Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

R.A. v. N.C. Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (2018)

Gender discrimination

The complainant was a Muslim woman who wore a hijab covering her hair.  While the complainant and the respondent were in a residential elevator, the defendant made disrespectful remarks to the complainant about the complainant’s presumed religion.The two did not know each other – the complainant’s hijab was the only way for the defendant to identify her religion.  The complainant sought an apology.  Video evidence was submitted at trial from CCTV.  Importantly, there was an additional individual in the lift.  As a result of this witness, the tribunal was able to find that the defendant had committed a “public act” for the purposes of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld).  However, the tribunal ultimately did not find for the complainant as the words used were determined by the tribunal to not, in fact, result in religious vilification as the additional individual in the lift did not react to the words. This case is relevant as it goes directly to ongoing discrimination women may face in Australia as a result of expressing their religion (through, for example, wearing a hijab).



RRT Case No. 1101038 Refugee Review Tribunal (2011)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Forced and early marriage, Harmful traditional practices

The applicant appealed a decision denying her a protection visa. The applicant demonstrated evidence that if she returned to Uganda, she would be forced to undergo FGM.  The applicant was a member of the Sabiny tribe, meaning her father’s family had the right under Ugandan law to take her away from her mother and compel her to obey traditional practices, including FGM. She further testified that if she returned to Uganda there would be a risk of abuse as she was a Christian, which was not accepted in her family village. Furthermore, when she was 12, her family found a potential husband for her, a witchdoctor who believed in Satan and professed sacrificing people to achieve a particular objective. She was therefore afraid that if she returned to Uganda, she would be forced to marry this individual, who believed that sacrificing people could bring him power and money. The tribunal found that the applicant was a person to whom Australia owed protection obligations.



Ekhamanzi Springs Ltd. v. Mnomiya Labor Appeal Court of South Africa (2014)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The respondent was employed by the appellant to bottle Aquelle spring water. The appellant’s plant was located on property belonging to a religious mission, and to gain access to the workplace, the appellant’s employees had to cross the mission’s property. The mission’s security guards were instructed to bar entry to any persons who did not comply with its code of conduct; one provision, for example, prohibited “amorous relationships between any two persons outside of marriage”. The respondent and a colleague were denied access because they became pregnant outside of marriage. Consequently, the respondent and her colleague were not able to access the workplace, as they were refused access to the mission’s property. They were subsequently fired. The court ruled that the dismissal of the respondent employee was automatically unfair because she had been dismissed for her pregnancy. The court noted that all persons have a constitutional right to equality. Discriminatory dismissals, such as this one, are accordingly automatically unfair and higher compensation is allowed in such cases. Employers are obliged to avoid discriminating against employees directly or indirectly  ̶  protection against being discriminated against on the ground of pregnancy is not a preserve of married women. An agreement that denies pregnant employees access to the workplace is accordingly prima facie unenforceable unless it can be justified on grounds consistent with constitutional norms. The mission’s code of conduct interfered with the employment relationship between the appellant and its employees and created a situation in which breaches could lead to dismissal. Such provisions blurred the line between the appellant’s terms and conditions of employment and the mission’s code.  That the employee was not a party to the mission’s code proved decisive. As lessee, the appellant had legal remedies to compel the mission to allow full use and enjoyment of the leased property. The appellant’s faint plea of operational necessity could not serve as a defense because it had failed to exercise its rights as lessee to protect its pregnant employees. The employee had tendered her services, and the appellant’s refusal to accept the tender constituted a breach of contract. The court further held that the appellant’s acquiescence in the mission’s discriminatory practice of barring unwed pregnant women from the leased premises violated the appellant’s constitutional duty to treat its employees fairly and was a breach of its common law duty to accept the employees into service. The court, therefore, confirmed that the employee had been dismissed and that her dismissal was automatically unfair. The court also confirmed the remedy of 12 months’ compensation.



International Case Law

D.T. v. Canada Human Rights Committee (ICCPR) (2017)

Harmful traditional practices, Honor crimes (or honour crimes), International law

D.T., a Christian born in Nigeria, married a Muslim.  Her parents were against the marriage, and when she was pregnant, they threatened to kill the baby.  After her husband died, she was forced to drink the water used to bathe his corpse and to sleep in the room with the corpse for three days.  With help, she escaped and traveled to Canada where she gave birth to her son.  Her son suffers from conditions, including a heart murmur, malformation of his meniscus and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  D.T. applied for asylum, but Canada denied her application because it found that she failed to provide materials or documentation establishing her identity and her claims.  Canada dismissed her application for judicial review and ordered her to leave Canada with her seven-year-old son.  To the Committee, D.T. argued that Canada’s decision violated articles 17 and 23(1) of the Covenant, that her son is also the victim of a violation of article 24(1), and that they face a risk of irreparable harm if deported to Nigeria, which has education and health care facilities inadequate to meet her son’s needs.  Further, if her son remained in Canada as a citizen, it would result in family separation from his sole caregiver.  The Committee concluded that given that there was no evidence that that the child had any alternative adult support network in Canada, it was foreseeable that D.T. would take her son to Nigeria.  Therefore, Canada did not adequately explain why its legitimate objective in upholding its immigration policy should have outweighed the best interests of the D.T.’s child nor how that objective could justify the degree of hardship that confronted the family because of the decision to deport the mother.  Acting under article 5(4) of the Optional Protocol, the Committee found the removal resulted in arbitrary interference with the right to family life in breach of article 17(1) and article 23(1) of the covenant with respect to D.T. and her son, and that it violated article 24 due to a failure to provide her son with the necessary measures of protection owed to him by Canada.  Canada was ordered to provide D.T. with an effective re-evaluation of her claims, based on an assessment of the best interests of the child, including his health and educational needs, and to provide her with adequate compensation.  The Committee stated that Canada also is under an obligation to avoid similar violations in the future and to publish the Views and have them widely disseminated in Canada in French and English.