Women and Justice: Keywords

International Case Law

Jallow v. Bulgaria CEDAW Committee (2012)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination

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

Chile v. Javier Sebastián Parra Godoy Angol Criminal Court (2013)

Gender violence in conflict

While the victim was sleeping, her partner Sebastian Javier Parra Godoy attacked her by striking her in the head. She suffered near-fatal head injuries as a result of the blow. On February 5, 2013, the criminal court in the province of Angol found Mr. Godoy guilty of the crime of attempted intimate femicide. In their ruling, the judges explicitly referenced the fact that the case presented a case of gender-based violence. It concluded that that Parra Godoy had acted as a result of traditional views considering women as subordinate perpetuating stereotypes of violence and coercion. The court stated that in such cases, international standards of human rights such as the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Eradication of Violence Against Women and the general recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) should apply. The prosecutor Raul Espinoza explained that the main challenge of the case was the absence of direct evidence because the only potential witnesses were the victim, who was sleeping at the time of the attack and who suffered neurological damage which affected her memory, and the victim’s autistic son, who was mentally handicapped. To bring the case, he relied instead on strong circumstantial evidence.

Mientras la víctima dormía, su compañero Sebastián Javier Parra Godoy la agredió golpeándola en la cabeza. Sufrió heridas en la cabeza casi fatales como resultado del golpe. El 5 de febrero de 2013, el juzgado penal de la provincia de Angol declaró culpable al señor Godoy del delito de intento de femicidio íntimo. En su decisión, los jueces hicieron referencia explícita al hecho de que el caso presentaba un caso de violencia de género. Concluyó que Parra Godoy había actuado como resultado de opiniones tradicionales que consideraban a las mujeres como subordinadas y perpetuaban estereotipos de violencia y coacción. El tribunal señaló que en tales casos deben aplicarse estándares internacionales de derechos humanos como la Convención Interamericana para Prevenir, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia contra la Mujer y las recomendaciones generales del Comité para la Eliminación de la Discriminación contra la Mujer (CEDAW). El fiscal Raúl Espinoza explicó que el principal desafío del caso fue la ausencia de evidencia directa porque los únicos testigos potenciales eran la víctima, quien se encontraba durmiendo al momento del ataque y quien sufrió daño neurológico que afectó su memoria, y el que el hijo de la víctima tenía autismo, una discapacidad mental. Para presentar el caso con éxito, se basó en cambio en pruebas circunstanciales sólidas.

Domestic Case Law

Sekandi Hassan v. Uganda Supreme Court of Uganda (2007)

Acid violence, Domestic and intimate partner violence

Appellant was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The deceased, a 16-year-old girl, lived with her mother and brother. For approximately a year, the deceased would sneak out and have sexual intercourse with appellant, a married man who lived approximately 200 meters away from the deceased. A week before the incident, the deceased told her mother that appellant had impregnated her. This greatly displeased her mother, and she reported this to LCs officials. On the night of the incident, the deceased’s mother noticed appellant at her residence before appellant and the deceased left for the night. The next morning, the deceased was found lying by the side of the road about one mile from her home. She was in critical condition and had severe acid burns. Unable to speak, she wrote her information on a piece of paper, including her name and the name of the person who brought her to her location (appellant). She died later that day, and a medical examiner found the cause of death to be severe burns and pulmonary edema. Appellant was later arrested and convicted. He appealed the conviction, arguing that the conviction rested on weak circumstantial evidence and that his alibi deserved re-evaluation. On appeal, the Supreme Court ruled against appellant. They found that the case against appellant relied on the credibility of the deceased’s mother and brother, who, due to proximity and prior acquaintance, knew appellant very well. The court also found that the fact that the deceased’s mother was pursuing actions against appellant gave him a motive for the murder, so as to avoid a possible defilement charge. In sum, the court held that there was ample evidence to convict appellant over his alibi and hence dismissed the appeal.

State ex rel. Juvenile Dep't. v. Gohranson (In re Gohranson) Oregon Court of Appeals (1996)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Sexual violence and rape

Here, appellants, the State and the children, sought review of a judgment from the circuit court, which found in favor of respondents, a mother and father, in the State’s action to terminate their parental rights. The Court of Appeals of Oregon reversed and remanded with instructions to enter judgment terminating the parental rights of father and mother. With reference to ORS 419B.504, the Court of Appeals of Oregon terminated the father’s parental rights with regard to his own daughter, because he was convicted for sexually abusing the mother’s daughter from previous marriage and had sexually abused his own daughter. In addition, integration of the children into his home was unlikely in the foreseeable future. In keeping with ORS 419B.504, the Court of Appeals of Oregon terminated the mother’s parental rights, because the children were subjected to severe sexual abuse while in her care, but she had neither recognized the signs of sexual abuse nor protected them. Furthermore, the evidence also demonstrated that mother would not be able to adjust her behavior to protect the children in the future, most importantly because she continuously denied the possibility that father subjected the children to sexual abuse.

R.S. v. Dept. of Family Servs. (In re KLS) Wyoming Supreme Court (2004)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Appellant-father appealed the judgment of the District Court that terminated his parental rights. The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed, as the record contained clear and convincing evidence of abuse and neglect over the child’s lifetime, including evidence that the father caused the child to witness repeated episodes of domestic violence. Termination of parental rights pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-2-309(a)(iii) requires the establishment of three elements: (1) abusive treatment or neglect by the parent; (2) unsuccessful efforts to rehabilitate the family; and (3) the child’s health and safety would be seriously jeopardized by remaining with or returning to the parent. Abuse and neglect are defined in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-3-202(a)(ii): (ii) “Abuse” means inflicting or causing physical or mental injury, harm or imminent danger to the physical or mental health or welfare of a child other than by accidental means, including abandonment, unless the abandonment is a relinquishment substantially in accordance with W.S. 14-11-101 through 14-11-109, excessive or unreasonable corporal punishment, malnutrition or substantial risk thereof by reason of intentional or unintentional neglect, and the commission or allowing the commission of a sexual offense against a child as defined by law. The Court concluded that the father had subjected the child to abusive treatment and neglect by causing the child to repeatedly witness domestic violence between him and the child’s mother.

Bevan v. Fix Wyoming Supreme Court (2002)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Appellants, two minor children, appealed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Supreme Court of Wyoming reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact precluded the grant of summary judgment on the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress stemmed from a domestic violence incident, which involved appellee beating, kicking, punching, dragging by the hair and choking the mother of two children while screaming that he wanted to kill her. Although the Supreme Court of Wyoming agreed with the District Court that not every domestic violence altercation constitutes an extreme and outrageous conduct or results in sufficiently severe emotional impact to support a third party claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, it also noted that appellee’s alleged conduct in this case amounted to conduct beyond mere insults, indignities and petty oppressions. If proved, it could be construed as outrageous, atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community. Therefore, the grant of summary judgment was improper, as the jury should have been able to determine whether appellee’s conduct was sufficiently extreme and outrageous to result in liability.

MacPherson v. Weiner New Hampshire Supreme Court (2008)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Here, the plaintiff was issued a final protective order against the defendant. Subsequent to the issuance of this order, the plaintiff had filed a statement with the police that the defendant went to her work, called her work, and called her parents. Further, a witness observed the defendant at the plaintiff’s home, and he was seen to drive by her home on seven occasions. The defendant was convicted of violating the protective order and complied with it thereafter. Subsequently, the plaintiff requested a five-year extension to the order and the defendant requested a hearing. The trial court granted the extension and the defendant appealed. The defendant argued that the plaintiff did not have good cause to support the extension. The court considered good cause under N.H. Rev. Stat. § 633:3-a which provides that in regard to stalking, a protective order may be extended on a showing of good cause to provide for the safety and well-being of the plaintiff. The court noted that to determine good cause, it should consider the circumstances of the original stalking, the current conditions, and consider any reasonable fear by the plaintiff. The court found that the plaintiff showed good cause for an extension of the protective order; the defendant drove by the plaintiff’s house multiple times in violation of the initial protective order only fifteen months earlier and the plaintiff’s fear of the defendant was reasonable.

Williams v. State Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals (1986)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Sexual violence and rape

A jury found Mr. Williams guilty of burglary and sodomy in the first degree. On appeal, Mr. Williams argued, among other things, that Alabama’s forcible sodomy statute was unconstitutional because it excluded a married person from liability. In other words, under the statute, a married person could not be convicted of forcibly sodomizing his or her spouse in Alabama. The appellate court held that the statute, on its face, discriminates between married and unmarried persons, and thus looked to see whether there was, “as a minimum, some ground of difference that rationally explains the different treatment accorded married and unmarried persons under the statute.” The court considered several traditional rationales for the marital exception. First, the court considered the implied consent theory – i.e., when a women makes her marriage vows, she impliedly consents to sexual intercourse with her husband during the marriage. The court rejected this rationale, finding that a “married person has the same right to control his or her body as does an unmarried person.” Because “any implied consent notion would give one spouse control over the other spouse’s bodily integrity,” it was not a rationale basis for the marital exemption. Second, the court rejected the proposed justification for the marital exemption that it protected against governmental invasion into marital privacy. The court found that marital privacy was not designed as a shield to protect against violent sexual assaults. Third, the court found untenable the argument that elimination of the marital exemption for forcible sodomy would disrupt marriages because it would discourage reconciliation: “When a marriage relationship has deteriorated to the point of forcible and unwanted sexual contact, reconciliation seems highly unlikely. Fourth, the court found problems with proof did not provide a rationale basis for the marital exemption because the evidentiary problems concerning one spouse’s lack of consent to an act of sodomy would be no more difficult than proving lack of consent by a victim involved in a non-marital relationship. Fifth, and finally, the court rejected the argument that the assault statutes provided alternative remedies available to a victim of forcible sodomy by a spouse, finding the vast differences in punishment disproved the alternative remedy theory. The court concluded that there can be no justification for forcible sodomy upon one’s spouse, and a rule that protected unmarried persons from forcible sodomy but not married persons could not withstand constitutional scrutiny. Therefore, the court severed and removed from the statute the marital exemption for the offense of forcible sodomy.

Oscar Eugenio Paniagua Batochi s/ Coacción Sexual en San Juan Neponuceno Sala de Acuerdos los Señores Ministros de la Excelentísima Corte Suprema de Justicia Sala Penal (2005)

Sexual violence and rape

The Supreme Court, Penal division, upheld the conviction of a defendant who raped his stepdaughter under threat of death or grievous injury. The Court held that the conviction was consistent with Article 54 of the National Constitution, Article 19 of the American Convention on Human Rights ("Pact of San Jose"), Article 24 of the International Pact of Civil and Political Rights, Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 3 of the Code of Children and Adolescents, and Article 1 of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women.

La Corte Suprema, División Penal, confirmó la condena de un acusado que violó a su hijastra bajo amenaza de muerte o lesiones graves. La Corte sostuvo que la condena era compatible con el Artículo 54 de la Constitución Nacional, el Artículo 19 de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos ("Pacto de San José"), el Artículo 24 del Pacto Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos, el Artículo 19 del Convención sobre los Derechos del Niño, Artículo 3 del Código de la Niñez y Adolescencia y el Artículo 1 de la Convención Interamericana para Prevenir, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia contra la Mujer.