Women and Justice: Keywords


Civil Code of Iran (Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage) (1969)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

The Iranian Civil Code also reflects deep gender inequalities in its divorce law (Arts. 1120-1157). With only a few exceptions, a husband can divorce his wife “whenever he wishes to do so” (Art. 1133). However, women may only seek divorce by making a request before an Islamic judge and in only a limited number of circumstances in which the husband has created “difficult and undesirable conditions” in the marriage (Art. 1130). If this criteria has been satisfied, the Islamic judge can compel the husband to divorce his wife.

Domestic Case Law

2009 (JinNa) No. 9 Supreme Court of Japan (2010)

Custodial violence

The plaintiff father was granted sole custody of his child in divorce proceedings in Wisconsin, USA. The defendant mother took the child to Japan. The plaintiff father sued for custody at the Osaka High Court. The court found in favor of the defendant mother because the father had a history of violence, the child lives a stable life and had many friends in Japan, and the child desired to live with the defendant mother.

2004 (Ju) No. 247 Supreme Court of Japan (2004)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage

The plaintiff husband filed for divorce arguing that his wife was impossible to live with due to her neurosis for cleanliness. The defendant wife refused to agree to divorce because she had a seven-year-old child who needed child support. The plaintiff dated another woman and was living separately from the defendant for two years and four months before filing for divorce. The Supreme Court refused to grant divorce because (i) the plaintiff destroyed family trust by dating another woman, (ii) the period of living separately was not long, (iii) their child was still only seven years old, and (iv) it would be difficult for the defendant who suffered from a neurosis to find a job to support herself.

Mtefu v. Mtefu High Court of Tanzania (1995)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Property and inheritance rights

The appellant appealed the order of a lower court that he pay maintenance Tshs. 10 000 per month to his former wife. He based his appeal on the claims that his adultery was unfairly held responsible for the dissolution of the marriage and that his income could not sustain the maintenance payments dictated by the lower court. He also argued that his former wife had earned no income during the course of the marriage and thus should not be entitled to a share of the matrimonial assets. The Court dismissed the appeal. It pointed out that his wife had demonstrably objected to his adultery with her niece, noting that this was “sufficient cruelty to break the marriage”. It also noted that theirs had been a Christian marriage, which emphasized fidelity. In addition, the Court also cited the case of Bi Hawa Mohamed, which recognized “housekeeping as services requiring compensation” and the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania 1977, which barred discrimination, to justify the division of matrimonial assets.

Mohamed v. Seifu Court of Appeal of Tanzania (1983)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Property and inheritance rights

The appellant appealed the ruling by the Primary and High Courts that she was not entitled to any share of the matrimonial assets amassed by her former husband during their marriage. She contended that her domestic services counted as a contribution to the acquisition of matrimonial assets. The Court noted the two schools of thought over whether household work could count as part of the joint effort in the acquisition of funds. It acknowledged the difficulties facing divorced women, but also emphasized that the role of the Court was not to forward public interests but to expound on law without judgment. The Court decided that under the Mischief Rule, the Law of Marriage Act, 1971 was intended to stop “the exploitation and oppression of married women by their husbands”. Thus, it ruled that domestic work could count as contributions to the acquisition of matrimonial assets. However, the Court noted that the appellant had squandered the money given to her by her husband to set up a family business. The Court registered a decision that this sum of money had been significant enough to constitute her share of the matrimonial assets. Because she had squandered that sum of money, she was no longer entitled to any share in the remaining matrimonial assets. The appeal was dismissed.

Thomas v. Union of India (2010)

Gender discrimination

Ms. Saumya Ann and Mr. Thomas, who were Christians by faith, had applied for a decree of divorce by mutual consent under Section 10A of the Divorce Act. The lower court rejected the application because the Divorce Act requires that the filing couple shall have lived in separate residences for a minimum period of two years, but Ms. And Mr. Thomas had been living apart for only one year. On appeal, the couple argued that the law was a violation of their right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. They also argued that such law was discriminatory and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution because Hindus and Parsis were entitled to divorce by mutual consent after living apart for only a year. The Government argued that the law in question pertained to Christians and was their personal religious law, granting it complete insulation from any form of interference by courts. The Kerala High Court rejected the government’s contention. The Court held that the couple was entitled to seek a decree of divorce by mutual consent, that the requirement of two years violated the right to seek a divorce as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, and that the constitutional right to equality includes the right to divorce as persons from other religions are. Instead of declaring the law unconstitutional, the Kerala High Court read down the two-year requirement to one year, like the laws applicable to Hindu and Parsi divorces. This case is significant because it demonstrates that customs and laws, even if religious in nature, can be invalidated if they violate the fundamentals rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.


Child Marriage in Bangladesh: Occurrence and Links to Sexual Harrassment (2013)

Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination

This memorandum examines the occurrence of child marriage in Bangladesh and explores its link with sexual harassment. Bangladesh has one of the highest occurrences of child marriage in the world. This high rate of marriage of girls below the age of 18 is due to a variety of causes, including patriarchal social mores, parental desire to safeguard girls against premarital sex and out-of-wedlock pregnancies (and the associated social stigma associated with these), and poverty, linked with the perception of girls as an economic burden. In addition to these more widely known causes of early marriage, the widespread prevalence of severe and public sexual harassment in Bangladesh is gaining attention as an important, albeit lesser-studied cause of child marriage.

Child Marriage in Bangladesh: Birth and Marriage Registration (2013)

Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination

This memorandum discusses the link between child marriage and birth and marriage registration. Section I of this memorandum focuses on birth registration, including the importance of registration, government and civil society birth registration initiatives in Bangladesh and the factors that perpetuate low rates of birth registration and recommendations for overcoming them. Section II briefly introduces marriage registration, the unreliability of which also contributes to Bangladesh’s high rates of child marriage.

Child Marriage in Bangladesh: Impact of Discriminatory Personal Laws (2013)

Forced and early marriage

This Memorandum discusses the impact of personal laws on the treatment of child marriage within Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s antiquated personal laws relating to marriage fail to protect children,reinforce support for early marriage, and directly contradict statutory law in Bangladesh. Examining Bangladesh’s current legal framework highlights the problematic influence that discriminatory personal laws have on the fulfillment of national and international obligations concerning child marriage.