Women and Justice: Keywords


Schweizerisches Strafgesetzbuch/Swiss Penal Code, Article 196: Sexual Acts with Minors Against Payment (2019)

Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

Provides for criminal penalties of imprisonment for not more than three years or a monetary penalty for any person who carries out sexual acts with a minor or induces a minor to carry out such acts in return for payment or promises of payment. Unofficial English translation available here. 

Combating of Immoral Practices Act (1980)

Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

The Combating of Immoral Practices Act aims to prevent and reduce prostitution and the existence of brothels.  The Act imposes a criminal penalty for keeping a brothel of imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years or imprisonment and a fine. The Act punishes procuring or attempting to procure any female to have unlawful carnal intercourse with imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years. The Act also imposes criminal sentences for offenses related to prostitution and various immoral acts, such as the owner or occupier of a property permitting such acts, living on earnings of prostitution, or enticing someone to commit an immoral act.

Código Penal (Penal Code) (2018)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Forced and early marriage, Gender-based violence in general, LGBTIQ, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

Under section 142 (Crimes against people) of the Portuguese Penal Code, abortion is permitted if performed by a doctor and in the following scenarios: (1) risk of death or grave physical or mental harm to the mother; (2) the fetus is in risk of grave illness or malformation, up to the 24th week of pregnancy; (3) pregnancy was caused by rape or sexual assault, up to the 16th week of pregnancy; (4) by the mother’s choice, up to the 10th week of pregnancy. Article 118 provides that the statute of limitations on crimes of sexual violence and female genital mutilation against minors do not expire until the victim is at least 23 years old. Prostitution is not considered a crime in Portugal. However, the economic exploitation of prostitution by third parties is considered a crime under the Penal Code. A homicide that reveals “especial censurabilidade ou perversidade” (special censorship or perversity) is punishable with 12 – 25 years imprisonment. These special circumstances include a current or former spousal relationship between the perpetrator and victim, a sexual motive, and hate crimes including those based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Article 144a bans female genital mutilation and imposes a prison sentence of two to 18 years. Articles 154b, 159, and 160 ban forced marriage, slavery, and human trafficking, respectively. Article 163 bans sexual coercion, which carries a sentence of one to eight years for coercing a significant sexual act. Article 164 punishes “violação”, which is forcible intercourse, with imprisonment for one to six years.

Criminal Code (2000)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Forced and early marriage, LGBTIQ, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The Belize Criminal Code defines and criminalizes rape, including marital rape (Sections 46, 71-74); carnal knowledge of female child (Section 47); procuring or attempting to procure a woman (Section 49-50); compulsion of marriage (Section 58); incest by males (Section 62); abortion, miscarriage, and child destruction (Sections 111-12, 127).  The Code mandates a minimum sentence of eight years for rape (Section 46), 12 years of carnal knowledge of a female child (Section 47), and a life sentence for habitual sex offenders (Section 48).

Of particular note:

Marital rape under Section 72 requires a showing that the spouses have separated, the marriage is dissolved, an order or injunction has been made, granted or undertaken against the spouse, or that the sexual intercourse was preceded or accompanied by assault and battery.  Lack of consent is not enough if the parties are married.  The Criminal Code also criminalizes same-sex relationships under Section 53, which criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal.”Abortion and the aiding of abortion are felonies and carry a prison term of 14 years to imprisonment for life under Section 111.  There are limited exceptions under Section 112 if two registered medical practitioners agree that the abortion is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother or her family or if the child may be seriously handicapped.

Domestic Case Law

U.S. v. Robinson United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (2012)

Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

A federal grand jury convicted the defendant-appellant of child sex trafficking in violation of 18 U.S.C. A minor victim testified that she started dating the defendant when she was 17 years old but had told him and others that she was 19 years old. She insisted that the defendant was only living off her income as a prostitute and was not a pimp facilitating prostitution.  However, the prosecution introduced videotaped statements in which the defendant repeatedly implored Doe to make money for him and threatened her when she failed to deliver the money. Following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of two counts of sex trafficking of a minor. On appeal, the Second Circuit considered the construction of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(c), an evidentiary provision added by the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (“TVPRA”), which provides that “[i]n a prosecution . . . in which the defendant had a reasonable opportunity to observe [the victim], the Government need not prove that the defendant knew that the person had not attained the age of 18 years.” The Second Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding that this provision imposes strict liability with regard to the defendant’s awareness of the victim’s age and relieves the government’s usual burden to prove knowledge or reckless disregard of the victim’s underage status under § 1591(a). The Second Circuit rejected the defendant’s challenges to this provision as lacking merit and affirmed the judgment of the district court.

X. v. A., 6B_962/2010 Federal Court (2011)

Gender-based violence in general, Sexual violence and rape

A. was a drug-addicted prostitute working in the Sihlquai area in Zurich who agreed to perform certain sexual acts with client X. for a remuneration of Fr. 50. X. took A. to a rented room outside of the city of Zurich where X. beat A. with a whip and forced her to perform violent and humiliating sexual acts. A. claimed not to have agreed to perform these acts with X., while X. countered that they were part of the agreed transaction. X. was sentenced by the Baden District Court to imprisonment for sexually abusing A. X. appealed the verdict and the Canton Aargau Supreme Federal Court dismissed the appeal, finding the preconditions of sexual assault fulfilled. The Supreme Federal Court determined that, even if A. voluntarily agreed to perform certain sexual acts with X., she did not consent to the violent acts and she could not express her refusal in any other manner than verbally and through limited physical resistance. The Supreme Federal Court also found that the client X. could not expect the victim A. to agree to such violent sexual practices, even for remuneration.

Human Trafficking (Isolated Thesis Docket: I.9o.P.144 P (10a.)) Ninth Collegiate Tribunal in Criminal Matters of the First Circuit (2017)

Gender-based violence in general, Trafficking in persons


This isolated thesis is a relevant example of gender perspective case law, as the criteria issued by the collegiate tribunal is binding on such tribunal. In addition, such criteria may also be persuasive in similar cases arising in other federal courts. In this case, the federal court determined that it is a well-known fact that Mexican society discriminates against sex workers. In light of the stigma that sex workers carry, they are subject to continuous pressure from different societal actors, including their nuclear family, to refrain from providing statements or to withdraw initial statements regarding crimes committed against them. The collegiate tribunal held that when a sex-worker case comes before a court, the court must consider a gender perspective in its ruling. As a result, courts must use all available mechanisms in order to obtain irrefutable proof from the victim. The tribunal based its ruling on Article 2(c) and (d) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW):  “(c) to establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination; (d) to refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women and to ensure that public authorities and institutions shall act in conformity with this obligation.”


Esta tesis aislada es un ejemplo relevante de la jurisprudencia de la perspectiva de género, ya que los criterios emitidos por el tribunal colegiado son vinculantes para dicho tribunal. Además, dichos criterios también pueden ser persuasivos en casos similares que surjan en otros tribunales federales. En este caso, el tribunal federal determinó que es un hecho bien conocido que la sociedad mexicana discrimina a las trabajadoras en base a su sexo. En vista del estigma que las trabajadoras sexuales ejercen, están sujetos a la presión continua de diferentes actores sociales, incluida su familia nuclear, para que se abstengan de emitir declaraciones o de retirar declaraciones iniciales sobre los delitos cometidos contra ellas. El tribunal colegiado sostuvo que cuando un caso de trabajadora sexual se presenta ante un tribunal, el tribunal debe considerar una perspectiva de género en su decisión. Como resultado, los tribunales deben usar todos los mecanismos disponibles para obtener pruebas irrefutables de la víctima. El tribunal basó su decisión en el Artículo 2 (c) y (d) de la Convención sobre la Eliminación de Todas las Formas de Discriminación contra la Mujer (CEDAW): “(c) establecer la protección legal de los derechos de las mujeres en igualdad de condiciones con los hombres y asegurar a través de los tribunales nacionales competentes y otras instituciones públicas la protección efectiva de las mujeres contra cualquier acto de discriminación; (d) abstenerse de participar en cualquier acto o práctica de discriminación contra las mujeres y garantizar que las autoridades e instituciones públicas actúen de conformidad con esta obligación."

The Republic v. Banda, et al. High Court of Malawi (2016)

Gender discrimination, Trafficking in persons

On February 23, 2016, 19 women were arrested by police and jointly charged “for the offence of living on the earnings of prostitution” in violation of § 146 of the Penal Code of Malawi (the “Penal Code”) ( ¶ 1.1). A Fourth Grade Magistrate in Dedza convicted them “on their own plea of guilt” and fined them MK 7,000.00 each (¶ 1.2). The police lacked evidence to prove the charge against them. In addition, the women did not have legal representation during the proceedings, including when their guilty plea was recorded. The women challenged the conviction on July 28, 2016 on numerous grounds including (i) that the Fourth Grade Magistrate did not have jurisdiction, (ii) that the women were charged together when they should have been charged separately, (iii) that the High Court should not have accepted a unanimous plea, (iv) that “the charge was wrong in law as living on the earnings of prostitution does not target the sex worker herself” but those who live parasitically and exploitatively off her earnings, and (v) that the plea of guilty should not be accepted because the court did not comply with mandatory procedures regarding the defendants’ knowledge. The High Court found that the Fourth Grade Magistrate did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. In addition, the Court held that the arrest of the women was unconstitutional and not based on evidence. Citing the legislative history of the offense, the Court clarified that § 146 of the Penal Code did not criminalize sex work but was mainly intended to protect sex workers from those who would exploit them. The High Court held that even though sex workers may be arrested in circumstances under this section, the arrest must be properly supported by evidence. Consequently, the High Court vacated the convictions and ordered that fines be repaid to the women. 

Decision 2005Do8130 Supreme Court of South Korea (2006)

Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

The Defendant was running a massage parlor that had hidden rooms with beds where a young female employee massaged the whole body of a male customer. The female employee, usually wearing a short skirt and a short-sleeved tee, would undress the male customer, grab his sexual organ with her hands with lotion on, touch the body part just like engaging in a sexual intercourse, and ultimately let him ejaculate. The issue was whether the act of the female employee in the Defendant’s parlor could be considered as "acts that are similar to sexual intercourse" under Article 2 (1) 1 sub paragraph Na of the Act on the Punishment of Acts of Arranging Sexual Traffic. The Act, which aimed to eradicate prostitution and protect the human rights of the victims of prostitution, did not distinguish “sexual intercourse” from “acts that are similar to sexual intercourse”. The Supreme Court interpreted "acts that are similar to sexual intercourse" as stipulated in the above Act to refer to acts of penetrating the body through the mouth or the anus, or at least acts for gaining sexual satisfaction similar to sexual intercourse. Then the Court went through a comprehensive evaluation of the circumstances, including the place where such act was conducted, the clothes the people were wearing, the body parts that were touched, the specific content of the act, and the degree of the resulting sexual satisfaction to decide whether the female employee’s act could be considered as “acts that are similar to sexual intercourse”. The Supreme Court held that the female employee’s act could be deemed as an act of bodily contact for gaining sexual satisfaction similar to sexual intercourse, and therefore dismissed the appeal by the Defendant.

State of Maharashtra v. Indian Hotel & Restaurants Association Supreme Court of India (2013)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The Bombay Police Act, 1951 was amended in 2005 with the object of securing public order, morality, dignity of women, and reducing exploitation of women including trafficking of minor girls. Section 33A was inserted that prohibited performance of all types of dance in eating houses or permit rooms or beer bars. Section 33B was inserted that permitted three star hotels and Government associated places of entertainment to hold dance performances. The Indian Hotel & Restaurants Association filed a writ petition challenging Section 33A of the Bombay Police Act, 1951 before the Bombay High Court on the grounds that such prohibition: (a) discriminates against women employed to dance in eateries and bars and those employed to dance in three star hotels and government establishments; (b) interferes with their right to work and right to earn a livelihood, and thus is violative of the Indian Constitution. The Bombay High Court held that Section 33A is violative of Articles 14 (equality) and 19(1)(g) (right to work), of the Indian Constitution. The Government of Maharashtra filed an appeal before the Supreme Court and prayed that the terms “All dance” found in Section 33A be read down to mean “dances which are obscene and derogatory to the dignity of women” instead of striking it off altogether to ensure that the right to work of women is not interfered with. The Supreme Court upheld the judgement of the Bombay High Court. It declared that Section 33A violates Article 14 the Constitution of India on the ground that such law is based on an unacceptable presumption that the so-called elite (i.e. rich and the famous) have higher standards of decency, morality or strength of character than their counterparts who have to content themselves with lesser facilities of inferior quality in the dance bars. It declared that Section 33A violates Article 19(1)(g) on the ground that it interferes with the right of women to work and that, contrary to the ban’s purpose, it resulted in forcing some women into prostitution. The Court further urged the government to take affirmative action to ensure the safety and improve the working conditions of the persons working as bar dancers who primarily constitute of women.

Sentencia Número 677 (Ruling 677) Provincial Court of Madrid (2012)

Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

In 2010, Spain amended its Penal Code by enacting Article 177 to prohibit human trafficking. Spain did so in response to international human rights agreements regarding human trafficking. This ruling was the first conviction under this new article. Two women reported to authorities that the defendants had lured them from Paraguay under false pretenses, forced them to work as prostitutes, and physically and emotionally assaulted them. The Provincial Court of Madrid found that the defendants' actions constituted: 1) crimes against the rights of foreign nationals (Article 318 bis), 2) human trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation (Article 177 bis), 3) solicitation by coercion to commit prostitution (Article 188.1), and 4) sexual assault (Article 179). According to the court, the fact that the defendants promoted, encouraged, or facilitated illegal immigration with the intention of using the women for prostitution was enough to find criminal sexual exploitation. The court found the victims’ testimony to be credible, realistic, and consistent, and used their testimony as the base for this decision.

En 2010, España modificó su Código Penal al promulgar el artículo 177 para prohibir la trata de personas. España lo hizo en respuesta a los acuerdos internacionales de derechos humanos relativos a la trata de personas. Esta sentencia fue la primera condena en virtud de este nuevo artículo. Dos mujeres informaron a las autoridades que los acusados las habían atraído desde Paraguay con falsas pretensiones, las obligaron a trabajar como prostitutas, y las agredieron física y emocionalmente. El Tribunal Provincial de Madrid determinó que las acciones de los demandados constituían: 1) delitos contra los derechos de los extranjeros (artículo 318 bis), 2) trata de personas con fines de explotación sexual (artículo 177 bis), 3) solicitud por coacción para cometer prostitución (artículo 188.1), y 4) agresión sexual (artículo 179). Según el tribunal, el hecho de que los acusados promovieron, alentaron o facilitaron la inmigración ilegal con la intención de utilizar a las mujeres para la prostitución fue suficiente para encontrar la explotación sexual criminal. El tribunal determinó que el testimonio de las víctimas era creíble, realista, y coherente, y utilizó su testimonio como base para esta decisión.

Ministerio Publico v. Jose Luis Castro Juzgado de Garantia de Antofagasta (Warranty Court), Antofagasta (2007)

Trafficking in persons

The defendant was charged with trafficking in persons. He was accused of recruiting Peruvian women to come to Chile, where they then were engaged in prostitution. The defendant used an employment agency in Peru to recruit the women, who signed labor contracts to serve as waitresses in the defendant’s premises. The women victims were forced to wear provocative clothing and drink alcohol with the premises’ clients. There also was prostitution at the premises. The defendant was found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison.

Kamau v. Republic High Court of Kenya at Nakuru (2004)

Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was convicted of rape and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment with hard labor and six strokes of a cane.  The complainant testified that on the day of the incident, she met the appellant at a bar and agreed to spend the night with him for a sum of money. The appellant took her to a house where he and two colleagues raped the complainant all night in turns.  The appellant testified at trial that they had an "arrangement" with the complainant and did not rape her.  The complainant testified that she had withdrawn her consent before intercourse with the appellant and his co-perpetrators.  The morning after, the complainant escaped the house to report the rapes to the police and received treatment for her injuries at a hospital.  Ruling on the appeal, the High Court found that that the complainant withdrew her initial consent before the sexual act and that the appellant is guilty of rape.  The Court also reduced the sentence to six years imprisonment and set aside the corporal punishment, which was outlawed by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2003.  

U1991.534H Supreme Court of Denmark (1991)

Sexual violence and rape

The defendant was found guilty of multiple rapes and sentenced to five and a half years of imprisonment.  He was found guilty of threatening his victims with a knife, hitting them, holding them in a stranglehold and threatening them with death.  Four of his victims were prostitutes.   The Supreme Court awarded compensation to two rape victims who had been denied such compensation by the High Court because they were prostitutes. 

Lim Boon Tak et al. v. Public Prosecutor High Court of Brunei (1997)

Trafficking in persons

The Court reviewed a guilty verdict against defendants under the Women and Girls Protection Act and Passport Act for forcibly bringing two women into Brunei for the purposes of prostitution.  The Court found that the Magistrate judge was did not err in relying on testimonial evidence if that evidence was found to be reliable.

International Case Law

Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford Supreme Court of Canada (2013)

Employment discrimination

Three women challenged three Canadian Criminal Code provisions that indirectly restricted the practice of prostitution by criminalizing various related activities. Section 210, which prohibited the operation of common “bawdy-houses,” prevented prostitutes from offering their services out of fixed indoor locations such as brothels. Section 212, which prohibited “living off the avails” of prostitution, prevented anyone, including “pimps,” from profiting from another’s prostitution. Section 213, which prohibited “communicating” for the purpose of prostitution in public, prevented prostitutes from offering their services in public, particularly on the streets. On December 20, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously decided that all three laws were unconstitutional, reasoning that the laws infringe on sex worker’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by depriving them of “security of the person” in a way that is not in accordance with the “principles of fundamental justice.” Starting from the position that prostitution is legal in Canada, the Court declared that the three laws: “Do not merely impose conditions on how prostitutes operate. They go a critical step further, by imposing dangerous conditions on prostitution; they prevent people engaged in a risky – but legal – activity from taking steps to protect themselves from the risks.”