Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

R. v. H. Supreme Court of Queensland (2002)

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

The appellant advertised in Korea for families to come to Australia to attend a missionary school. The appellant was responsible for settling those families’ affairs, and they were dependent on him to organize the necessary extensions of visas. Most of the time, the parents spoke no English and their children spoke little English. The appellant organized accommodation for the parents of the complainant among other families, and at the same time he arranged for separate accommodation for their daughter with children of other families.  The accommodation for the daughter was close to the appellant’s house, but an hour’s drive from her parents’ house. The appellant was the only individual who had the keys to the children’s rooms. The appellant advised the father of the complainant to return to Korea to seek more families, and he did. One night, the appellant returned around 1:00 AM to the children’s accommodation and entered the complainant’s room where another girl was with her.  That girl left after certain remarks by the appellant.  The appellant took the complaint in his van to a remote place where he proceeded to touch her, took off her pyjamas, and then had sexual intercourse with her, despite her resistance.  During this resistance, they both fell to the floor of the van and the appellant injured his arm. The appellant threatened the complainant not to inform anyone about this incident, reminding her that her family needed him to renew their visas. The complainant immediately told her friends at the accommodation of the sexual assault. In the morning, the complainant walked to a public telephone where she called her father in Korea and told him about the incident, and then called her mother to inform her of the same. In fear with respect to their visas, the family went with the appellant to Brisbane where they had their visas renewed, acting as if nothing happened. Later, the father flew back to Australia and immediately lodged a complaint with the police. Through investigation, the police found physical evidence of rape, including injuries to her genitals consistent with rape, the appellant’s DNA, and wounds consistent with complainant’s statement of the rape.  Based on the evidence, the District Court sentenced the appellant to eight years for two counts of rape and one count of indecent dealing with a circumstance of aggravation. Relying on older cases, the appellant filed this appeal to lower his sentence, claiming it was too high for someone his age, considering he had no previous convictions and that there were no violence or weapon used. The Queensland Court of Appeal dismissed these arguments, stating that the older cases referenced by the appellant were dated before the implementation of new rules that increased the sentences for rape. In addition, even though no violence was used against the complainant, the court found that the appellant took advantage of her because of her visa situation, and this was an aggravating factor. Therefore, the appeal was dismissed.



Kalaj v. Holder United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (2009)

Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

The plaintiff-appellant, an Albanian citizen who entered the United States on a non-immigrant visa, fled her home country after facing three attempted kidnappings that she believed would have led her into forced prostitution. After escaping the third attempt, her uncle arranged for her to obtain a fake passport to enter the United States. After she applied for asylum with the Immigration and Nationalization Service, she was notified that she was subject to removal as an alien not in possession of valid entry documents. Both an immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals denied her application for asylum. The Sixth Circuit affirmed these denials, finding that the plaintiff was unable to demonstrate that she was a member of a persecuted social group and unable to show that the Albanian government was unwilling or unable to protect her.



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.”



Appellant S395/2002 v. Minister of Immigration and Citizenship High Court of Australia (2003)

Gender-based violence in general, International law, LGBTIQ

The appellants, both homosexual male citizens of Bangladesh, arrived in Australia and applied for protection visas. To be recognized as refugees, the appellants had to show that they had a well-founded fear of being persecuted due to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The appellants argued that they belonged to a “particular social group” that was subject to discrimination and harm in Bangladesh by virtue of their homosexuality. A delegate of the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship initially determined that because the appellants had conducted their relationship in a discreet manner in Bangladesh, they would suffer no serious harm if they returned to Bangladesh and continued to keep their relationship secret. For this reason, appellants were initially denied protection visas, and the Refugee Review Tribunal affirmed this decision. The appellant’s appealed to the Federal Court for judicial review and the primary judge dismissed the application, agreeing with the delegate’s reasoning about the discreetness of the appellants’ relationship. Appellants appealed to the Full Federal Court, which also dismissed their appeal. Appellants then appealed to the High Court, which granted them special leave to appeal. The High Court considered whether the Tribunal had erred in requiring or expecting the appellants to behave discreetly in order to avoid persecution. In a four-to-three decision, the High Court found that the Tribunal had erred because it improperly split the social group of homosexual men into two groups, discreet and non-discreet. The High Court held that the expectation that a person take reasonable steps to avoid persecutory harm, does not include the need to be discreet about sexuality, especially given that the appellants may have only been acting discreetly due to the persecution of openly homosexual men in Bangladesh. The case was referred back to the Tribunal for redetermination.



Perdomo v. Holder United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (2010)

Femicide

In 1991 Lesly Yajayra Perdomo (“Perdomo”), a citizen and native of Guatemala, joined her mother in the United States. In April 2003 the Immigration and Naturalization Service charged her as removable because she unlawfully entered the United States in 1991. Perdomo conceded removability but requested asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Perdomo sought asylum because of her fear of future persecution as a member of a particular social group of “women in Guatemala between the ages of fourteen and forty.” Perdomo explained she was fearful because of: (1) the large number of women killed in Guatemala; (2) the failure of the Guatemalan government to respond appropriately; and (3) the lack of explanation for the killings. The immigration judge denied Perdomo’s requests. The Board of Immigration Appeals (the “BIA”) affirmed the denials and rejected the particular social group definition, “women in Guatemala between the ages of fourteen and forty” and Perdomo’s revised group definition, “all women in Guatemala,” as too broad to qualify for protection. The Ninth Circuit granted Perdomo’s petition for review and held that prior case law established that, “women in a particular country, regardless of ethnicity or clan membership, could form a particular social group.” The court noted that the size and breadth of the group, “all women in Guatemala,” did not preclude it from qualifying as a protected social group and that the BIA erred when it held to the contrary. The court remanded the case to the BIA to determine whether “all women in Guatemala” is a particular social group and, if so, whether Perdomo qualified for asylum.



Hollander v. United States United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (2009)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

A group of husbands filed suit against the United States and other U.S. officials, challenging the validity of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In particular, they were challenging the portion that permitted aliens who had been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by their spouses to self-petition for legal permanent resident status. The plaintiffs claimed this created an incentive for their wives and ex-wives to file false police complaints and false applications for temporary restraining orders against them. They further argued that their reputations were harmed and that confidential information about them was being released to third parties. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed their suit for lack of standing. Accordingly, the plaintiffs could not challenge VAWA or its self-petition provision. On appeal, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. The court held that the plaintiffs’ injury was not fairly traceable to the defendants, but rather to independent actions of their wives or ex-wives who were not before the court. The plaintiffs further failed to state an injury-in-fact, because their claimed injuries were purely speculative. The fear of disclosing confidential information to third parties was dispelled based on the confidentiality provisions of VAWA. Thus, the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue the government and challenge VAWA.



Legislation

Schweizerisches Strafgesetzbuch/Swiss Penal Code, Article 66a: Mandatory expulsion of foreign nationals for female genital mutilation and certain other offenses (2019)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, International law, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

Article 66a provides that a foreign national shall be expelled from Switzerland for a period of five to 15 years if they are convicted of, among other things, female genital mutilation (Penal Code Art. 124, para. 1), forced marriage or forced registered partnership (Penal Code Art. 181a), trafficking in human beings (Penal Art. 182), sexual acts with children (Penal Code Art. 187, para. 1), sexual coercion (Art. 189), rape (Art. 190), sexual acts with persons incapable of judgement or resistance (Art. 191), encouraging prostitution (Art. 195), aggravated pornography (Art. 197, para. 4, second sentence – pornography containing genuine sexual acts with minors), genocide (Art. 264), crimes against humanity (Art. 264a), serious violations of the Geneva Convention of 1949 (Art. 264c), and other war crimes (Art. 264d and 264h). Unofficial English translation available here. 



Law on Employment and Work of Foreigners (2015)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

Article 4(6) of the Law on Employment and Work of Foreigners provides that when employing a foreigner, the employer must not put the job seeker in less favourable position due to race, color of skin, gender, age, health condition, that is, disability, religious, political or other convictions, trade union membership, national or social background, family status, property status, sexual orientation, or due to other personal circumstances. (English translation available from the ILO through the external link.)



International Case Law

R.R. v. Denmark Human Rights Committee (ICCPR) (2017)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, International law

R.R., an Iranian national, had left Iran for Italy with her husband and children due to her husband’s activities for the Kurdish Komeleh party.  While in Italy, they lived in an asylum center and then were provided with a dwelling.  They had difficulty paying rent as they could not find steady employment and her husband became addicted to narcotics.  Her husband subjected her and the children to domestic violence and she was forced into prostitution by her husband.  She left her husband and took her children.  She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, and cervical cancer, and received help from friends to pay for surgery.  Her youngest son suffered from heart disease.  She and her children left Italy and sought asylum in Denmark.  Danish authorities rejected her asylum application, finding that Italy should serve as her first country of asylum.  R.R. claimed that by forcibly returning her and her two children to Italy, Denmark would violate its rights under article 7 of the Covenant.  She stated that her family unit were particularly vulnerable as she was a single mother, she and her son required medical attention, and they risked facing inhuman and degrading treatment upon return to Italy, including a risk of homelessness and destitution, with limited access to the necessary medical care.  The Committee, acting under article 5(4) of the Optional Protocol, decided that the deportation of R.R. and her two children to Italy without proper assurances from Italy that it would renew her residence permit and issue permits for her children and that it would receive her family in conditions appropriate for her children’s age and the family’s vulnerable status to enable them to remain in Italy, would violate their rights under article 7 of the Covenant.  The Committee required Denmark to review her claim in consideration of its obligations under the Covenant and the need to obtain proper assurances from Italy.  While considering her request for asylum, the Committee requested that Denmark not deport her and her children.



Aumeeruddy-Cziffra and 19 other Mauritian Women v. Mauritius Human Rights Committee (1981)

Gender discrimination, International law

Twenty Mauritian women submitted a communication to the Committee stating that the Immigration (Amendment) Act of 1977 and the Deportation (Amendment Act) of 1977 constitute discrimination based on sex against Mauritian women, violation of the right to found a family and a home, and removal of the protection of the courts of law. Prior to the enactment of these laws, alien men and women married to Mauritian nationals could equally enjoy residence status by virtue of their marriage. Under the new laws, however, alien husbands of Mauritian women must apply for a “resident permit” subject to rejection by the Minister of the Interior at any time. The new laws do not similarly affect alien wives of Mauritian men. The complaint specifically alleged several violations of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights including: article 2 obligations to recognize rights under the Covenant without distinction based on sex; article 3 obligations to ensure the equal enjoyment of civil and political rights regardless of sex; article 26’s guarantee that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without discrimination to equal protection of the law; article 17’s protection against arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family, and the home; and article 23’s obligations to protect an individual’s right to marry. Although the Committee found that seventeen of the complainants were unmarried and therefore unaffected by the legislation in question, the Committee concluded that the future possibility of deportation and the existing precarious resident situation of foreign husbands in Mauritius represented an interference by the State with the family life of the remaining victims. The Committee held that any discrimination on the ground of sex within Mauritian legislation without sufficient justification was tantamount to a violation of articles 2 and 3 in conjunction with article 17, as well as direct violations of article 26 and 23. The Committee recommended that Mauritius adjust the provisions of the Immigration (Amendment) Act and the Deportation (Amendment) Act in order to implement the State’s obligations under the Covenant to prevent sex discrimination in its laws and regulations.