Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

Morales-Santana v. Lynch United Court of Appeals (2015)

Gender discrimination

Morales-Santana sought review of a decision made by the Board of Immigration Appeals denying his motion to reopen his removal proceedings to evaluate his claim of derivative citizenship. Morales-Santana’s derivative citizenship claim was based on the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (18 U.S.C. §1409). The 1952 Act differentiates how fathers and mothers can confer citizenship to their children. An unwed citizen mother confers citizenship on her child as long as she had been resident in the United States for a year continuously before the child’s birth. An unwed citizen father, however, cannot transfer citizenship to his child born abroad if he was not present in the United States before the child’s birth for a total of ten years. Additionally, five of the father’s ten years in the United States must be after his fourteenth birthday. Therefore, it was impossible for a father under the age of eighteen to confer citizenship to a child born abroad of a non-citizen mother. In this case, Morales-Santana’s father satisfied the requirements for transmitting citizenship applicable to unwed mothers but not the more stringent requirements applicable to unwed fathers. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals found this disparate treatment a violation of the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection and reversed the Board of Immigration Appeals decision.

Constitutionality of Lei Maria da Penha (Federal Domestic Violence Law ) (ADC 19 and ADI 4424) (in Portuguese) Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (2012)

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

Following a request to Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal or “STF”) by then-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the STF reviewed and upheld the constitutionality of the Lei Maria da Penha (“LMP”). The LMP is Brazil’s first law to address the problem of domestic violence against women on a national scale. The law’s provision for the creation of special courts, as well as the law’s differentiated protection of women, had come under scrutiny in many of Brazil’s lower courts as unconstitutional. The STF, however, has previously held that those articles were constitutional. President Silva argued that the LMP was constitutional due to Article 226, § 8 of the Federal Constitution, and Brazil’s ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women. The Justices agreed that the LMP does not create a law of unequal treatment as between men and women, but addresses the reality of longstanding discrimination and aggression directed at women, and offers substantive mechanisms to promote equality without impinging on the rights of males. The Court also found that the provision of specialized courts is constitutional and not in conflict with state control of the local courts. Finally, with a majority vote of 10-1, the Justices held that the office of the public prosecutor can prosecute domestic violence cases even when the victim fails to appear or file a complaint against her aggressor. The majority reasoned that state intervention is necessary to guarantee the victim’s protection from the risk of ongoing violence, which may be aggravated by the victim appearing in the action against her aggressor.

International Case Law

Maria Merciadri de Morini v. Argentina Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2001)

Gender discrimination

Maria Merciadri de Morini v. Argentina, Argentina, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 2001. Gender Discrimination, Political Rights, Equal Protection, Due Process. Ms. Maria Merciadri de Morini’s political party produced an election ballot that violated Argentine law. The law required election ballots to include 30% of women candidates. Ms. Merciadri de Morini’s political party only placed one woman out of five candidates where, by law, there should have been at least two women on the ballot. Ms. Merciadri de Morini brought suit against the political party for the violation of the voting law. Ms. Merciadri de Morini attempted to exhaust domestic remedies but the Argentine domestic courts violated her rights to due process and equal protection by continuously rejecting her claim. Ms. Merciadri de Morini petitioned her case to IACHR. Argentina ultimately responded to the allegation and dictated to the IACHR that the two parties had come to a friendly settlement. Argentina changed the way it regulated the voting law and recognized the violations against all women including Ms. Merciadri de Morini. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights approved the friendly settlement between Ms. Merciadri de Morini and Argentina.

La señora María Merciadri, cuyo caso, "Morini contra Argentina," fue visto ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos en el 2001. Se analizó la discriminación de género, derechos políticos, igualdad de protección, y debido proceso. El partido político de la Sra. Maria Merciadri de Morini produjo una boleta electoral que violaba la ley argentina. La ley exigía que las boletas electorales incluyeran el 30% de las candidatas. El partido político de la Sra. Merciadri de Morini solo colocó a una mujer de cada cinco candidatas donde, por ley, debería haber al menos dos mujeres en la boleta electoral. La Sra. Merciadri de Morini presentó una demanda contra el partido político por la violación de la ley de votación. La Sra. Merciadri de Morini intentó agotar los recursos internos, pero los tribunales nacionales argentinos violaron sus derechos al debido proceso y la igual protección al rechazar continuamente su reclamo. La Sra. Merciadri de Morini solicitó su caso a la CIDH. Argentina finalmente respondió a la acusación y dictó a la CIDH que las dos partes habían llegado a un acuerdo amistoso. Argentina cambió la forma en que regulaba la ley de votación y reconoció las violaciones contra todas las mujeres, incluída la Sra. Merciadri de Morini. La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos aprobó el acuerdo amistoso entre la Sra. Merciadri de Morini y Argentina.