Zimbabwe’s new 2013 Constitution addressed women’s rights and gender equality, and its bill of rights addressed damaging cultural and discriminatory practices. A gender commission was also established to accelerate the implementation of provisions related to women. More specifically, the Constitution recognized gender equality and women’s rights among Zimbabwe’s founding values and principles. It mandated that the State and all its institutions consider gender equality in laws and policy, to implement measures that provide care and assistance to mothers, and to grant women opportunities to work. The State must also prevent domestic violence, ensure marriages are consensual, and that there are equal rights in marriages. In the event of dissolution of marriage, the State must provide for the rights of spouses and children. The state is also obliged to afford girls and boys equal educational opportunities. The bill of rights specifically stipulates that women are equal to men, including deserving equal opportunities in political, economic, and social activities. Provision was also made for legislative seats reserved for women in the National Assembly. Finally, gender equality must be considered in making judicial appointments.
Women and Justice: Keywords
Section 7 (Gender Equity, Equality and Empowerment) provides for: (a) gender equality through gender policy aimed at the elimination of structural gender biases and increased participation in education; (b) strengthening the activities of Ministry of Gender Development and women’s rights NGOs; (c) adequate protection from violence through penal and civil sanctions; (d) protection of female children, notably from female genital mutilation, early marriage, and teenage pregnancy; (e) increasing women’s participation in labour force and policy and economic institutions; (f) elimination of legal and customary practices which are barriers to ownership of land, capital and other property; and (g) establishing reproductive health services.
Appellant (who was 38 years of age at the time of the offences) appealed a sentence of imprisonment for kidnapping, disfiguring with intent to injury and wounding with intent to injure the complainant (who was 17 years of age at the time of the offences). The complainant and appellant began a relationship after the complainant left the care of Child, Youth and Family (Ministry for Vulnerable Children). The appellant accused the complainant of sexually assaulting his daughter. As punishment for the sexual assault and a condition for continuing their relationship, he convinced the complainant to allow him to break her finger with a rock. He subsequently subjected the complainant to other physical abuse, after which she fled to a neighbor for help. The appellant argued at the Court of Appeal that a High Court Judge had wrongly withheld the defense of consent on the charge of wounding with intent to injure. The Court dismissed the appeal and concluded that it was possible to eliminate the defense of consent depending on the specific facts of the case. In this case, the Court found it permissible to eliminate the defense of consent because of the power imbalance between the parties, the fact that the complainant acquiesced because of a threat to their relationship, the gravity of domestic violence, and the severity of the injury.
Gülsim Genç petitioned the court of first instance to allow her to use her maiden name only, which the Turkish Civil Code prohibits. The court had previously filed an unsuccessful application to the Constitutional Court to annul this provision and, therefore, dismissed Genç’s petition accordingly. Genç appealed to the court of appeals, which affirmed the court of first instance’s dismissal. Genç then filed an application to the Court. The Court referred to Article 17 of Turkish Constitution, which reads as follows: “every person has the right to preserve and improve one’s existence, both materially and spiritually.” Genç asserted that her surname formed part of this spiritual existence. The Court acknowledged that rights and freedoms may be limited under certain conditions, and when a limitation is placed on those rights, the Court should assess whether such limitation is permitted by law. Under Turkish law, if a contradiction exists between Turkish codes and international agreements on fundamental rights and freedoms, such international agreement shall prevail and apply to the case at hand. The European Court of Human Rights’ rulings indicate that forbidding women to use their maiden name violates the European Convention of Human Rights’ non-discrimination article. The Court remanded the case to the court of first instance for proceedings consistent with the Convention to the extent that the Turkish code violates the Convention. The Court repeatedly referenced the application by Sevim Akat Eşki, which is an indication that similar future rulings may result.
The applicant petitioned the court of first instance to allow her to use her maiden name only, which the Turkish Civil Code prohibits. The court had previously filed an unsuccessful application to the Constitutional Court to annul this provision and, therefore, dismissed Eşki’s petition accordingly. Eşki then filed an individual application to the Court asserting discrimination and other violations. The Court referred to Article 17 of Turkish Constitution, which reads as follows: “every person has the right to preserve and improve one’s existence, both materially and spiritually.” Eşki asserted that her surname formed part of this spiritual existence. The Court acknowledged that rights and freedoms may be limited under certain conditions, and when a limitation is placed on those rights, the Court should assess whether such limitation is permitted by law. Under Turkish law, if a contradiction exists between Turkish codes and international agreements on fundamental rights and freedoms, such international agreement shall prevail and apply to the case at hand. The European Court of Human Rights’ rulings indicate that forbidding women to use their maiden name violates the European Convention of Human Rights’ non-discrimination article. The Court remanded the case to the court of first instance for proceedings consistent with the Convention to the extent that the Turkish code violates the Convention.
The Turkish Civil Code permits a married woman to use her maiden name only if the maiden name is used in conjunction with her husband’s surname. Three applicants, each in separate petitions to courts of first instance, sought to use their maiden names only. The courts of first instance applied to the Constitutional Court, which denied the request because the legislature did not abuse its discretion in determining that the husband’s surname should be the family surname, and this did not violate the Constitution’s equality principle. The Court reasoned that surnames are important for identifying not only the individual, but also the family and ancestry. Consequently, the law requiring women to take their husbands’ surnames benefits public welfare and order. The Court also reasoned that having (the husband’s) surname is a personal right that cannot be renounced or alienated. Moreover, the fact that the surname is an individual right does not mean that the legislature cannot act to ensure public welfare and order. The Constitution states that the family is the foundation of the Turkish society and requires the State to promulgate necessary regulations to preserve the family.
The applicant pleaded guilty before the Circuit Court of Westmoreland for the offence of having sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 16, in violation of section 10(1) of the Sexual Offences Act. He was in a serious relationship with the underage girl, but the matter was brought to the attention of the police when the complainant discovered she was pregnant and there was a dispute regarding the defendant’s paternity (tests showed he indeed was the father). He then argued that he was lured and tempted by the complainant, who would attend to his shop in revealing clothes and make sexual advances to him. The grounds for the defendant’s application was that the four-year sentence was manifestly excessive and that the judge was obliged to indicate, as a matter of law, the sentence that would have been imposed if the applicant had been convicted at trial and use that as a starting point for taking into account the fact that the applicant had plead guilty. In addition, his counsel highlighted as mitigating factors: the girl was just six months away from the age of consent and the sexual intercourse was consensual. His counsel also argued that the judge did not take into consideration the character and antecedents of the applicant, as well as the classic sentencing principles of retribution, deterrence, prevention and rehabilitation. However, the Court decided that, although the indication of a starting point for sentencing would have been desirable, they do not see the omission as being fatal to the reasoning underlying the sentencing. They also highlighted that it’s clear that Parliament has recognized this offence as a serious one, and their commitment against it. This case is particularly important because the Court stated that Jamaica has particular difficulties in dealing with offences involving young girls constantly being abused and exploited by older men, and that they have to get the message out that the children must be allowed to transition into adulthood without any molestation. Furthermore, the court stated that the pregnancy of the girl must not be taken as a mitigating factor, because that would send the message that a man who gets the girl pregnant is likely to be treated more favorably by the Court. Finally, the Court insisted that these pronouncements, in the context of the alarming local circumstances, should be guiding principles in sentencing these matters and cases.
Defendant, an 18-year-old man, was convicted of rape and sentenced to one year in prison. The question for the Supreme Court was whether the jail sentence was too long, given the defendant’s age. The Supreme Court noted that that the punishment for rape of the “normal degree” (Sw. normalgraden) is between two and four years’ imprisonment. Normally, courts reduce jail sentences by fifty percent when the defendant is 18 years old. However, for long jail sentences, the courts have discretion to further reduce the punishment. The court also recognized that punishments other than jail sentences also may be considered. Given the crime, the court determined that community service was inappropriate, but reduced the defendant’s sentence to probation and three months’ imprisonment. Though rape is a serious offense, the Supreme Court adhered to the principle that imprisoning young individuals should be avoided, to the extent possible.
Petitioner, an Indonesian male, challenged the constitutionality of a marriage law requiring monogamy with an exception that allows polygamy only with the consent of the wife and the permission of the court (Law Number 1 Year 1974 regarding Marriage). The law requires the husband to submit an application to the court of his domicile with his wife’s consent in order to engage in polygamy. Petitioner argued that because the law required the husband to obtain consent from his wife and the court before engaging in polygamy, it violated his right to freely exercise his religion because the teachings of Islam allow polygamy. The government argued that Islamic principles encourage monogamy and only allow polygamy when a wife allows her husband to re-marry for the benefit of their marriage. The court held that the practice of polygamy historically had degraded the status of women and the teachings of Islam required the preservation of the dignity of women. In addition, since the purpose of marriage is to “achieve peacefulness (sakinah),” men are required to first obtain their wives’ consent before engaging in polygamy, thus respecting their wives as legally equal partners. Therefore, the Court rejected petitioner’s claims and held the laws constitutional as they guarantee the recognition of women’s rights and allow husbands to exercise polygamy in accordance with the teachings of Islam.