The Court reasoned that “the effect of the reason used by the respondent was to prevent the applicant from entering and sustaining an employment contract and pursuing a livelihood in her own right because she was married” (p. 2). In reaching its decision, the Court consulted § 5 of Malawi’s Employment Act and §§ 20, 24(1)(i), 24(2)(b) and 31 of Malawi’s Constitution. The Court held that the applicant’s termination was invalid because the reason for her termination “denied her right to engage in economic activity through employment” and “her right to fair labor practices” (p. 2). Therefore, the applicant’s termination was also prohibited under section 57(3)(a) of Malawi’s Employment Act. The Court awarded the applicant compensation for the unfair dismissal and discrimination.

Phiri v. Smallholder Coffee Farmers Trust Industrial Relations Court of Malawi (2007)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

The plaintiff, Phiri, was a security guard. She was employed on a fixed term renewable contract, renewable upon satisfactory performance. On December 26, 2005, near the end of her employment term, one of Phiri’s colleagues attacked her and attempted to rape her, only stopping after being apprehended when the plaintiff shouted for help. The plaintiff reported the incident to her employer’s management. In response, the company’s management accused her of misconduct for revealing to the public what the company considered an internal matter. On December 31 2005, the company fired the plaintiff citing the expiring fixed term contract for support. The plaintiff brought her case in front of the Industrial Relations Court of Malawi (the “Court”). The Court found that she had reason to believe her contract would have been renewed and that the company’s failure to renew her contract was based on the attempted rape incident. According to the Court, the company’s action breached an implied term of Phiri’s employment contract relating to mutual trust and confidence as well as the company’s obligation under the contract to protect female employees. The Court found that this incident was sexual harassment. Until recent amendments to the Employment Act, the labor laws of Malawi did not address sexual harassment. The closest Malawi’s labor regulation came to prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace was § 5 of the Employment and Labor Relations Act read with § 20 of Malawi’s Constitution, which prohibits unfair discrimination in all forms. Despite the lack of a legal provision specifically addressing sexual harassment, the Court found that inappropriate sexually based behavior (e.g. sexual advances) creates a hostile work environment and leads to unfair labor practices. Therefore, the Court found Phiri’s dismissal invalid and held that the company violated Phiri’s “right to fair labor practices, the right to work, her right to safe working environment and personal dignity” (p 4).

The Republic v. Banda, et al. High Court of Malawi (2016)

Gender discrimination, Trafficking in persons

On February 23, 2016, 19 women were arrested by police and jointly charged “for the offence of living on the earnings of prostitution” in violation of § 146 of the Penal Code of Malawi (the “Penal Code”) ( ¶ 1.1). A Fourth Grade Magistrate in Dedza convicted them “on their own plea of guilt” and fined them MK 7,000.00 each (¶ 1.2). The police lacked evidence to prove the charge against them. In addition, the women did not have legal representation during the proceedings, including when their guilty plea was recorded. The women challenged the conviction on July 28, 2016 on numerous grounds including (i) that the Fourth Grade Magistrate did not have jurisdiction, (ii) that the women were charged together when they should have been charged separately, (iii) that the High Court should not have accepted a unanimous plea, (iv) that “the charge was wrong in law as living on the earnings of prostitution does not target the sex worker herself” but those who live parasitically and exploitatively off her earnings, and (v) that the plea of guilty should not be accepted because the court did not comply with mandatory procedures regarding the defendants’ knowledge. The High Court found that the Fourth Grade Magistrate did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. In addition, the Court held that the arrest of the women was unconstitutional and not based on evidence. Citing the legislative history of the offense, the Court clarified that § 146 of the Penal Code did not criminalize sex work but was mainly intended to protect sex workers from those who would exploit them. The High Court held that even though sex workers may be arrested in circumstances under this section, the arrest must be properly supported by evidence. Consequently, the High Court vacated the convictions and ordered that fines be repaid to the women. 

Individual Application of Ayla (Şenses) Kara Constitutional Court (2015)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The applicant, Ayla (Şenses) Kara, filed a complaint against a male co-worker, H.A., who insulted her. After filing her complaint, the applicant’s employer terminated her employment contract notwithstanding the fact that she had been the one who had been insulted. The Court of First Instance accepted the applicant’s complaint because her employment contract had been terminated “without any valid reason” and ruled that she should be re-hired. The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision. Despite being ordered to re-hire the applicant, the employer failed to employ her. The applicant filed a lawsuit before the Court of First Instance to address her employer’s violation of that order. She claimed that she was dismissed as a result of gender discrimination while the male employee who should have been dismissed was allowed to stay on, which was a violation of her rights to equal treatment and a fair trial. The Court of First Instance rejected the lawsuit because it had already ruled on her termination and it was not possible for her to claim compensation based on the same event. The Court of Appeals also rejected her appeal which led to her individual application to the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court set aside the lower courts’ decisions and remanded the case to the Court of First Instance for re-trial. The Constitutional Court rejected her claim that her right to equal treatment had been violated because there was inadequate evidence to find discriminatory intent. However, the Constitutional Court held that he right to a fair trial had been violated because of an unjustified judgement. The court found an unjustified judgement in her case because the lower courts had failed to properly assess her claim of gender discrimination. 

Individual Application of Albina Kiyamova Constitutional Court (2016)

Custodial violence, Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general

The applicant, Albina Kiyamova, was arrested at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul for infringing an order that prohibited her entry into Turkey. She submitted a complaint to the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office (the “CPPO”), asserting that the police subjected her to treatment incompatible with human dignity while she was in custody. Specifically, the applicant said that the police subjected her to a naked body search and other inhuman and degrading treatment charged by race and gender discrimination. The CPPO requested permission from the relevant authority to investigate the officers of the applicant’s treatment. However, the relevant authority denied the CPPO’s request. The applicant appealed the authority’s decision, but her appeal was rejected. She then appealed to the Constitutional Court, claiming that her constitutional right to protection from treatment incompatible with human dignity was infringed. The Constitutional Court partially rejected some of the applicant’s claims due to lack of evidence but accepted her claim that it was unjust for the relevant authority to reject her claims without conducting an investigation.

Individual Application of Özlem Tuncel Kaya Constitutional Court (2016)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The applicant, Ms. Kaya, applied to the Office of Public Prosecutor (the “OPP”), claiming that she had been the victim of domestic violence. After investigating, the OPP charged the applicant’s husband with domestic violence and went to trial. However, during the trial, the applicant withdrew her claim and said that the bruises she had submitted as evidence were actually the result of an accident at the couple’s home. The OPP dropped the charges against the applicant’s husband. Two years later, the applicant filed another claim with the OPP alleging that her husband stole her jewellery and again subjected her to domestic violence.  The OPP notified the proper Court of First Instance for Family Affairs (the “Court of First Instance”). The Court issued a restraining order against the husband that prevented him from approaching the applicant and ordered that he pay alimony to her for four months. The government offered the applicant state housing for the victims of domestic violence, but she rejected the offer. The applicant was subjected to several more incidents of domestic violence. During that time, the OPP requested the Court of First Instance to issue a warrant for the arrest of the applicant’s husband. The Court of First Instance rejected the OPP’s request. The applicant appealed, but her appeal was dismissed because Ms. Kaya’s statements alone were not adequate evidence of domestic abuse. After Ms. Kaya appealed, the Constitutional Court ruled that Turkey had a duty to take affirmative steps to prevent further acts of domestic violence against the appellant and effectively investigate her claims in this case. However, after applying the legal framework addressing victims of domestic violence, the Constitutional Court ruled that Ms. Kaya’s fundamental rights under the framework had not been infringed. This decision is important because it demonstrates that even though there is a legal framework available for women affected by domestic violence, claims against state officials for failing to act on their duties under that framework need to be specific and supported by substantial evidence.

Individual Application of Gülşah Öztürk, et al. Constitutional Court (2016)

Custodial violence, Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

In response to statements by the Turkish Prime Minister regarding abortion, the applicants demonstrated outside of the Ministry of Family & Social Policies of Turkey. The applicants asked for the Prime Minister and the Minister of Family & Social Policies to apologize for the statements. When police officers told the applicants that the Minister was not present in the Ministry building, the applicants tried, unsuccessfully, to enter the building using force. Following their failed attempt to enter the building, the Applicants headed to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and blocked the road in front of it.  At this point, the applicants were arrested by police. The applicants allege that during the arrests they were injured and sexually harassed. They were held in custody for seven hours. Medical reports indicate that when they were released, each of the activists had several bruises on their bodies. The Office of Public Prosecutor (the “OPP”) failed to investigate the activist’s allegations of abuse, did not take the testimony of the police officers regarding this incident, and decided to not prosecute this case. The applicants appealed the OPP’s decision claiming gender discrimination, but their appeal was dismissed by the lower court. The Constitutional Court ruled that the force exerted by the police officers while they arresting the applicants was proportionate because the applicants had used force against the police officers. Furthermore, the Constitutional Court concluded that the bruises mentioned in the medical report indicate that police officers only used force to capture the applicants. Because of this, the Constitutional Court found that bruises were not evidence of sexual harassment. This case is important because it demonstrates that the Constitutional Court relies on the medical reports to judge allegations of sexual harassment.

Individual Application of Ferida Kaya Constitutional Court (2016)

Custodial violence, Gender-based violence in general

The applicant, Ms. Kaya, was arrested for alleged political offences. After she was released, she submitted a petition to the Office of Prosecutor General, asserting that she had been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment while she was in custody. She also claimed that physicians at the state hospital ignored her complaints related to torture and inhuman treatment. After the incident, Ms. Kaya received asylum from Austria in 2002. Concurrently, the Office of Prosecutor General brought an action against the gendarmerie personnel and the physicians who ignored Ms. Kaya’s complaints to address her complaint regarding inhuman and degrading treatment. The trial at the Court of First Instance took about nine years. During that period, the claim against physician was dropped due to the lapse of time. Ms. Kaya was outside of Turkey during the trial. However, she remotely applied to several hospitals in Turkey to get consultations regarding the medical reports that were prepared while she was in custody. All of Ms. Kaya’s medical reports indicated that she showed signs of torture and inhuman treatment. She submitted those reports to the Court of First Instance. In 2011, the Court of First Instance dropped the case as a result of lapse of time. However, the Constitutional Court set aside the Court of First Instance’s decision and ruled that the prolonged trial violated Ms. Kaya’s right to access justice. The Constitutional Court held that Turkey must hold a speedy trial to abide by its constitutional obligation to effectively investigate claims related to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. This case is important, because it concluded that an insufficient investigation may itself be inhuman treatment. This case should constitute a precedent for the future cases where women are harmed as a result of insufficient and ineffective investigation.

Oloka-Onyango & 9 Others v. Attorney General Constitutional Court of Uganda (2014)

Gender discrimination

Petitioners sued, claiming the Speaker of Parliament allowed a vote to pass Anti-Homosexuality Act (“AHA”) of 2014 without the mandated quorum (alternatively “Coram”), which requires the presences of one-third of all voting Members of Parliament.  Petitioners also claimed the AHA was unconstitutional because it violated LGBTQ people’s right to privacy and freedom from cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment.  The Court held that the Petitioners demonstrated that the vote proceeded without the necessary quorum, which meant Petitioners prevailed without the Court reaching the issues regarding the substance of the AHA.

Nabagesera & 3 Others v. Attorney General & Another High Court at Kampala (2014)

Gender discrimination

Members of Freedom and Roam Uganda (“FARUG”) sued the Attorney General and Minister of Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo for violating their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly, right to participate in peaceful civil society activity, and right to equal treatment before the law.  In February 2012, Minister Lokodo personally appeared at and ordered closed down a FARUG-hosted “project planning, advocacy, human rights, leadership, and business skills” workshop in 2012 on the grounds that the workshop was an “illegal gathering of [h]omosexuals.”  The respondents argued that Uganda Penal Code (sec. 148) prohibits homosexual acts, which includes the prohibition of direct or indirect encouragement, incitement, and conspiracy to commit the offense.  Citing the Uganda Penal Code, Constitution of Uganda, and African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Court held that individual human rights are not absolute and may be restricted in the public interest as long as the restrictions do not amount to political persecution.  Calling the workshops “a pretext for human rights advocacy to promote homosexual acts which are prohibited by the Ugandan laws,” the Court rejected Applicants’ freedom of expression arguments because their activities constituted “offenses against morality” and “prejudicial to the public interest.”  In response to Applicants’ use of international human rights law, the Court held that Uganda’s “different laws and moral values” require different definitions and protections of the public interest than those cited in precedent from the UN, South Africa, the European Court of Human Rights, Hong Kong, etc.  The Court also rejected the suit against the Minister of Ethics and Integrity in his individual capacity because he was acting in his official capacity, meaning the Attorney General was the only proper respondent.

Mifumi (U) Ltd. & Another v. Attorney General & Another Supreme Court (2015)

Gender discrimination

On appeal from the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Uganda held that the practice of asking for a bride price is constitutional but seeking a refund of the bride price as a precondition for the dissolution of a customary marriage is unconstitutional.  The Court did not agree with Appellants that bride prices promote inequality in marriage and hampers free consent to marry.  

Ragen, et al. v. Ministry of Transport, et al. Supreme Court (2011)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

The petitioners sued the defendants for operating “mehadrin” bus lines for orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews.  Petitioners argue that these bus lines discriminate based on gender by allowing men to board and sit in the front of the bus while requiring that women board by the rear door, sit in the back, and dress modestly.  Petitioners claim these restrictions violate their fundamental and constitutional rights to equality, dignity, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience.  Petitioners refused to comply with the gender restrictions, which respondents claimed were not compulsory but voluntary and thus legal.  Petitioners, however, countered that the gender separation on mehadrin lines is not voluntary and that they were subjected to verbal harassment, threatened with physical violence, humiliated, and forced to leave the bus when they declined to observe the gender separation.  After the respondents agreed to an examination of public transportation arrangements on lines serving the ultra-orthodox sector by an independent committee and the committee delivered its analysis, the Court ordered respondent 1 to instruct respondent 2 to publicize the cancellation of the separation arrangements (within 10 days of the date on which the judgment was rendered), and ordered respondent 2 to carry out its instructions within 30 days of the judgment. Within that period of time, respondents 2 and 3 were to post signs regarding the cancellation in all buses formerly subject to “mehadrin” arrangements, without exception. 

E.S. v. A.C. Supreme Court of Namibia (2015)

Gender discrimination

The appellant, E.S., was a 38-year-old mother of three. She was practicing Jehovah’s Witness who consistently maintained that blood transfusions were against her religion. She told her obstetrician at her last pre-delivery appointment that she would refuse a blood transfusion if complications arose during delivery. After that appointment, E.S. gave her husband, also a Jehovah’s Witness, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Nonetheless, her brother, A.C., filed an ex parte application to serve as her “curator to the person,” for the purpose of authorizing medical procedures on E.S., including blood transfusions after she suffered complications including a hysterectomy after giving birth. In support of his application, E.S.’s brother argued that, as a parent, E.S.’s individual autonomy had to be weighed against the interests of her family.  He also offered testimony from her doctor, who explained that her blood and oxygen levels were too low to support full brain function. The trial court granted the application. The Supreme Court addressed three issues: whether the matter was moot after E.S.’s medical recovery, whether the lower court erred in granting A.C.’s application to be appointed his sister’s curator and have blood transfusions administered, and whether young children’s right to be raised by their parents supersedes the right of an individual to refuse a blood transfusion in life-threatening circumstances.  The Supreme Court reversed the lower court, finding that “written advanced directives which are specific, not compromised by undue influence, and signed at a time when the patient has decisional capacity construe clear evidence of a patient’s intentions regarding their medical treatment” (¶56) and “the right to choose what can and cannot be done to one’s body, whether one is a parent or not, is an inalienable right” (¶ 71).  The court made clear that a woman’s status as a mother does not restrict her right to liberty and privacy, especially where decisions of medical treatment are involved.  

Government of the Republic of Namibia v. LM and Others Supreme Court of Namibia (2014)

Forced sterilization

 In 2014, the Supreme Court of Namibia (“Supreme Court”) affirmed the High Court of Namibia’s (“High Court”) decision in LM and Others v. Government of the Republic of Namibia that sterilization procedures require informed consent.  The three respondents sued the Namibian government, alleging that doctors at state hospitals forcibly sterilized them without their consent in violation of their constitutional rights.  They claimed that the forced sterilizations left them unable to bear children, ruined their marriage prospects, constituted discrimination against them based on their HIV status, and caused ongoing pain and suffering. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs’ claims lacked merit because they consented to the procedures. The court found that the alleged “consent” was deficient because the defendants failed to prove that they adequately informed the plaintiffs of the consequences of sterilization, or that the plaintiffs clearly and knowingly consented to the procedures before they went into labor.  However, the Court found no evidence that the complainants were sterilized because of their HIV status and dismissed that claim. Emphasizing the serious personal nature of the decision, the Supreme Court stated that the decision to be sterilized “must be made with informed consent, as opposed to merely written consent” (¶ 3).  The Supreme Court stated that the choice to undergo a sterilization procedure must lie solely with the patient noting that “there can be no place in this day and age for medical paternalism when it comes to the important moment of deciding whether or not to undergo a sterilisation procedure.” (¶ 106).  The Supreme Court also denounced the practice of obtaining “consent” for sterilization during labor noting that patients may not fully appreciate the consequences of giving their consent when experiencing the immense pain involved in labour.  The Supreme Court also agreed with the lower court that plaintiff-respondents did not provide any evidence that they were sterilized because of their HIV status.

Ts'epe v. Independent Electoral Commission Court of Appeal of Lesotho (2005)

Gender discrimination

The plaintiff was a male citizen who planned to run for office. The electoral commission advised him that the seat he desired was reserved only for female candidates pursuant to the electoral quota instituted by the Local Government Election Act of 1998. The plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of the electoral commission’s refusal to register his candidacy based on his sex.  The High Court acknowledged that the Election Act disadvantaged men by reason of their sex alone. It also noted that, although 51% of the population of Lesotho was female, only 12% of the seats in the National Assembly were held by women. The Court ultimately upheld the constitutionality of the Election Act as a carefully designed measure intended to achieve the important national goal of increasing the number of women in the National Assembly.  

Noorfadilla Binti Ahmad Saikin (Plaintiff) v. Chayed Bin Basirun et al. (Defendants) High Court of Malaya at Shah Alam (2011)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, International law

The Plaintiff interviewed with the education officers of the Education Office of the Hulu Langat District to become an untrained teacher. During the interview, the Plaintiff was asked questions pertaining to her general knowledge, personal details, problem solving skills and residential address. She was not asked about her pregnancy status. The Plaintiff was accepted for the position and presented herself at an instructional meeting as instructed. At the meeting, she was told to report for duty immediately. Subsequently, an education officer asked whether anyone at the meeting was pregnant. Once the Plaintiff admitted that she was pregnant, her placement memorandum was withdrawn. The High Court held that it was not relevant whether or not there was a binding contract, as the the Defendants’ decision interfered with the Plaintiff’s right to be employed, which is contrary to Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution, which provides that there shall be no discrimination on the ground of gender in the appointment of any office or employment under a public authority. This Article of the Federal Constitution was adopted to comply with Malaysia’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The High Court declared that using pregnancy as a factor in employment is a form of gender discrimination under the Malaysian Constitution, applying CEDAW in interpreting Article 8(2) of the Constitution, because of the basic biological fact that only a woman has capacity to become pregnant.

W.J. and L.N. v. Amkoah, Jamhuri Primary School, The Teachers Service Commission and the Attorney General (Petition No. 331 of 2011) High Court of Kenya at Nairobi (Constitutional and Human Rights Division) (2011)

International law, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

In July 2010, W.J. and L.N, 12- and 13-year-old female students at Jamhuri Primary School, were invited to the home of their teacher, Astarikoh Henry Amkoah. Amkoah forced the girls to perform household chores and later attempted to defile W.J. in the restroom and defiled L.N. in the hall. On several occasions later that month, Amkoah raped both girls. The girls’ education was severely interrupted by the trauma of Amkoah’s attacks and L.N. dropped out of school completely. Ultimately, Amkoah was acquitted in criminal court. In this suit filed by their guardians, W.J. and L.N. sued claiming that Amkoah’s actions unconstitutionally interfered with their rights to health, education, and dignity, and claimed that the school and state should be vicariously liable for the teacher’s actions. They invited the court to look at the claims from the perspective of a tort in negligence and as a human rights violation. However, the violations took place prior to the adoption of a revised 2010 Constitution, so the Court was required to rely partially on the 1963 Constitution which did not include those same guarantees. Still, the 1963 Constitution offered a right to freedom and security of the person. Additionally, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted through Kenya’s Children Act, promises children the right to be free from sexual or physical violence, the right to receive an education, and the right to dignity. As a result, the Court was able to rely on the guarantees of the Children Act. Moreover, Justice Ngugi recognized the 2010 constitutional right to dignity as a continuing right, meaning that while the initial crime may have occurred prior to the 2010 Constitution’s adoption, the continuous nature of the effects of sexual violence on an individual’s dignity make the provision applicable in this case. Here, the Court determined that the criminal acquittal would not serve as a bar to the action because of the differing standards of proof in a criminal and a civil trial. Importantly, the Court decided that “any educational or other institution in which teachers or other care givers commit acts of sexual abuse against those who have been placed under their care is vicariously liable for the wrongful acts of its employees.” The court noted that because children are particularly vulnerable, it is appropriate to impose strict liability on “those in charge of educational and other institutions . . . for abuses committed by those whom they have placed in charge of vulnerable groups such as minors in educational institutions” and held the four named plaintiffs—the teacher, the school, the teachers service commission, and the state—jointly and severally liable for damages of KSH two million for W.J. and KSH three million for L.N.

In re M Insa, Decision No. 12/PUU-V/2007 Constitutional Court of Indonesia (2007)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

Petitioner, an Indonesian male, challenged the constitutionality of a marriage law requiring monogamy with an exception that allows polygamy only with the consent of the wife and the permission of the court (Law Number 1 Year 1974 regarding Marriage). The law requires the husband to submit an application to the court of his domicile with his wife’s consent in order to engage in polygamy. Petitioner argued that because the law required the husband to obtain consent from his wife and the court before engaging in polygamy, it violated his right to freely exercise his religion because the teachings of Islam allow polygamy. The government argued that Islamic principles encourage monogamy and only allow polygamy when a wife allows her husband to re-marry for the benefit of their marriage. The court held that the practice of polygamy historically had degraded the status of women and the teachings of Islam required the preservation of the dignity of women. In addition, since the purpose of marriage is to “achieve peacefulness (sakinah),” men are required to first obtain their wives’ consent before engaging in polygamy, thus respecting their wives as legally equal partners. Therefore, the Court rejected petitioner’s claims and held the laws constitutional as they guarantee the recognition of women’s rights and allow husbands to exercise polygamy in accordance with the teachings of Islam.

Dlyon v. Lambert, et al. Supreme Court of Liberia (1884)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

This early case established the precedent that a married woman may own and convey property independent of her husband. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision denying ownership of a half-acre of land. Ms. Dlyon bought the property from a sheriff’s auction after it was repossessed for the payment of the owner’s debts. The Lamberts argued both that the previous possessor of the land never gained title of the property because he failed to obtain a fee simple deed so could not be used to pay his debts, and that even if he did have title, a married woman could not purchase land. On the first point, the court held that while the previous possessor did not have perfect title to the land, it could still be reached by creditors. On the second point, the court unambiguously declared that Ms. Dlyon had the right to purchase the property: “Under the Constitution, a femme couverte [married woman] may convey property she is possessed of otherwise than through her husband and this fact admits the inference that she may also bargain and buy property independent of her husband.”

Fallah v. Republic of Liberia Supreme Court of Liberia (2011)

International law, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment that appellant, Musa Solomon Fallah, was guilty of rape and upheld his sentence of life imprisonment. The appellant had been convicted previously, but the Supreme Court vacated that conviction in 2007 and ordered a de novo trial on the grounds that the appellant lacked adequate representation. The complainant, a nine-year-old girl, alleged that the appellant gagged and raped her. On appeal, the appellant contended that the testimony of the victim should be excluded from evidence because the testimony was conducted in camera. The victim testified in a closed room that allowed cross-examination by the defendant and visual access for jurors. The court held that the victim’s testimony was admissible, stating that if “a potential child victim witness would suffer ‘serious emotional distress’ and might just not be able to communicate within a reasonable fear free environment if put on the stand in the presence of the accused abuser to introduce courtroom testimony” then an in camera witness presentation is appropriate. The appellant's constitutional right to confront his accuser was preserved because he was afforded opportunity to listen to testimony and cross-examine the witness. In addition, the court referenced U.S. law on in camera testimony, citing U.S. Supreme Court cases to support its decision. The court stated: “It is the rule of general application in our jurisdiction that unless expressly contrary by the laws in vogue, common law and usages of the courts of England and of the United States, other authoritative treaties, principles and rules set forth in case law and in Blackstone and Kent Commentaries, when applicable, are deemed as Liberian Laws.” Finally, the Court held that medical testimony establishing rape, the testimony of the complainant, the appellant's admission that the complainant spent the nights in question with him, and unchallenged testimony claiming that the appellant had offered the complainant's family money in exchange for keeping the rape a secret were more than a sufficient "mountain of evidence" to sustain the conviction. It is not necessary, the Court stated, for the prosecution to produce an eye witness, "direct proof", or evidence eliminating every single possible alternative in order to meet their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Patricia Halagueña, et al. v. Philippine Airlines Incorporated Supreme Court of Philippines (2009)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, International law

Female flight attendants employed by Philippine Airlines alleged their collective bargaining agreement was discriminatory due to unequal grooming standards and a compulsory retirement requirement at fifty-five years of age for women but sixty years of age for men. At issue was whether the claim was a labor grievance such that the Regional Trial Court would lack jurisdiction to hear the claim. The Supreme Court held that the regional court had jurisdiction, because the action was not a grievance, but instead a civil action to annul a provision of the contract, and that the question for decision did not involve any determination of labor or union actions.

C.K. & 11 Others v. Commissioner of Police High Court of Kenya at Meru (2013)

Gender discrimination, International law, Statutory rape or defilement

The petitioners are eleven minors and the non-governmental organization that shelters, educates, and cares for the eleven minors. Each child claims to have been subjected to child abuse and defilement in Meru County, where police "neglected...or otherwise failed" to investigate or protect the children in any way.  The High Court of Kenya held that the police have a duty to investigate allegations of sexual abuse made by female complainants, stating that “by failing to enforce existing defilement laws, the police have contributed to the development of a culture of tolerance for pervasive sexual violence against girl children and impunity.”

S. v. Abraham Alfeus High Court of Namibia. Main Division, Windhoek (2013)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Femicide, Gender-based violence in general

Abraham Alfeus was convicted of murder with direct intent after admitting to shooting his intimate partner twice with a shotgun. The presiding judge, Naomi Shivute, read the ruling citing provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, Act 4 of 2003 and sentenced Alfeus to 30 years in prison. In the ruling Shivute stressed a need for stiffer sentences in response to extremely high levels of domestic violence against women and children in Namibia; including that it was a matter of protecting the constitutional right for human dignity, the rights of the victim, and in the interest of society generally. The judge’s ruling was meant to deter future domestic violence offenders and is an important precedent in Namibia where domestic violence runs rampant but is rarely prosecuted.

In Re Estate of Lerionka Ole Ntutu (Deceased) High Court of Kenya at Nairobi (Family Division) (2008)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, Property and inheritance rights

The sons of Lerionka Ole Ntutu filed to prevent Ntutu’s married daughters from receiving their inheritance of his estate Section 82(4) (b) of the Kenyan Constitution. Under Kikuyu customary law, only unmarried daughters were allowed an inheritance. The presiding judge held that this claim was illegitimate, stating that the law cannot deprive a person of their rights only on the basis of sex and marital status. The judge followed the precedent set by the ruling in Rono v. Rono, Kenya Court of Appeal, 2005, in circumscribing customary law to prevent violations of justice, morality, and other written law. This case marked another important step in upholding women’s rights and human rights law over harmful customary practices towards women.

Meera Dhungana v. Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers and Others Supreme Court of Nepal (2006)

Gender discrimination, International law

A petition on behalf of the Forum for Women, Law and Development in Nepal called for revision of a law prohibiting dowries. The law imposed a much stricter sentence on the bride’s family than the grooms, making it inconsistent with the equal rights provisions in Article 11 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal and international human rights standards. The Court’s decision to revise the law, which cited earlier rulings based on Article 11, shows a continued dedication to transforming the Nepalese legal code in the interest of gender rights and equality.

Mensah v. Mensah Supreme Court of Ghana (2011)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, International law, Property and inheritance rights

The petitioner filed for divorce and sought an equal share of assets acquired during the marriage.  At the time of marriage, neither party owned any property.  During their marriage, the plaintiff assisted in building their business and managed their shop while her husband continued to work for the Controller and Accountant General's Department.  The plaintiff also advised the respondent on property investments.  The respondent denied that the petitioner contributed to the business and claimed that she embezzled money from him, and therefore should not be considered an equal holder of marital assets.  The trial court and the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the petitioner, finding that she was a joint owner of the property and was therefore entitled to an equal share of the marital assets.  The Supreme Court affirmed.  Previous case law denied a wife a share in property acquired during the marriage unless the wife could show that she had made a "substantial contribution" to the acquirement of these assets.  Yet, because more recent cases supported the "equality is equity" principle in the division of marital assets, the Supreme Court concluded that "the death knell has been sung to the substantial contribution principle, making way for the equitable distribution as provided for under Article 22 (3) of the Constitution 1992."  Thus, the court held that even if it determined that the petitioner did not make a substantial contribution to the acquisition of marital property, she would still be entitled to a share of the property.  To further support its decision, the Supreme Court referenced Article 1 and Article 5 of CEDAW, in addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which emphasize equality between the sexes.

People v. Liberta New York Court of Appeals (1984)

Sexual violence and rape

The defendant's wife filed a criminal complaint against him, claiming that he raped her. He moved to dismiss the charge because, under New York Penal Law section 130.35 (“Section 130.35”), which contained a marital exemption, a husband could not be convicted of raping his wife.  The trial court granted Defendant’s motion and dismissed the indictment based on the marital exemption.  The Appellate Division reversed the decision of the trial court and remanded the case for trial.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Division, finding Section 130.35 was unconstitutional due to the marital exemption provision.  “Where a statute draws a distinction based on marital status, the classification must be reasonable and must be based upon ‘some ground of difference that rationally explains the different treatment.’”  The court found that there was no rational basis for distinguishing between marital rape and non-marital rape and thus declared the marital exemption unconstitutional.  The court reasoned that the marital rape exemption denies married women equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the New York and United States Constitutions.  Further, the court stated, “Rape is not simply a sexual act to which one party does not consent.  Rather, it is a degrading, violent act which violates the bodily integrity of the victim and frequently causes severe, long-lasting physical and psychic harm.  To ever imply consent to such an act is irrational and absurd.  A marriage license should not be viewed as a license for a husband to forcibly rape his wife with impunity.  A married woman has the same right to control her own body as does an unmarried woman.” 

Constitutionality of the Women's Right to a Life Without Violence Law Tribunal Supremo de Justicia - Sala Constitucional (Venezuela Supreme Court of Justice - Constitutional Chamber) (2007)

Gender-based violence in general

The Supreme Court declared the Organic Law on Women's Right to a Life Without Violence approved by the National Assembly on 25 November 2006 constitutional. The Court found that the Law develops the constitutional protection referred to in article 21.2 of the Constitution for the benefit of women, a traditionally vulnerable social group.

SONKE Gender Justice Network v. Malema Equality Court for the District of Johannesburg (2009)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

The respondent made comments at a political rally regarding the consent of the complainant in Jacob Zuma's rape trial. Specifically, he opined that a rape victim would leave early in the morning, but the complainant in this case had stayed for breakfast and requested money for a taxi. The plaintiff, a gender justice organization, sued him for hate speech, unfair discrimination, and harassment of women. The court found that the respondent's comments were based on prohibited grounds as outlined in South Africa's Equality Act, specifically sex and gender. The court also found the comments expressed by the respondent constituted "generalizations about women, rape, and consent which reinforce[d] rape myths." Moreover, the respondent's words suggested "that men need not obtain explicit [sexual] consent from women." The court found the respondent liable for hate speech and harassment.  For these reasons, the court concluded the respondent infringed the rights of women and ordered him to pay a fine and make a public apology.

Van Eeden v. Minister of Safety and Security (2002)

Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was assaulted, raped and robbed by Andre Gregory Mohamed, who had escaped from prison where he was facing 22 charges for indecent assault, rape and armed robbery. The appellant sued the State for damages, arguing that the police owed her a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent Mohamed from escaping and causing her harm and that they had negligently failed to comply with such duty.  The Constitutional Court applied its recent holding in Carmichele v. Minister of Safety and Security and held that the state is obliged both by the Constitution and by international law to protect women from violence and the police should be held liable for its negligence in not taking reasonable action to prevent Mohamed's escape, especially in light of the fact that they knew that Mohamed was a dangerous serial rapist who was likely to commit further offenses against women should he escape. The court affirmed the state's liability for any damages suffered by the applicant.

Carmichele v. Minister of Safety and Security Constitutional Court of South Africa (2001)

International law, Sexual violence and rape

The applicant was sexually assaulted by a man who was awaiting trial for the attempted rape of another woman. Despite the seriousness of the alleged crime and the fact that the man had a prior rape conviction, the police and prosecutor had recommended that the man be released pending trial. The applicant sued the Minister for damages, arguing that the police and prosecutors had negligently failed to comply with a legal duty they owed to her to take steps to prevent the man from causing her harm. The High Court dismissed the applicant's claim and the Supreme Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the police and prosecution did not owe her a duty of protection. On appeal, the Constitutional Court set aside the orders of the lower courts and remanded the case to the High Court for trial. It held that the State is obligated by the Constitution and international law to protect the dignity and security of women and in the circumstances, the police recommendation for the assailant's release could amount to wrongful conduct giving rise to liability. The Court also held that prosecutors, who are under a duty to place before the court any information relevant to the refusal or grant of bail, may be held liable for negligently failing to fulfill that duty.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Transvaal v. Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development and Others Constitutional Court [South Africa] (2009)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

Two men convicted of child rape challenged the constitutionality of the Sexual Offenses Act's amendments to the existing Criminal Procedure Act (CPA).  The amendments permit child victims and witnesses of sexual offenses to participate in modified court proceedings to facilitate testimony.  The lower court declared the amendments to the CPA constitutionally invalid.  The Constitutional Court reversed the ruling, holding  that (1) courts must inquire into the need to appoint  an intermediary in sexual offense trials whenever children  are expected to testify, regardless of whether the state raises the issue; (2) courts may exercise discretion whether to hold proceedings in camera; and (3) courts must give reasons for refusing to allow the use of intermediaries or other safeguards.

State v. Baloyi Constitutional Court of South Africa (2000)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

An army officer was convicted for breaching an interdict issued by a magistrate ordering him not to assault his wife or prevent her or their child from leaving their home.  He appealed to the Transvaal High Court which declared that Section 3(5) of the Prevention of Family Violence Act was unconstitutional to the extent that it placed the burden on him to disprove his guilt. The Constitutional Court overturned the High Court's judgment, finding that the purpose of an interdict was to protect the victim of domestic violence and indicate that society would not stand by in the face of spousal abuse.  As such, fairness to the complainant required that the enquiry proceedings be speedy and dispense with the normal process of charge and plea, but in fairness to the accused, the presumption of innocence would still apply to the summary enquiry. 

Andrew Manunzyu Musyoka (Deceased) High Court of Kenya at Machakos (2005)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, Property and inheritance rights

The applicants are the sons and wife of the deceased and are seeking to apply the Kamba customary law that would not permit a daughter to inherit her father's estate if she is married.  The Court held that the Kamba customary law is discriminatory insofar as it seeks to prevent a married daughter from inheriting her father's estate under the Succession Act.  It specifically noted that although the Kenyan constitution specifically provides for customary law to take precedence over the Constitution in matters dealing with property inheritance after death and other personal issues, Kenya is also obligated to end discriminatory practices under CEDAW and the UDHR. 

Murunga v. Republic Court of Appeal of Kenya at Nakuru (2008)

Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was charged and convicted of three counts of robbery with violence and one count of rape, with the charge of rape stating that the appellant "jointly with another not before the court" had carnal knowledge of the complainant. The trial court sentenced him to death for robbery with violence, which is a capital offense.  He appealed on the grounds that the rape charge was defective and that the police violated his constitutional rights because they held him for 24 days without bringing him to court.  The High Court dismissed his first appeal. However, hearing his second appeal, the Court of Appeal held that multiple men cannot jointly commit the offense of rape against one woman, so the offenders cannot be charged jointly.  The Court quashed the appellant's conviction for rape because each offender should have been charged on a separate individual count of rape.  The Court also quashed the robbery with violence conviction and sentence because the Constitution (sec. 72(3)) requires police to bring detainees accused of a capital offense to court within 14 days, but in this case police improperly held the appellant for 24 days without cause before bringing him to court.  The Court dismissed the state counsel's arguments that the length of the appellant's detention was a moot issue because he failed to raise it in earlier proceedings.  The Court stated that it is the responsibility of the prosecuting authorities to justify any delay and a judge's duty to raise issues of unlawful detention if the defendant does not.

Attorney General v. Unity Dow Court of Appeal of Botswana at Lobatse (1992)

Gender discrimination, International law

The respondent, Ms. Unity Dow, brought a case to the High Court of Botswana asserting that sections 4 and 5 of the Citizenship Act violated her right to equal protection of the law and protection from discrimination on the basis of sex because the sections of the Citizenship Act treated children differently depending on whether they were born to citizen mothers or to citizen fathers. The respondent had one child with an American man prior to their marriage and two children after. Botswana's citizenship requirements allowed only children born outside of marriage to inherit their mother's citizenship, so the respondent's first child was a citizen of Botswana while the two born during her marriage were not. Though not the central issue of the case, the Court noted that an immediate effect of the law could be the expulsion of the husband and non-citizen children from Botswana. The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's decision in finding that the Citizenship Act discriminated on the basis of gender under both the Botswana Constitution and the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women because it punishes a female citizen for marrying a non-citizen male. In addition, the Court considered similar cases in different countries in reaching its opinion.  (High Court decision available at: https://www.law.cornell.edu/sites/www.law.cornell.edu/files/women-and-ju...)

Masusu v. Masusu High Court of Botswana at Lobatse (2007)

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

The appellant-wife sought and was granted a divorce from her husband on the grounds of domestic violence and that he did not financially support her or their two children. The wife appeals a decision by the Customary Court of Appeal granting the house to the respondent-husband on the grounds that under customary law, a wife who divorces her husband is at fault because a wife is supposed to remain in her marital home regardless of her husband's actions. The High Court found that the Customary Court's reasoning discriminated against women because it automatically faulted the wife for filing a divorce no matter what her husband did and ordered the marital home be sold and the profits given to the appellant-wife.   

State. v. Matlho Court of Appeal of Botswana (2008)

Gender-based violence in general, Sexual violence and rape

The appellant challenged the sentence for rape under the sections of the Penal Code that set forth mandatory minimum sentences for rape charges depending on circumstances such as the perpetrator's use of violence or the perpetrator's status as being HIV positive. Section 142(5) of the Penal Code prohibits a sentence for rape from running concurrently with any other offense; the sentences must be served consecutively.  The appellant was convicted on two counts of rape and sentenced to the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for each count, resulting in a total of 20 years imprisonment, which he claimed was a violation of the constitutional prohibition on "torture or inhuman or degrading punishment."  The Court upheld the conviction, noting that although it was undeniably severe, it was not disproportionate to the offense, especially in light of the increase in the incidence of rape in Botswana and the heinous nature of rape itself.


Constitution of Belarus (2004)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The Constitution provides for the general principles of equality and non-discrimination. Article 4 provides that democracy shall be exercised based on diversity of political institutions, ideologies and opinions. It also provides that the ideologies of different entities may not be made mandatory for citizens. Article 14 provides that the State shall regulate relations among social, ethnic and other communities on the basis of principles of equality before the law and respect of rights and interests. Article 16 states that religions and faiths shall have equality before the law. Article 22 provides that “all shall be equal before the law and have the right to equal protection of their rights and legitimate interest without any discrimination.” Further, Article 32 of the Constitution contains general protections with respect to marriage, family, motherhood, fatherhood and childhood. In particular, it provides that “on reaching the age of consent, a woman and a man shall have the right to enter into marriage on a voluntary basis and found a family. Spouses shall have equal rights in family relationships” and women shall be guaranteed equal rights as men in their opportunities to receive education and vocational training, promotion in labor, social and political, cultural and other spheres of activity as well as in creating conditions safeguarding their occupational health and safety. Finally, Article 42 provides a right to equal pay. Unofficial English translation available here.

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Sections 15(2) and 42(1) prohibit sex-based discrimination.  Section 17 of the Constitution outlines the elimination of demographically derived disparities as a fundamental objective of state policy. Section 17(3)(e), focuses on gender-based disparity and states that the state shall direct its policy towards ensuring that “there is equal pay for equal work without discrimination on account of sex, or on any other ground whatsoever.” Section 26 of the Constitution, which relates to citizenship, specifically provides for extension of a Nigerian man’s citizenship to his foreign-born wife while making no reference to a similar path to citizenship for the foreign-born husband of a woman who is a Nigerian citizen. Section 26(2) provides that the president may confer Nigerian citizenship on “any woman who is or who has been married to a citizen of Nigeria.” By implication, this section limits the right of a Nigerian woman to transmit her nationality to a foreign husband.

Local Government (Amendment) Act (2004)

Gender discrimination

The Local Government (Amendment) Act of 2004 amends the Local Government Act of 1997. It maintains Lesotho’s quota system and mandates that 30% of the total number of seats in municipal, urban, and community councils be reserved for women. It deletes instances of the words “he,” “his,” and “him” throughout the prior act and replaces them with "he or she," "his or her," and "him or her"; reiterates in Section 3 that “not less than one third of the seats in a council shall be reserved for women”; and section 4(3) calls for the creation of a Tender Board, which must have a third of its members be women.

Constitution of Lesotho (1993)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Section 18(1) of the Constitution makes any law with discriminatory provisions or effect presumptively invalid. Discriminatory is defined as “affording different treatment to different persons attributable wholly or mainly” to their respective descriptions by race, colour, sex, language, and so on. However, Section 18(1) is limited in its scope by the exceptions enumerated in Section 18(4). Section 18(4)(a) exempts any analysis of discrimination for laws pertaining solely to non-citizens of Lesothol; Section 18(4)(b) allows for discriminatory laws related to “adoption, marriage, divorce, burial, devolution of property on death or other like matters which is the personal law of persons of that description”; and Section 18(4)(c) identifies customary law as exempt from evaluation according to Section 18(1). Section 26(1) calls for Lesotho to adopt “policies aimed at promoting a society based on equality and justice for all its citizens regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” Section 30 of the Constitution provides for just and favorable conditions of work for women and calls for the creation of particular policies toward the completion of this end, including fair and equal pay, safe working conditions, equal promotion opportunities, and pregnancy and childbirth protections.

Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (1995)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

Article 21 of the Constitution of Republic of Uganda prohibits gender discrimination generally and enshrines the principle of equality before the law. It states that “[a]ll persons are equal before and under the law in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life”; that they “shall enjoy equal protection of the law”; and that a “person shall not be discriminated against on the ground of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion, social or economic standing, political opinion or disability.”
In Article 31, the Constitution sets the minimum age for marriage at 18 and specifies that “men and women are entitled to equal rights in marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.” Article 33 pertains specifically to the rights of women and provides that “The State shall provide the facilities and opportunities necessary to enhance the welfare of women to enable them to realise their full potential and advancement”; that “Women shall have the right to equal treatment with men and that right shall include equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities”; and that “Laws, cultures, customs or traditions which are against the dignity, welfare or interest of women or which undermine their status, are prohibited by this Constitution.”

Constitution of Botswana (2006)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

Section 6 of the Constitution of Botswana adopted in 1966, and amended in 2006, prohibits sexual slavery or trafficking. It includes the following provisions: 1) No person shall be held in slavery or servitude. (2) No person shall be required to perform forced labour. Section 7 of the Constitution of Botswana adopted in 1966, and amended in 2006, prohibits sexual violence that constitutes torture. It includes the following provisions: (1) No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment. (2) Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question authorizes the infliction of any description of punishment that was lawful in the country immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution. Section 15 of the Constitution of Botswana adopted in 1966, and amended in 2006, prohibits the making of discriminatory laws

Lei de Terras: Lei nº 19/97 (Land Law) (1997)

Property and inheritance rights

The law governs ownership and use of land. Articles 10 and 15 of the law provide that women have the same right as men to use and manage land. The law also provides that land can be inherited regardless of gender. However, article 12 states that land acquisition requires compliance with “customary norms and practices that are not contrary to the Constitution.”

Constituição da República de Moçambique (Constitution of the Republic of Mozambique) (2007)

Gender discrimination

Article 36 of Mozambique’s Constitution provides that “men and women are equal before the law in all aspects of political, economic, social and cultural life.”

The Constitution of Grenada (1973)

Gender discrimination

The Constitution of Grenada (1973) is the supreme law.  It guards the human rights of all persons within the country, including the right to life and security of the person.  Gender-based violence threatens women’s rights to life and security of the person.  Specifically, Chapter 1 of the Constitution, entitled “Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms,” defines discriminatory treatment and provides for fundamental rights and freedoms for all, regardless of sex, race, place of origin, political beliefs, color, or creed, subject only to the rights and freedoms of others, and the public interest.

2011 Amendments to the Constitution of Jamaica (2011)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

The 2011 Amendments to the Jamaican Constitution specifically enumerated a “right to freedom from discrimination on the ground of . . . being male or female.”  The amendments also guaranteed a number of fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment and torture, and protection of the right to own property, receive an education, vote, and speak freely.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (1996)

Gender discrimination

Section 9 of the Constitution provides for the right to equality. Section 9(1) provides that "Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law."  Section 9(3) states that "The State may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth". Section 9(4) provides that "No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds in terms of subsection (3). National legislation must be enacted to prevent or prohibit unfair discrimination." Finally, subsection (5) provides that "Discrimination on one or more of the grounds listed in subsection (3) is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair." This includes discrimination on the basis of gender, sex or pregnancy.

Die Grondwet van die Republiek van Suid Afrika (1996)

Geslags diskriminasie​

Artikel 9 van die Grondwet maak voorsiening vir die reg op gelykheid.​ Artikel 9(1) bepaal dat “Almal gelyk is voor die Wet en het die reg op gelyke beskerming en voordeel van die Wet”.  Artikel 9(3) bepaal dat “die Staat nie onbillik direk of indirek mag diskrimineer teen iemand op een of meer gronde nie, insluitend ras, geslag, seksuele orientasie, swangerskap, huwelikstatus, etniese of sosiale oorsprong, kleur, ouderdom, gestremdheid, godsdiens, gewete, geloof, kultuur, taal en geboorte nie“. Artikel 9(4) bepaal dat “Geen persoon mag regstreeks of onregstreeks onbillik teen iemand diskrimineer op een of meer gronde ingevolge subartikel (3) nie. Nasionale wetgewing moet verorden word om onbillike diskriminasie te voorkom of te belet” Ten slotte bepaal subartikel (5) dat “ Diskriminasie op grond van een of meer van die gelystes in subartikel (3) onbillik is, tensy daar vasgestel word dat die diskriminasie wel billik is.” Dit sluit in diskriminasie op grond van geslag of swangerskap.

中华人民共和国宪法(第四十八-四十九条)(The Constitution of the People's Republic of China (Articles 48-49)) (2004)

Employment discrimination, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China was adopted by the National People’s Congress and promulgated for implementation on December 4, 1982. It has been amended several times, with the most recent amendment occurring on March 14, 2004.  Article 48 provides that women and men have equal rights. It states that “[w]omen in the People’s Republic of China enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life, in political, economic, cultural, social and family life. The State protects the rights and interests of women, applies the principle of equal pay for equal work to men and women alike and trains and selects cadres from among women.” Article 49, moreover, provides that “violation of the freedom of marriage is prohibited. Maltreatment of old people, women and children is prohibited.” English version available here. 


第五届全国人民代表大会于1982年12月4日通过中华人民共和国宪法。宪法经过几次修正,其中最近一次修正发生于2004年3月14日。第四十八条规定妇女享有同男子平等的权利。第十四条规定“中华人民共和国妇女在政治的、经济的、文化的、社会的和家庭的生 活等各方面享有同男子平等的权利。国家保护妇女的权利和利益,实行男女同工同酬,培养和选拔妇女干部。” 第四十九条规定禁止破坏婚姻自由,禁止虐待老人、妇女和儿童。

Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment No. 20) (2013)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

Zimbabwe’s new 2013 Constitution addressed women’s rights and gender equality, and its bill of rights addressed damaging cultural and discriminatory practices. A gender commission was also established to accelerate the implementation of provisions related to women. More specifically, the Constitution recognized gender equality and women’s rights among Zimbabwe’s founding values and principles. It mandated that the State and all its institutions consider gender equality in laws and policy, to implement measures that provide care and assistance to mothers, and to grant women opportunities to work. The State must also prevent domestic violence, ensure marriages are consensual, and that there are equal rights in marriages. In the event of dissolution of marriage, the State must provide for the rights of spouses and children. The state is also obliged to afford girls and boys equal educational opportunities. The bill of rights specifically stipulates that women are equal to men, including deserving equal opportunities in political, economic, and social activities. Provision was also made for legislative seats reserved for women in the National Assembly. Finally, gender equality must be considered in making judicial appointments.

Code of Virginia: Property Rights of Married Women (Va. Code § 55-35)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

This Virginia law provides that a married woman shall have the right to acquire, hold, use, control and dispose of property as if she were unmarried. 

Code of Virginia: Jurisdiction; Consent for Abortion (Va. Code § 16.1–241(W))

Abortion and reproductive health rights

This Virginia law provides the judges of the juvenile and domestic relations district court jurisdiction over petitions filed by a juvenile seeking judicial authorization for a physician to perform an abortion if a minor elects not to seek permission from an authorized person.  This statute further specifies that after a hearing, a judge can issue an order authorizing a physician to perform an abortion, without the consent of any authorized person, if the judge finds that (i) the minor is mature enough and well enough informed to make her abortion decision, in consultation with her physician, independent of the wishes of any authorized person, or (ii) the minor is not mature enough or well enough informed to make such decision, but the desired abortion would be in her best interest.

Code of Virginia: Abortion (Va. Code § 18.2 et seq.)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

Under Virginia law, it is a Class 4 felony to cause destruction of a unborn child, abortion, or miscarriage through medical procedure, drugs, or other means. There is an exception for physicians who are licensed by the Board of Medicine to practice medicine and surgery, to terminate a pregnancy or assist in performing an abortion or causing a miscarriage during the first trimester of pregnancy, among other exceptions.  Informed written consent is required for an abortion under Virginia law, subject to civil penalties.  It is also a Class 3 misdemeanor to encourage an individual to have an abortion prohibited by Virginia law.

Virginia Human Rights Act (Va. Code Ann. §§ 2.2-3900-03) (2014)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

Virginia’s Human Rights Act outlines the policy of the Commonwealth to “[s]afeguard all individuals within the Commonwealth from unlawful discrimination because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, or disability, in places of public accommodation,” including in education, real estate, and employment. The Act defines the “unlawful discriminatory practice” and “gender discrimination” as conduct that violates any Virginia or federal statute or regulation governing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, or disability. The terms “because of sex or gender” or “on the basis of sex or gender” or similar terms in reference to discrimination in the Code and acts of the General Assembly include pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all purposes as persons not so affected but similar in their abilities or disabilities.

Children's Status Act (2006)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

Among other things, the Children’s Status Act gives children born out of wedlock the same legal privileges as children born to married couples (e.g., inheritance rights, custody, guardianship, etc.) and provides various legal mechanisms (e.g., court orders) to protect these rights. 

Married Persons Equality Act (1996)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The Married Persons Equality Act (the “Act”) abolishes the marital power of the husband over his wife and her property and amends community property laws. It further provides women with the power to register immovable property in their own name, gives them legal capacity to litigate and contract, and allows them to act as directors of companies. The Act also establishes that the minimum age for marriage is 18, thereby prohibiting child marriages.

The Constitution of the Republic of Namibia (1990)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Employment discrimination, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination

The Constitution serves as the fundamental law of Namibia and establishes the Republic of Namibia as an independent, secular, democratic, and unitary state safeguarding the rights to justice, liberty, dignity, and equality. Chapter 3 of the Constitution protects fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to equality and freedom from discrimination, including on the grounds of sex. It also bans child marriages and mandates equal rights for men and women entering into marriage, during the marriage, and at the dissolution of the marriage. Additionally, Parliament may not make any laws that contravene the Constitution, nor can the Executive take any action that abolishes or contravenes Chapter 3 of the Constitution. Any such laws or actions would be invalid.

Alabama Code Title 26. Infants and Incompetents § 26-21-4 (2014)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

Since 1987, Alabama has had a judicial bypass law, which allows pregnant minors to obtain a court’s permission to have an abortion without parental consent. In 2014, the Alabama legislature passed House Bill 494 to amend the law. The original judicial bypass statute provided for an ex parte hearing with only the judge, the minor, and her attorney present. The 2014 amendments added to the proceedings parties who are permitted or required to “examine” the minor and represent the interests of the unborn child, the state, and the minor’s parents.  It would have also allowed the appointment of a guardian to represent the interests of the fetus. The District Court of the Middle District of Alabama found these amendments unconstitutional and severed them from the judicial bypass law in Reproductive Health Services v. Marshall (2017).

Alabama Code Title 13A. Criminal Code § 13A-11-72 (2015)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

In 2015, Alabama amended its gun legislation to prohibit anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor offense of domestic violence or is subject to a domestic abuse protective order from possessing a firearm. The amended statute provides: “No person who has been convicted in this state or elsewhere of committing or attempting to commit a crime of violence, misdemeanor offense of domestic violence, violence offense as listed in Section 12-25-32(14), anyone who is subject to a valid protection order for domestic abuse, or anyone of unsound mind shall own a firearm or have one in his or her possession or under his or her control.”

Constituição da República Portugal (Constitution of the Portugese Republic) (1976)

Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

The Portuguese Constitution in Section 9 provides that it is the duty of the State to promote equality among men and women.  Section 13 further provides that no one shall be privileged or discriminated against for birth, gender, race, language, place of origin, religion, political or ideological conditions, social or economic status, or sexual orientation.

Código penal (Penal Code) (1999)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Gender discrimination, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

Chapter VI of Title 8 (Crimes against Life and Physical Integrity) delineates the circumstances under which abortion is illegal and establishes the penalties performing illegal abortions. Pursuant to Article 267 of the Criminal Code, anyone who, without complying with public health regulations established in respect of abortions, performs an abortion or in any way destroy the embryo, with the consent of the pregnant woman, is subject to a penalty of imprisonment for three months up to one year or a fine of 100 to 300 cuotas. If an abortion is performed (1) for profit, (2) outside of official institutions or (3) by a person that is a physician, such person is subject to an increased punishment of imprisonment for two to five years. Pursuant to Article 268, an individual who purposefully destroys the embryo (a) without using any force or violence on the pregnant woman, but without her consent, is subject to two to five years’ imprisonment or (b) with the use of any force or violence on the pregnant woman, is subject to three to eight years’ imprisonment. If concurrently with the occurrence of (a) or (b), any of the circumstances described in (1), (2) or (3) also exist, the punishment is increased to imprisonment for four to ten years. If a pregnant woman dies as a result of any of the above actions, the offending person is subject to imprisonment for a period of five to twelve years. Articles 270 and 271, respectively, prescribe the punishments for those who, without intending to do so, cause an abortion and for those who prescribe any abortion-inducing substance to destroy the embryo.

Chapter I of Title XI covers crimes against the normal development of sexual relations. Article 298 prescribes a penalty of four to ten years imprisonment for anyone who rapes a woman (either through vaginal intercourse or contra naturam) if during the criminal event any of the following circumstances occurs: (a) use of force or sufficient intimidation in order to achieve the goal or (b) if the victim is in a mentally disturbed state or suffers from temporary insanity, or the victim is deprived of reason or sense for any reason, or unable to resist, or lacks the ability to understand the consequences of her actions or to conform her conduct. Article 298 prescribes a term of imprisonment of 7 to 15 years if (a) the event is carried out with the participation of two or more persons, (b) if the perpetrator dresses up in military uniform or purports to be a public official, in each case, to facilitate consummating the act or (c) if the victim is over 12 and under 14 years of age. Finally, the Article prescribes a term of imprisonment of 15 to 30 years or the death penalty if (a) the event is carried out by a person who has previously been sanctioned for the same crime, (b) as a result of the act, the victim suffers serious injuries or illness, or (c) if the perpetrator knows that he is infected with a sexually transmitted disease. Anyone who rapes a minor who is under 12 years of age will be punished with either a term of imprisonment of 15 to 30 years or the death penalty, even if none of the circumstances described in the preceding sentence occur. Article 299 of the Criminal Code sanctions individuals guilty of “active” pedophilia. Any person who commits an act of “active” pedophilia using violence or intimidation, or by taking advantage of the fact that the victim is deprived of reason or sense or unable to resist, will be punished with imprisonment for seven to 15 years. Such penalty increases to 15 to 30 years or death if (a) the victim is a minor under 14 years of age, even if the circumstances set forth in the immediately preceding sentence are not present, (b) if, as a consequence of the criminal act, the victim suffers serious injuries or illness or (c) if the perpetrator has been previously sanctioned for the same crime.       

Article 295 imposes a punishment of imprisonment for a term of six months to two years or a fine of 200 to 500 cuotas, or both, to anyone who discriminates, or promotes or incites, discrimination, against another person, with manifestations in an offensive manner, on account of sex, race, color or national origin, or with actions to obstruct or impede, with motives relating to sex, race, color or national original, the exercise or enjoyment of rights of equality set forth in the Constitution. Any person who spreads ideas based on the superiority of races or racial hatred or commits, or incites, acts of violence against any race or group of people of another color or ethnic origin, shall be subject to the same punishment as indicated above. 

El Capítulo VI del Título 8 (Delitos contra la vida y la integridad física) describe las circunstancias bajo las cuales el aborto es ilegal y establece las sanciones por realizar abortos ilegales. En conformidad con el artículo 267 del Código Penal, cualquier persona que, sin cumplir con las normas de salud pública establecidas con respecto a los abortos, realice un aborto o destruya de cualquier modo el embrión, con el consentimiento de la mujer embarazada, está sujeta a una pena de prisión. Por tres meses hasta un año o una multa de 100 a 300 cuotas. Si se realiza un aborto (1) con fines de lucro, (2) fuera de las instituciones oficiales o (3) por una persona que es un médico, dicha persona está sujeta a un aumento de la pena de prisión de dos a cinco años. En conformidad con el Artículo 268, una persona que destruye a propósito el embrión (a) sin usar ninguna fuerza o violencia contra la mujer embarazada, pero sin su consentimiento, está sujeta de dos a cinco años de prisión o (b) con el uso de cualquier fuerza o violencia en la mujer embarazada, está sujeto de tres a ocho años de prisión. Si concurrentemente con la ocurrencia de (a) o (b), cualquiera de las circunstancias descritas en (1), (2) o (3) también existen, el castigo se incrementa a la prisión de cuatro a diez años. Si una mujer embarazada muere como resultado de cualquiera de las acciones anteriores, la persona ofensora está sujeta a prisión por un período de cinco a doce años. Los artículos 270 y 271, respectivamente, prescriben los castigos para aquellos que, sin la intención de hacerlo, causan un aborto y para aquellos que prescriben cualquier sustancia inductora del aborto para destruir el embrión.

El Capítulo I del Título XI cubre los delitos contra el desarrollo normal de las relaciones sexuales. El artículo 298 prescribe una pena de cuatro a diez años de prisión para toda persona que viole a una mujer (ya sea por coito vaginal o contra naturam) si durante el evento criminal ocurre alguna de las siguientes circunstancias: (a) uso de la fuerza o suficiente intimidación para: lograr la meta o (b) si la víctima está en un estado mentalmente perturbado o sufre de locura temporal, o si la víctima está privada de razón o sentido por cualquier razón, o no puede resistirse, o carece de la capacidad de entender las consecuencias de las acciones o para conformar su conducta. El artículo 298 prescribe un período de prisión de 7 a 15 años si (a) el evento se lleva a cabo con la participación de dos o más personas, (b) si el perpetrador se viste de uniforme militar o pretende ser un funcionario público, en en cada caso, para facilitar la consumación del acto o (c) si la víctima es mayor de 12 años y menor de 14 años. Finalmente, el artículo prescribe un período de prisión de 15 a 30 años o la pena de muerte si (a) el evento es llevado a cabo por una persona que ha sido sancionada previamente por el mismo delito, (b) como resultado del acto, la víctima sufre lesiones o enfermedades graves, o (c) si el autor sabe que está infectado con una enfermedad de transmisión sexual. Cualquier persona que viole a un menor de edad menor de 12 años será castigada con una pena de prisión de 15 a 30 años o con la pena de muerte, incluso si no ocurre ninguna de las circunstancias descritas en la oración anterior. El artículo 299 del Código Penal sanciona a las personas culpables de pedofilia "activa". Cualquier persona que cometa un acto de pedofilia "activa" mediante el uso de la violencia o la intimidación, o aprovechando el hecho de que la víctima está privada de razón o sentido o no puede resistir, será castigada con pena de prisión de siete a 15 años. Dicha penalización aumenta a 15 a 30 años o fallece si (a) la víctima es menor de 14 años, incluso si las circunstancias establecidas en la oración inmediatamente anterior no están presentes, (b) si, como consecuencia de la acto criminal, la víctima sufre lesiones graves o enfermedad o (c) si el autor ha sido previamente sancionado por el mismo delito.

El artículo 295 impone una pena de prisión de seis meses a dos años o una multa de 200 a 500 cuotas, o ambas, a cualquier persona que discrimine, promueva o incite a la discriminación de otra persona, con manifestaciones de manera ofensiva. , debido al sexo, raza, color u origen nacional, o con acciones para obstruir o impedir, con motivos relacionados con el sexo, raza, color u origen nacional, el ejercicio o disfrute de los derechos de igualdad establecidos en la Constitución. Cualquier persona que difunda ideas basadas en la superioridad de las razas o el odio racial o cometa, o incite, actos de violencia contra cualquier raza o grupo de personas de otro color u origen étnico, estará sujeta al mismo castigo que se indicó anteriormente.

Republic of Cuba Constitution of 1976 (amended 2002; English) (1976)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Article 44 of Cuba’s Constitution states that women and men enjoy equal economic, political, cultural, social and familial rights and that Cuba (the “State”) “guarantees that women will be offered the same opportunities and possibilities as men to achieve their full participation in the development of the country.” Article 44 further states that the State grants working women paid maternity leave before and after childbirth, and temporary work options compatible with their maternal function.

Law No. 68 of 1958 (1970)

Gender discrimination, International law

This law ratifies the UN treaty on the convention on Political Rights of Women (Convention on the Political Rights of Women open for signature on 31 March 1953) recognizing that everyone has a right to take part in the government of their country and recognizing women’s right to vote and participate in the political process of the country. This law gives the same rights to Indonesian women as is provided under the convention and protects those rights under Indonesian Law.

Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia of 1991 (1991)

Gender discrimination

Article 9 of the Constitution provides that all citizens of the Republic of Macedonia are equal in their freedoms and rights, regardless of “sex, race, colour of skin, national and social origin, political and religious belief, property and social status”. Article 110 of the Constitution expressly prohibits discrimination among citizens on the ground of sex, race, religion or nation, social or political affiliation. (English translation available from the ILO through the external link.)

Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia (1945)

Gender discrimination

The Indonesia Constitution does not discuss gender or women specifically, but instead guarantees rights to “him/her.” The 1945 Constitution is the basis for the government of Indonesia and it carries the highest legal authority. Article 27 of the 1945 Constitution states that: “(i) all citizens shall have equal status accorded by law and the government, and are obliged to respect the law and government without exception; and (ii) each citizen shall be entitled to work and to have a reasonable standard of living.” Article 28I of the Constitution adopted in 1945, and amended in 2002, includes the following provisions: “The rights to life, freedom from torture, freedom of thought and conscience, freedom of religion, freedom from enslavement, recognition as a person before the law, and the right not to be tried under a law with retrospective effect are all human rights that cannot be limited under any circumstances.” Article 28B of the Constitution adopted in 1945, and amended in 2002, includes the following provisions: “Every child shall have the right to live, to grow and to develop, and shall have the right to protection from violence and discrimination.” Article 28G of the Constitution adopted in 1945, and amended in 2002, includes the following provisions: “Every person shall have the right to be free from torture or inhumane and degrading treatment, and shall have the right to obtain political asylum from another country.” (External link includes unofficial English translation.)

Constitution of Belize (2011)

Gender discrimination

Section 3 of the Constitution of Belize (the “Constitution”) provides that every person in Belize is “entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual” regardless of sex.  Section 16 of the Constitution also prohibits any laws that are discriminatory or have discriminatory effect and defines “discriminatory” to include discrimination based on sex. 

Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, International law

Article 9 of the FDRE Constitution provides that all international treaties ratified by Ethiopia are integral parts of the law of the land. Similarly, Article 13.2 provides that fundamental rights and freedoms shall be interpreted in a manner conforming to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenants on Human Rights and International instruments adopted by Ethiopia. Ethiopia has ratified many of these treaties including ICCPR, ICESCR, and CEDAW. Article 35 of the FDRE Constitution pertains to the Rights of Women. The article provides for equal rights under the constitution, equal rights with men in marriage, entitlement to affirmative measures, protection from harmful traditional practices, the right to maternity pay, the right to consultation, property rights (including acquiring and controlling and transferring property), employment rights, and access to family planning education. It is worth noting that this article explicitly imposes an obligation and accountability on the state to protect women from violence at Article 35.4:  “The State shall enforce the right of women to eliminate the influences of harmful customs. Laws, customs and practices that oppress or cause bodily or mental harm to women are prohibited.”

Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation (1999)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Art. 8 of the Constitution provides that all people are equal and no person may be discriminated against because of gender.  The Constitution also states that men and women have equal rights and the law shall ensure their equality.  Art. 35 provides for protection of fundamental rights even in private relationships.

Resolução nº 175/2013 (2013)

Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

On May 14, 2013, the National Justice Council issued a resolution stating that competent authorities are not allowed to refuse (a) to celebrate same-sex civil marriages nor (b) to convert same-sex common-law marriages (stable union) into civil marriages.  The National Justice Council is a public administrative body that aims to advance the work of the Brazilian judicial system. The resolution was issued after the Supreme Court declared in 2011 that it is unconstitutional to apply a different legal treatment to same-sex common-law marriages (stable union), from the one applied to heterosexual common-law marriages (stable union). 

On Ensuring the Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women and Men (No. 2866-IV) (2005)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, Sexual harassment

The Equal Opportunities Act of Ukraine (the “Act”) provides for the legal framework of men and women’s parity in all spheres of social life through providing legal support for equal rights and opportunities, removal of gender-based discrimination and prevention of misbalance between women’s and men’s opportunities in implementing the rights granted to each of them by the Constitution and other laws.  Pursuant to the Act, “equal rights” means absence of gender-based restrictions or privileges.  The Act provides that equal rights for men and women will be ensured in the election process, civil service, employment and career, social security, entrepreneurial activity and education, in each case, through the relevant government/regulatory bodies.  The Act prohibits gender-based violence (which is defined as “actions directed at persons through their sex, stereotyped widespread customs or traditions or actions that relate predominantly to persons of a determined sex and create physical, sexual, psychological or financial damage or suffering”) and sexual harassment (defined as "sexual actions of a verbal or physical nature, which may humiliate or insult the person who is dependent on the perpetrator due to work, official, financial or other reasons").  Violation of the Act can result in a limitation order being issued to temporarily restrict the rights of the offender and protect the rights of the victim, including prohibiting the victim on residing with the victim at their place of residence, approaching the victim up to a certain distance and limitations on telephone calls or other communication with the victim.

Constitution of Ukraine (Law of Ukraine No. 254к/96-ВР) (1996)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Article 24 of Ukraine’s Constitution provides that there can be no privileges or restrictions based on sex or other grounds, and guarantees that the equality of rights for women and men is ensured by providing equal opportunities to each in socio-political and cultural activities, access to education, work and remuneration, special measures on labor protection and health of women, pension privileges and creating conditions enabling women to combine work and maternity.

Civil Code of Iran (Citizenship) (1969)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

Article 976 states that children born to Iranian fathers are considered Iranian subjects. No clause exists extending the same rights to children born of Iranian mothers where the child’s father is not Iranian. This provision demonstrates that Iranian women cannot pass on their Iranian nationality to their children. 

Law establishing a federal Center for the analysis of the migratory flows, the protection of the fundamental rights of foreigners and the fight against trafficking in human beings (Amendments to the Law of 15 February 1993) (2013)

Employment discrimination, LGBTIQ, Trafficking in persons

The Law of 15 February 1993 created the Centre for Combating Discrimination and Racism. Over the years, the scope of the Centre's anti-discrimination work expanded to include other forms of discrimination, like sexual orientation discrimination. In 2013, it was renamed the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities and its mandate formally included the rights of foreigners and their humane treatment. In 2015, Myria (the Federal Migration Centre) split off to focus on human trafficking and protecting the human rights of migrants and foreigners. The Interfederal Centre was renamed Unia in 2016 and continues to focus on anti-discrimination and equal opportunity advocacy. Unia can take legal action in instances of discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, and other criteria of discrimination (e.g., health, wealth, political beliefs, physical characteristics, etc.). Myria may also take legal action on instances of discrimination within its mandate. More information about Unia, its work, and anti-discrimination resources is available on its website (information available in English, Français, Nederlands, and Deutsch). More information about Myria, its work, and anti-discrimination resources is available on its website (also in En, Fr, Ne, and De).

Gender Law of 10 May 2007 (2007)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, LGBTIQ, Property and inheritance rights, Sexual harassment

The Gender Law of 10 May 2007 combats discrimination between women and men (thereby implementing European Union legislation) and prohibits every form of discrimination based on gender, change of gender, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. Direct and indirect discrimination, giving orders to discriminate, intimidation and sexual intimidation are all explicitly prohibited. Discrimination is prohibited with regard to access to goods and services, social security, social benefits, membership of professional organizations, and employment relations and conditions. Differences (in terms of access to certain goods or services, or employment conditions) are only allowed if it is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and if the restrictions are appropriate and necessary to achieve this aim. Differences are also allowed on a temporary basis in the context of positive action to prevent or compensate for gender-related disadvantages. Victims of discrimination can submit a reasoned complaint or take legal action. If the plaintiff has produced facts which indicate that there has been discrimination, the burden of proof is on the defendant to demonstrate that there was no gender-based discrimination.

Constitution of Belgium (2014)

Gender discrimination

Article 10 of the Constitution lays down the basic principle of equality and explicitly guarantees equality between men and women. Article 11 provides the legal basis for the adoption of legislation ensuring that there is no discrimination, while Article 11bis ensures equal access to elected mandates and public mandates.

Constitution of Japan (1945)

Gender discrimination

Under Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution, “all citizens of Japan are equal under the law, and shall not be discriminated against in political, economic or social relations on the basis of sex.”  Article 24 of the Constitution states that marriage can only be formed through the mutual consent of both sexes, and it must be maintained through mutual cooperation of husband and wife. Furthermore, Article 24 provides that “husband and wife have equal rights” under the law.  Based Article 14 and Article 24, the following laws were enacted: the Basic Act for a Gender Equal Society requires the state and local public entities to take steps towards the formation of a gender-equal society; the Act on Securing of Equal Opportunity and Treatment Between Men and Women in Employment prohibits employers from discriminating based on gender; and the Act on the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims etc. and the Stalker Control Law protect women from gender-based violence.

International Case Law

Garnaga v. Ukraine European Court of Human Rights (2013)

Gender discrimination, International law

The applicant requested Ukrainian authorities to change her patronymic to the one derived from her stepfather’s name and was refused because local legislation allowed a citizen to change the patronymic only in the event of a change of his/her father’s name.  At the same time, the applicant successfully changed her surname to the surname of her stepfather.  The Court held that given that the Ukrainian legislation recognizes the right of the individual to change his/her name and the procedure of changing names is flexible, the denial on changing the patronymic was not sufficiently justified.  Furthermore, the court held that the authorities had not secured the applicant’s right to respect for her private life as no reasons had been given by the Ukrainian authorities for denying the applicant her right to decide an important aspect of her private and family life and no such justification had otherwise been established.