Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

J.Y. Interpretation No. 457 Constitutional Court of Taiwan (1998)

Gender discrimination

The Regulations for the Handling of the Government Owned Housing and Farmlands Vacated by Married Veterans after Their Hospitalization, Retirement or Death distributes plots of state farmland to veterans. Section 4-III of the Regulations provides, “If the surviving spouse of the deceased veteran remarries but without issue or has only daughter(s), the land and housing shall be reclaimed unconditionally upon the marriage of the daughter(s); and the rights of the veteran may be inherited by his son, if any.” The Court explained that the government can allow a veteran’s surviving dependents to continue using and farming the state land distributed to veterans, and can extend the term “dependents” to a veteran’s children. In doing so, however, the government should consider the children’s ability to earn a living and cultivate the land, and must keep in mind the principle of gender equality enshrined in Article 7 of the Constitution and Article 10-VI of the Amendments to the Constitution. The Court held that Section 4-III of the Regulations violates this principle because it limits the right of inheritance of a deceased veteran to the veteran’s son without regard to the son’s ability or marital status. Thus, the Court held that Section 4-III of the Regulations discriminates against a specific group of women on the premise of marital status and sex. As such, the Court held that the government must revise Section 4-III of the Regulations to remove the discriminatory provision.



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.



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.



Mtawa v. Risasi High Court of Tanzania (2001)

Property and inheritance rights

The appellant had lived with the deceased as husband and wife for nine years and given birth to two of his children. At his death, she asked that the estate not be distributed in accordance with Islamic law, which would have prevented her from receiving a share of the estate. The brother of the deceased challenged this, contending that she was a concubine who had no right to a share of the estate she had contributed nothing to amassing. The trial court registered a decision in favor of the appellant. It found that her relationship was the deceased fell under the presumption of marriage, and accordingly awarded her the house until either her death or marriage to another man. The brother appealed this decision and the District Court reversed the ruling of the trial court. The High Court found that the appellant and the deceased had achieved the status of a customary marriage. It also ruled that the deceased’s actions showed that he did not profess the Islamic faith and that Islamic law should thus not apply. It registered a decision that the appellant, through her contribution to the welfare of the household and family, was entitled to a share of the estate. The appellant received a half share of the house, while the other half was awarded to her children.



Kalulu v. Mahirima High Court of Tanzania (2011)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

The father of the deceased objected to the appointment of his son’s wife as an administratrix of the will. He claimed that there was no evidence that a customary marriage had taken place between his son and the respondent or that the couple had not been divorced in the interim. He also contended that Chagga customary law on succession and inheritance barred women from administering wills. The Court dismissed his appeal. It noted even if there had not been a customary marriage between the deceased and the respondent, the duration and nature of their relationship satisfied the requirements for a presumed marriage. Furthermore, the Court cited Article 12 and 13 of the Constitution and Article 1 of CEDAW to emphasize its commitment to ending gender-based discrimination. It decided that following Chagga customary law would be discriminatory and that the deceased wife would remain as an administratrix of the will.



Metro N. Owners, LLC v. Thorpe Civil Court of the City of New York (2008)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Property and inheritance rights

Ms. Thorpe was a victim of domestic violence.  Her landlord sought to evict her from her apartment, alleging nuisance in violation of the lease.  Ms. Thrope was the only person on the lease.  Her landlord’s nuisance claim was based on a fight that had occurred between Ms. Thorpe and her husband.  Ms. Thorpe moved for summary judgment based on the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (“VAWA 2005”).  Under VAWA 2005, “an incident of domestic violence will not be construed to violate a public-housing or government-assisted tenancy and shall not be good cause to terminate a public-housing or government-assisted tenancy if the tenant is the victim or threatened victim of domestic violence.”  Ms. Thorpe argued that because her landlord’s allegations of nuisance were based solely on acts of domestic violence committed against her, he could not terminate her government-assisted tenancy.  To prove that she was a victim of domestic violence, Ms. Thorpe provided three complaint reports that she had filed with the New York Police Department, along with a protective order she obtained against her husband from the New York City Criminal Court.  The court granted Ms. Thorpe’s motion for summary judgment because she was a victim of domestic violence, and as such, VAWA 2005 prohibited her landlord from terminating her lease.  The court reasoned that “VAWA’s goal is to prevent a landlord from penalizing a tenant for being a victim of domestic violence,” as Ms. Thorpe was here.



International Case Law

Kalucza v. Hungary European Court of Human Rights (2012)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Property and inheritance rights

K’s partner Gy.B. acquired ownership of K’s ex-husband share of their jointly owned flat and had it registered as his place of residence. K sought to have him evicted when their relationship ended, lodged numerous criminal complaints for rape, assault and harassment but Gy.B.was acquitted on four occasions and was convicted on only two occasions, released on parole and ordered to pay a fine. On three occasions K herself was found guilty of disorderly conduct, grievous bodily harm and assault. She also faced a trespassing charge brought by Gy.B. because she had the flat's locks changed. During the criminal proceedings, K made two requests for a restraining order against Gy.B. and both were dismissed on basis that she was also responsible for the bad relationship. Civil proceedings concerning ownership of the flat were also suspended while Gy.B.’s violent behavior against her continued and a medical report was drawn up recording her injuries with an expected healing time of eight to ten days. The ECtHR found that the Hungarian authorities had not taken sufficient measures for her effective protection, in violation of Article 8. The Court noted that it had taken the authorities too long - more than one-and-half years - to decide on K’s first restraining order request, undermining the reason behind such a measure which was to provide immediate protection to victims of violence. Sufficient reasons for dismissing the restraining order requests were not given, the courts relying simply on the fact that both parties were involved in the assaults, ruling out the possibility of a victim having acted in legitimate self-defense in the event of a mutual assault. The Court commented that restraining orders could have been issued against both parties and ordered Hungary to pay K non-pecuniary damages.



Reports

Women's control over economic resources and access to financial resources, including microfinance (2009)

Property and inheritance rights

UN Women 2009 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development (2009).