Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

Israel v. Ben-Hayim Supreme Court (2005)

Gender discrimination

The respondent, the manager of the Postmen Department at the Benei Berak branch of the Postal Authority, was acquitted of sexually harassing and victimizing a temporary employee, but convicted of unbecoming conduct. The Civil Service Disciplinary Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) found that the respondent promised to a promotion to the complainant, that he had conducted a sexual relationship with the complainant, and that he tried to prevent the complainant from making a complaint against him, which stated that he visited her apartment for several months and had sexual intercourse with her against her will. As a result, the complainant felt exploited and humiliated. The Tribunal held that the State failed to prove that the respondent abused his authority. The Tribunal then approved the sentencing agreement that the parties reached, although it admitted it was lenient. On appeal by the state, the Supreme Court held that the respondent’s power to influence the professional future of the workers was considerable and that he held a position of considerable power over the complainant, who was 22 years old at the time of the conduct while the respondent was 20 years older than her, which added to the his control. It follows that the complainant consented to the sexual acts was given because the respondent abused his authority over her, and therefore it was not a voluntary and genuine consent but instead “prohibited consensual intercourse.” The Court stated that “abuse of authority” need not involve a direct threat; in sexual harassment cases such abuse may be “express or implied, direct or indirect” and is no less potent if it is “in a veiled manner.” The Court added a one-year suspension from any managerial position to the sentence imposed by the lower Tribunal, explaining that this still amounted to a lenient punishment for the offense committed.

Wilcox v. Corrections Corp. of America Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (2015)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Wilcox worked as a corrections officer at McRae Correctional Facility with her husband. After her husband was fired, Wilcox alleged that she was subject to sexual harassment by her supervisor. She alleged that her supervisor caressed her, touched her thighs and referred to them in evocative language, slapped her buttocks in front of other employees, and discussed his female friend’s genitalia with her. Wilcox complained to the EEOC that her supervisor’s actions created a hostile work environment. The Circuit Court agreed, citing that all five requirements for hostile work environment were met: 1) that the complainant belong to a protected group 2) that the complainant was subject to sexual harassment 3) the harassment was based on the sex of the complainant 4) the harassment was sufficiently pervasive or severe to change the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment 5) a basis for holding the employer liable.

State v. Girardier Missouri Court of Appeals (2015)

Sexual harassment

Defendant was convicted of misdemeanor trespassing after he stayed for several hours in a women’s restroom at a gas station. Numerous store employees entered during the two hours he was in the restroom and told him that there was no smoking, as he smelled like smoke. During these encounters, the store personnel were under the impression the defendant was female as he disguised his voice to mimic a woman’s. When the defendant did not leave, the police arrived and escorted the defendant out of the restroom. The defendant gave the police consent to search him and they found lotion and a pornographic magazine; the defendant was then arrested. The trial court found him guilty of the misdemeanor trespass and sentenced him to six months in jail. The defendant appealed citing an error in denying his motion for acquittal and for exclusion of the lotion and pornographic magazine. The appellate court found that the lotion was relevant as to motive for remaining unlawfully and also relevant to whether his presence was an accident which undermines his defense. Accordingly, the evidence was lawfully admitted and the conviction stood.

Hill v. Cundiff Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (2015)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

Doe, a 14 year old eighth grader, was raped at school by 15 year old eight grader CJC who had a prior history of sexual harassment at school. The school’s policy on sexual harassment was to accept only three types of evidence as demonstrative of sexual harassment: catching the harasser in the act, physical evidence of the harassment, or an admission of guilt by the harasser. Doe was instructed by a teacher’s aide to lure CJC into a bathroom as a “rape-bait” sting to catch him in the act of sexual harassment. There, CJC anally penetrated Doe against her will before teachers could arrive to catch CJC pursuant to their plan. Doe filed a complaint against the school board and school administrators with a myriad of claims including a 42 U.S.C. §1983 claim for violation of the Equal Protection Clause. While the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the principal and school officials on the §1983 claims, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reviewed the case de novo and reversed the summary judgment. The Eleventh Circuit determined that the principal deprived Doe of equal protection through his deliberate indifference to inadequate sexual harassment policies. The Court also reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the school officials who suggested and acquiesced to the sting operation: the court found that they were not entitled to immunity because any reasonable government official would know that the plan violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

Supreme Court Decision 2007Du22498 Supreme Court of South Korea (2008)

Gender-based violence in general

Plaintiff, who was a credit card company’s Branch Head, repetitively committed acts of sexual harassment over 14 times (hugging, calling at night, asking for massage, etc.) against eight female employees who were under his control and supervision. The company terminated Plaintiff from employment on the grounds that he harmed teamwork by sexually harassing the female employees. However, as to Plaintiff's application of remedy for the first disciplinary dismissal, the Seoul Regional Labor Relations Commission acknowledged the first termination as unjust and ordered to restore him in his former position based on the excessiveness of discipline and defect in disciplinary procedure. The company revoked the first termination in accordance with the above remedy order and restored Plaintiff to employment. Thereafter, the company terminated Plaintiff from employment the second time based on additional facts that he hugged a female employee and persuaded female employees to keep his conducts secret and rationalize his conducts against the instruction of the company. The lower court ruled that the company’s termination of Plaintiff’s employment was unjust based on the reasoning that although the plaintiff's above acts could have caused the female employees to be sexually humiliated, some female employees regarded them as mere encouragement. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment below and demanded the lower court for a new trial on the following grounds: (1) A dismissal can be justified if the employee's fault is so serious that employment relationship with him cannot be continued in light of ordinary social norms. According to Article 2 (2) of the former Act on the Equal Employment for Both Sexes (amended by Act No. 7564 of May 31, 2005), the term "sexual harassment on the job" means that an employer, superior or co-worker makes another worker feel sexually humiliated or offended by sexual words or actions by utilizing his or her position within the working place or in relation with duties, or providing disadvantages in employment on account of disobedience to the sexual words or actions and any other demands. The prerequisite of "sexual words or actions" means actions such as sexual relation, or other sexual, oral and visual actions which make an ordinary and average person in the same position with the other party objectively feel sexual humiliation or offensive feelings in light of sound common sense and customs of the community. For the above sexual harassment to be established, the actors do not necessarily have to have a sexual motive or intent, but in consideration of specific relation of the parties, place of actions and circumstances, the other party's explicit or presumed response as to the action, contents and degree of the action, frequency and duration of the action, there must be actions which make an ordinary and average person in the same position with the other party objectively feel sexual humiliation or offensive feelings, and it must be acknowledged that the other party actually felt sexual humiliation or offensive feelings. (2) In a case such as this where a certain sexual harassment was so serious or repeated from the objective perspective of an ordinary and average person in the same position as to aggravate the working condition, the employer may become liable as to the victimized worker. Sexual harassers, if allowed to continue to work without a disciplinary dismissal, could aggravate a work environment to the degree where the victimized worker cannot tolerate it. Therefore if the disciplinary dismissal was imposed upon the worker who was responsible to such degree, it cannot be viewed as an abuse of a disciplinary right unless the disposition is acknowledged as patently unfair from an objective standpoint. (3) Plaintiff committed sexual harassment on the job to eight female employees who were under his control and supervision, repeatedly taking advantage of his superior position over 14 times for a certain period of time. Even if such sexual harassment happened without the female employees’ special awareness as it was triggered from an ordinary daily attitude formed by distorted social customs or culture on the job, such an excuse could not relieve the person from the seriousness of his behavior.

Supreme Court Decision 2015Do6980 Supreme Court of South Korea (2015)

Sexual violence and rape

Defendant was roaming the street after drinking alone at night. He followed Victim (a 17-year-old girl) getting off the bus and walking alone. Upon nearing a desolated place, Defendant approached the Victim, while wearing and mask, holding both of his arms high to hug her. Sensing someone behind her, the Victim turned around and yelled “What are you doing?” to which the Defendant remained still and stared for a few seconds before retreating. Defendant was indicted on attempting to assault a child or juvenile which is in violation of the Act on the Protection of Children and Juveniles against Sexual Abuse. The first instance court found the Defendant guilty but the appeals court reversed the first instance judgment and acquitted Defendant. The Prosecutor then appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held the crime of indecent act by force includes an indecent act committed after making the other party unable to resist by use of violence or threat and the act of assault itself is considered as an indecent act, and such assault is not confined to the extent of suppressing the other party’s will. An indecent act refers to an act that deviates from sexual moral norms causing a victim to feel shame or disgust, and violating the victim’s sexual freedom. Whether such crime is established should be carefully determined by factoring in: the victim’s reciprocity, gender, and age; relationship between the victim and perpetrator prior to the act; circumstances leading to the act; means and method used to commit the act; objective circumstances; and sexual moral norms at the time. In addition, the crime of attempted indecent act by force is established when the act of violence with the intention to commit an indecent act does not lead to actual commission of indecent act, and this legal principle applies to cases of “indecent act by surprise” where the act of assault in itself is acknowledged as an indecent act. Accordingly, Defendant was charged of violating the Act on the Protection of Children and Juveniles against Sexual Abuse.

Freescale Semiconductor Malaysia SDN BHD (Appellant) v. Edwin Michael Jalleh (First Respondent), and Mahkamah Perusahaan Malaysia Court of Appeal Malaysia at Putrajaya (2012)

Employment discrimination

The First Respondent Edwin Michael Jalleh was a senior manufacturing supervisor at the Appellant, and he deliberately touched the buttocks of Intan Nurulain, while she was working at the saw machine. Jalleh was a supervisor on the floor. The administrative inquiry found the allegation to be proved, and he was issued a letter of dismissal from the Appellant. The First Respondent filed a claim under Section 20 of the Industrial Relations Act 1967 that his services had been terminated without just cause or excuse. He sought, among other things, reinstatement. The Industrial Court ordered that the First Respondent be accorded with backwages and compensation in lieu reinstatement, because the punishment of dismissal was too harsh. The High Court dismissed the application by the Appellant for judicial review to quash the award of the Industrial Court. The Court of Appeal, in this case, stated that the germane consideration in industrial relations is that the remedy imposed is warranted and not disproportionate to the misconduct committed, and that consideration must be taken not only of matters concerning the interests of the party who committed the misconduct, but also the whole of the circumstances in the interest of maintenance of good industrial relations in the workplace. The Court of Appeal provided that the Industrial Court failed to take into account that the offense of the sexual misconduct was not committed by a peer, but rather by a superior, which increased the magnitude of the misconduct. Further, an award to the First Respondent (i.e., the person who committed the sexual harassment) in lieu of his reinstatement imposes an unfair punishment upon the Appellant (i.e., the employer), when the misconduct is not the act of or contributed by the employer, but solely a personal act of the employee. As such, the Court of Appeal set aside the order of the High Court and the award of the Industrial Court.

Public Prosecutor v. Billy Metussin High Court of Brunei (1993)

Gender discrimination, Gender violence in conflict, Gender-based violence in general, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The defendant pleaded not guilty to one charge of attempted rape of an 11 years and 10 months old female, under section 376(1) of the Penal Code. The court found that the complainant gave different versions as to the events that occurred. It found the complainant’s evidence unreliable. The court concluded that the complainant was the initiator of the events that led to the attempted intercourse. The court found that there was an attempt at sexual intercourse. In view of medical evidence that revealed that the hymen was intact and that ejaculation may have occurred outside the complainant, the court found doubt as to whether penetration occurred. The court highlighted that consent was not a defense to rape as the complainant was under the age of 14 at the time at issue. Nonetheless, consent becomes relevant to punishment, as a minimum sentence is prescribed for rape which occurs “without the consent of the victim”. The court found that the complainant gave her consent to the defendant’s attempt to have sexual intercourse with her and that she gave a real consent, not vitiated by immaturity or by any of the other factors specified in section 90 P.C. The court convicted the defendant of attempted rape and imposed sentences of one year imprisonment and three strokes.

Public Prosecutor v. Mohd Tamin Bin HJ Ahmad Intermediate Court of Brunei (1995)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender-based violence in general

The defendant pleaded not guilty to three charges consisting of (i) attempted rape, under section 376 of the Penal Code, (ii) causing harm, under section 323 of the Penal Code, and (iii) theft of personal property, under section 379 of the Penal Code. The court found the complainant credible, and her version of the events consistent with a note she wrote shortly after the incident and her evidence in court, despite minor discrepancies and details left out in the note. On the contrary, the court found the defendant’s version far-fetched and unacceptable. Corroborating evidence for the complainant included her distressed condition as observed by a witness immediately after the incident, her note, the injuries a doctor found on her and the discovery of her torn underwear on the road-side. The court found that the defendant made an effort to have sexual intercourse with the complainant against her will and without her consent. The court convicted the defendant of (i) attempted rape, with a sentence of six years imprisonment and four strokes, (ii) causing hurt, with a sentence of one month imprisonment and (iii) theft, with a sentence of three months imprisonment. The sentences were to run concurrently.

Public Prosecutor v. Zulkifli Bin Sabang Intermediate Court of Brunei (1993)

Statutory rape or defilement

The defendant pleaded not guilty to three charges of rape of a 12 year old female, under section 376 of the Penal Code. The complainant alleged that the defendant penetrated her on all three occasions. However, with regard to the first and second occasions, the complainant’s evidence was uncorroborated. As the court was not prepared to convict in the absence of evidence of penetration, the defendant was acquitted on both the first and second charges. The court accepted that there was some corroboration on the third charge, including a DNA report in connection with a pregnancy and an ‘admission’ by the defendant made to a witness who the court found truthful. The court believed the complainant that she did not consent to the sexual intercourse with the defendant, noting that because consent is not defense to a rape of an individual under the age of 14 years, the complainant’s consent was relevant only to the sentencing. The court held that the third charge was proven beyond reasonable doubt against the defendant and convicted him accordingly. The court imposed a sentence of nine years imprisonment with 14 strokes.

Tirivanhu Ndoziva v. The State High Court of Zimbabwe (2011)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was convicted of two counts of rape for allegedly raping two girls, aged 4 and 8 years, respectively. He was sentenced to 10 years on each count, with five years suspended for five years on condition of good behavior. The appellant appealed against the convictions and the sentences. It was accepted that the two girls were sexually interfered with, which both confirmed through testimony. Both girls were (i) examined by a doctor, who observed attenuation of the hymen and a deep notch on both girls and (ii) able to identify the appellant as the perpetrator to the police. The court was satisfied with the identification, finding that the appellant was correctly convicted. The appellant argued that the sentence was too harsh. The court found that numerous factors were considered before sentencing. It held that the appellant did not use gratuitous violence, and was entitled to some leniency. The court ruled that the sentence imposed was unduly harsh and induced a sense of shock. The sentence was overturned and substituted for 10 years imprisonment, with two years suspended for five years on condition the appellant does not within this period commit any offence of a sexual nature for which he is sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine.

Expediente 07-200123-0306-PE Tribunal de Apelación de Sentencia del Tercer Circuito Judicial de Alajuela, Sección Tercera (2013)

Sexual violence and rape

The public defender is appealing a conviction of sexual assault on behalf of his client. The appeal argues that (1) the facts alleged are imprecise and ambiguous (e.g., how is it possible to restrain someone’s arms while touching them at the same time?) and (2) the sexual contact was consensual because there was no evidence of the victim’s fighting back, she didn’t scream for help, had no injuries or physical signs of assault. Given the alleged failure to show that the contact was not consensual, the public defender argues that a charge of sexual harassment would be more appropriate, since the defendant was the victim’s employer. The court rejected the appeal, stating that the burden is not on the victim to show physical or objective signs of nonconsent; rather, the burden is on the defendant to show that the victim consented, which he failed to do. The court notes that victims are not obligated to display certain actions or behaviors to prove they did not consent to sexual contact. The court also notes that it is important to analyze each case on an individual basis, and not to reinforce stereotypes regarding victims’ behaviors. The court also dismissed the argument regarding the imprecise nature of the facts presented at the initial proceeding on the basis that the incident occurred six years ago, when the victim was 18 years old.

El defensor público está apelando la convicción de asalto sexual de su cliente. La apelación propone que, (1) los hechos alegados son imprecisos y ambiguos (por ejemplo, ¿cómo es posible contener los brazos de alguien y tocarlos sexualmente al mismo tiempo?) y (2) el acto sexual fue consensual porque no hay evidencia de que la víctima se resistiera, gritara pidiendo ayuda, o tuviera lesiones u otras marcas físicas de asalto. Dado el fallo en mostrar que el acto no fue consensual, el defensor público propone que un cargo de acoso sexual sería más apropiado, ya que el acusado era el empleador de la víctima. La corte rechazó la apelación concluyendo que la carga legal de probar que hubo falta de consenso mútuo en el acto sexual, no está en la víctima. La carga probatoria cae en el acusado, quien tiene que mostrar que la víctima consintió al acto sexual, lo cuál él falló en demostrar. La corte agregó que las víctimas no están obligadas a mostrar actos específicos o ciertos comportamientos para demostrar que no consintieron al acto sexual. Es importante analizar cada caso individualmente y no intensificando estereotipos con respecto a los comportamientos esperados de una víctima. La corte también rechazó el argumento con respecto a la imprecisión de la evidencia física discutido en el procedimiento inicial referente a que los actos ocurrieron seis años atrás cuando la víctima tenía 18 años de edad.

Ng Hoi Sze v. Yuen Sha Sha High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Court of Appeal (1999)

Gender violence in conflict

The plaintiff, Ng Hoi Sze and defendant Yuen Sha Sha shared a college dorm room. Yuen Sha Sha discovered a video recorder that plaintiff’s boyfriend, Tse Chi Pan, placed in the room, which recorded Yuen Sha Sha while she was undressing. Ms. Sha Sha had Mr. Pan expelled from the University and the plaintiff was expelled from the dorm room. The plaintiff filed a nuisance claim against Ms. Sha Sha and her boyfriend, Fung Ka Fai, the other defendant, who was a student at another university. The plaintiff moved to amend the complaint to introduce a claim for sexual harassment under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, Cap. 480. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that there was unlawful sexual harassment in contravention of section 39(3) of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, Cap. 480, by the defendants’ engaging in unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the plaintiff and, consequently, the plaintiff suffered embarrassment, humiliation and shock. The plaintiff sought damages under section 76 of the Ordinance. The Ordinance stated that a person sexually harasses a woman if the person (i) makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favors to her, or (ii) engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to her in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that she would be offended, humiliated or intimidated, or the person, alone or together with other persons, engages in conduct of a sexual nature that creates a sexually hostile or intimidating work environment for her. The question in this case was whether there were allegations that the defendants, or either of them, engaged in unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the plaintiff. The first judge held that the plaintiff’s claim was facially deficient because she did not plead any sexual conduct that she found offensive. The second judge agreed with the first judge’s assertions. However, notably, the second judge stated that when a female student’s roommate engages, in their shared room, without the female student’s consent, in conduct of a sexual nature with another person, that conduct is capable of being considered sexual harassment of the female student. A reasonable person would have anticipated that the female student would be offended by such conduct. Thus, had the plaintiff simply properly pleaded what the sexually offensive conduct was, she would have stated a claim against the defendants for sexual harassment and would have been able to pursue a strong claim against the defendants.

Supreme Court Decision 2005Du13414 Supreme Court of South Korea (2006)

Sexual harassment

The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by a governor of a province claiming that because he was found not violating the Election of Public Officials Act (the “Election Act”), he should also be found not guilty of sexual harassment charges under the former Prohibition of and Remedies for Gender Discrimination Act (the “Discrimination Act”). The governor sexually harassed the defendant, a president of a vocation association, at meetings to discuss the upcoming general elections for governor. The Supreme Court held that plaintiff’s sexual behavior at such meetings constituted workplace sexual harassment, because their meetings had relevance to work, i.e. meeting to discuss governor’s elections.

Gaylene Jessica Helen Main v. Kim Richards Topless Human Rights Review Tribunal (2004)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The plaintiff was a milker employed by a dairy farm. The plaintiff complained that she was not considered for promotion or training opportunities because she was female. The plaintiff also alleged sexual harassment, in the form of unwelcome comments and jokes. The court found that the plaintiff did not establish that she had been a victim of unlawful discrimination on the ground of her sex. The court was satisfied that the plaintiff had made out her claim for sexual harassment and that the employer was vicariously liable for the acts of the employees because it had failed to take any adequate steps to prevent sexual harassment in the work place.

Reed & Bull Information Systems v. Stedman (1999, IRLR 299 EAT) Employment Appeal Tribunal (1999)

Employment discrimination

S was employed by Bull as a temporary secretary and was subsequently given a permanent placement responsible to the Marketing Manager, R. S resigned on the ground that she found working with him intolerable as R allegedly sexually harassed her. S never confronted S nor made any identifiable protests about his behavior with the exception of complaint she made about him telling dirty jokes to colleagues in her presence. But she had made complaints to her mother and colleagues at work. Although the tribunal decided that no single incident was serious enough to be capable of constituting sexual harassment, they did find that there had been a series of sexual inferences with a pervading sexual innuendo and sexist stance and that R realized that they were unwanted and were bullying in nature. With regard to the liability of Bull, the tribunal found that colleagues in the personnel department were well aware of the applicant's deteriorating health and that she had made complaints to other members of staff which had been dismissed. In those circumstances there should have been an investigation into the cause of the illness and the complaints that had been made. By failing to implement this, Bull committed a repudiatory breach of contract as they failed to deal with the issue of sexual harassment adequately. The tribunal concluded that the applicant was entitled to compensation for unfair dismissal by reason of sexual discrimination. The Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed the appeal and added that whilst not “gross: the behavior of R towards S was most inappropriate in the workplace. The EAT placed the burden on the victim to place the harasser on notice that she does not welcome his conduct and endorsed the reasonable person perspective in assessing a victim’s rejection. The question at issue should be was the victim subjected to a detriment on the grounds of her sex. A one-off ace may suffice. The Court also directed tribunals to pay attention to the impact of totality of successive incidents, individually trivial.

Tumwesigye Kasim v. Uganda Court of Appeals of Uganda (2009)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

This appeal was limited to sentencing only. Appellant was convicted of defilement of a six-year-old girl and was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. Appellant was a teacher at the victim’s school. The school held a special program for students during school holidays. During this program, appellant took the victim into his office at school and had sexual intercourse with her. Despite his warning not to tell anyone, the victim told her brother, who told her parents. A medical examiner confirmed that she had been defiled. On appeal, appellant argued that the sentence of 14 years was too harsh. In support, he argued that he was the sole breadwinner for 11 dependents, including two lame dependents and four orphans. Appellant also argued that since the victim was a very young child, she had already gotten over the trauma of the defilement. The court upheld the sentence and ruled against appellant. The court found that, as a teacher, he had a duty to protect the victim, but instead chose to ravish her, disgracing himself, his profession, and society.

Writ Petition No. 8769 of 2010 BNWLA v. Govt. of Bangladesh Supreme Court of Bangladesh (2011)

Sexual harassment

In this case the Bangladesh Supreme Court responded to a petition by the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association and handed down a set of directives aimed at addressing public sexual harassment (known euphemistically as "eve teasing"). These directives included stating formal definitions of "sexual harassment" and "stalking" to be used henceforth in addressing this problem, mandating a designated cell or team housed within each police station to address sexual harassment, mandating the government to require photo identification from users of cyber cafes to address cyber harassment and stalking, mandating immediate government steps to initiate victim and witness protection systems as well as programs to redress mental trauma suffered by victims, and directing the government to "take immediate steps to formulate law or amend the existing law for incorporating specific provisions giving evidential value to the audio/video recorded statements of victims or witnesses of sexual harassment so that the perpetrators can be punished solely on the basis of such recorded evidence of sexual harassment in case of unwillingness of the victim or other witnesses to give evidence fearing further attack and humiliation and/or torture."

Mugasa Joseph v. Uganda Court of Appeal of Uganda (2010)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

This appeal was limited to sentencing only. Appellant was convicted of defilement of a baby girl and was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment. Appellant was a relative of the child and was known as a teacher of Christianity. Appellant requested a more lenient sentence of 10 years. The Court of Appeals ruled against Appellant and increased his sentence to 25 years, citing the policy consideration that, despite the fact that defilement can be punishable by death, individuals still continue to defile babies. Thus, the court used this case as an opportunity to send a message to society that “violating the rights of child females must stop.”

Allen v. Dep't. of Employment and Training Vermont Supreme Court (1992)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Plaintiff was denied unemployment benefits by the Employment Security Board because prior to quitting her job, she did not notify her business manager that she was being sexually harassed by her supervisor. The plaintiff appealed. Plaintiff worked as a secretary for housekeeping and maintenance. For several months during her employment, the plaintiff’s supervisor made repeated sexual advances towards her by grabbing her, kissing her, and apologizing thereafter. Plaintiff complained once, but otherwise never complained to anyone other than her supervisor, and eventually quit her job out of fear of further unwanted sexual advances. She testified that she had never received a personnel policy, never knew of the existence of such a policy, and believed that she was to complain to her immediate supervisor. Notwithstanding, the Board found the plaintiff did not show that she had “good cause” to quit her job, since her business manager had no knowledge of the harassment. Under 21 V.S.A. § 1344(a)(2)(A), a party may not receive unemployment benefits where she quits voluntarily unless she shows she quit with “good cause.” On appeal, the court found that if there were a personnel policy in effect, there was no evidence that it was ever made known or available to the defendant’s employees. The court found that the plaintiff could not adhere to a policy (to notify a manager) that is not “sufficiently disseminated by the employer to employees.” Thus, the court reversed the Board’s conclusion and remanded the matter.

Motsinger v. Lithia Rose-Ft, Inc. Oregon Court of Appeals (2007)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Plaintiff, who was employed for fourteen months by defendant as a part-time receptionist, alleged that she was subjected to repeated acts of sexual harassment by several male employees. Plaintiff also alleged that her employment was terminated in part as retaliation for reporting this sexual harassment to management. Plaintiff brought a wrongful termination action against the employer, alleging claims of sexual harassment under Or. Rev. Stat. § 659A.030(1)(a), retaliation under Or. Rev. Stat. § 659A.030(1)(f), wrongful discharge, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court denied defendant's petition to abate the proceeding pending arbitration, ruling that the arbitration clause contained in plaintiff's employment contract with defendant was unenforceable because it constituted an unconscionable contract of adhesion. The appellate court found that the employee did not show that the contract formation carried indicia of procedural and substantive unconscionability other than an unequal bargaining power. Consequently, the Court of Appeals of Oregon reversed and remanded the case.

Sabella v. Manor Care, Inc. New Mexico Supreme Court (1996)

Sexual harassment

Sabella worked for Manor Care, Inc. (“Manor”) from 1989 to 1990. Sabella claimed that her supervisor sexually harassed her and retaliated against her rejections by assigning her to less desirable jobs. On February 8, 1990, Sabella filed a grievance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”), but not with the New Mexico Human Rights Division (the “NMHRD”). While the investigation was pending, Sabella filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, claimed injuries such as bruised breast and emotional trauma due to sexual assaults. Sabella and Manor eventually settled the workers’ compensation claim. She signed an agreement that discharged Manor all current and future liabilities under the Workers’ Compensation Act. On August 24, 1993, Sabella received an order of non-determination from the NMHRD. Sabella appealed the order to the trial court. Manor filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that Sabella had not exhausted her administrative remedies as required by the NMHRA. Id. at 902-03. Manor specifically pointed out that Sabella had not filed her grievance with the NMHRD. Id. The trial court granted Manor’s motion to dismiss. Sabella appealed.

Ex parte Alabama Department of Youth Services Supreme Court of Alabama (2003)

Custodial violence, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, female minor children in the custody of Alabama’s Department of Youth Service (“DYS”), brought an action against DYS and its executive director, alleging federal claims of sexual harassment and abuse under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq. (“Title IX”) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and state claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring and supervision of DYS employees, and intentional misrepresentation. Defendants’ filed a motion to dismiss the claims based on various arguments for immunity, which the trial court denied. Defendants filed a petition for writ of mandamus directing the Circuit Court to dismiss the complaint. In ruling on Defendants’ petition, the Supreme Court considered each claim for immunity. First, DYS claimed it was immune from liability under the Eleventh Amendment. The Court, however, held that, because Congress enacted Title IX not only pursuant to its Article I powers, but also pursuant to its Fourteenth Amendment, § 5, power, Congress successfully abrogated the Eleventh Amendment immunity of the states from suits in federal and state courts for violations of Title IX. Second, the executive director argued he was entitled to federal qualified immunity from the § 1983 claim, since he was a government official. The Court disagreed, citing law holding that there is no state interest in protecting government officials accused of sexually molesting a child. Because the plaintiffs alleged that the executive director failed to protect them from harm even after he received notice of the sexual harassment and abuse, he did not have a clear legal right to dismissal of plaintiffs’ § 1983 claim on the ground of federal qualified immunity. Third, the Court found that, based on the sovereign immunity provision of the Alabama constitution, dismissal of plaintiffs’ state-law claims against the executive director in his official capacity was proper. However, the Court found that the doctrine of state-agent immunity did not warrant dismissal of plaintiffs’ state law claims against the executive director in his individual capacity.

Brittell v. Dep’t. of Correction Supreme Court of Connecticut (1998)

Sexual harassment

Here, a former correction officer claimed the Department of Correction created a hostile work environment through an officer’s sexual harassment. Prior to the plaintiff’s employment, she attended a training academy to be a correction officer. One of the plaintiff’s classmates commented that the plaintiff did not date men and that she liked women. The plaintiff warned the classmate to never make such a comment again, but she did not report the comment to a supervisor. Id. at 151. Within a few months after the plaintiff started working, inmates began making sexually obscene comments towards her. As the comments continued and took a threatening nature, i.e.--inmates threatened to assault her to determine her gender, the plaintiff reported the comments. The plaintiff was told by inmates that officers had started a rumor about her that she had a sex change operation, but was not given names. Id. at 151-52. The defendant underwent an investigation and questioned officers. It also warned all employees against sexual harassment. It offered the plaintiff aid through the employee assistance program, which the plaintiff declined. Id. at 153. The defendant continued to monitor and investigate the situation as the comments and harassment continued, and eventually offered to transfer the plaintiff to any institution of her choice within the facility, but the plaintiff declined. Id. at 159. The plaintiff then asked to go on unpaid medical leave, which was granted. The plaintiff then failed to submit the necessary medical documentation and she was considered to have resigned. Id. at 160-61. The plaintiff then sued for sexual harassment creating a hostile work environment and claimed that the defendant failed to adequately investigate and remedy the harassment. The court considered Gen. Stat. §46a-60, which prohibits discriminatory employment practices. The court then looked to federal law for guidance on whether to hold an employer liable for sexual harassment committed by the plaintiff’s co-workers. The court concluded that “once an employer has knowledge of a sexually combative atmosphere in the work-place, he or she has a duty to take reasonable steps to eliminate it.” Id. at 168 (quoting Snell v. Suffolk County, 782 F.2d 1094, 1104 (2d Cir. 1986)). The court noted that an employer’s response will be analyzed in terms of how prompt, appropriate and adequate it was. Id. The court found that the defendant did not only investigate the harassment but also made reasonable efforts to identify the inmates and officers responsible for the rumors, warned all staff that sexual harassment would not be tolerated, provided the plaintiff with access to supervisors to report any incidents to, and offered a transfer to the plaintiff which was in no way onerous, punitive or unreasonable. Id. at 171-72. The court found this was reasonable and the defendant would not be liable.

Sangamon County Sheriff’s Department v. Illinois Human Rights Commission Iliinois Supreme Court (2009)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Donna Feleccia was a records clerk with the county sheriff’s department. A coworker sent her a letter that appeared to be from the Illinois Department of Public Health informing her that she may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. When Feliccia read the letter, she became very upset and started shaking. The letter was sent by Yanor, a coworker of Feliccia’s, as a practical joke. Feliccia’s coworkers heard about the letter and/or that Feliccia had a sexually transmitted disease and Feliccia missed work and sleep over the incident. Yanor was only lightly disciplined and advised not to have any contact with Feliccia. Prior to the letter, Feliccia had endured several incidents of sexual harassment by Yanor, including once incident when he grabbed her and asked for a kiss and another when he asked her to go to a motel with him. Feliccia filed a charge of sexual harassment and retaliation against the sheriff’s department and Yanor. The court held that, under section 2-102(D) of the Illinois Human Rights Act, the sheriff’s department (i.e. the employer) was strictly liable for Yanor’s (i.e. a supervisory employee) “hostile environment” sexual harassment regardless of whether it was aware of the harassment or took measures to correct the harassment. It was irrelevant that Yanor did not have direct supervisory authority over Feliccia’s working conditions; in other words, an employer’s liability is not limited based on the harasser’s relationship to the victim. In addition, the court held that a sexual harassment claim is timely as long as it is filed within 180 days of any act that is part of the hostile work environment and that a factfinder may consider all of the conduct that makes up the hostile environment claim. Feliccia’s sexual harassment claim was meritorious because Yanor’s forged letter and other harassing conduct caused Feliccia to miss work and sleep.

Ericson v. Syracuse Univ. United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (1999)

Sexual harassment

Ms. Ericson and Ms. Kornechuk brought an action against Syracuse University and its employees under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. section 1681 (“Title IX”) and the Violence Against Women Act, 42 U.S.C. section 13981 (“VAWA”). Plaintiffs alleged that they were sexually harassed by their tennis coach, and that the University was aware of the tennis coach’s behavior and conducted a sham investigatory proceeding to conceal the extent of the tennis coach’s misconduct, which had occurred for more than twenty years. Defendants moved to dismiss the claims. They contended that Title IX did not provide a private right of action and the VAWA claim was barred by the statue of limitations. The court held that there was a private right of action under Title IX pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Gebser v. Lago Vista Indep. Sch. Dist. (1998). Erickson held that a student who has been sexually harassed by an employee of an institution may bring suit against the institution, under Title IX, for private damages if: (1) the institution has authority to institute corrective measures on its behalf; (2) has actual notice of the behavior; and (3) is deliberately indifferent to its employee’s misconduct. The court found that Plaintiffs’ complaint, on its face, satisfied that standard because it alleged the individuals who investigated the charges against the tennis coach not only had actual notice that the tennis coach had been harassing female student-athletes for twenty years but had also conspired to conduct a sham investigation to conceal the full extent of the coach’s misconduct. The court reasoned that the allegation that the institution knew of the 13 of female-athletes and did not respond adequately was sufficient to state a claim under Title IX. The court also held that the statute of limitations did not bar the Plaintiffs’ claim under the VAWA. VAWA provides a civil cause of action to victims of gender-motivated crimes of violence. It does not contain an express statute of limitations. Accordingly, the court found that it should look to the “most appropriate or analogous state statute of limitations.” The court reasoned that Congress’ stated purpose, in enacting this law, was to “protect the civil rights of victims of gender motivated violence by establishing a federal civil rights cause of action.” Because of Congress’ stated purpose, the court found that the cause of action that was most analogous to VAWA was a personal injury claim, and as such, a three-year statute of limitations should apply. Thus, Plaintiffs’ claim under VAWA was not barred by the statue of limitations because the alleged acts of violence occurred within three years from when Plaintiffs filed their complaint.

People v. Chipikili Subordinate Court of the First Class for the Lusaka District (2010)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

The accused, a teacher, was accused of sexually assaulting a nine-year-old girl while administering an examination to her. The girl testified that she had reported to the school where she was to be enrolled for aptitude tests. She was taken to a classroom where she found herself alone with the teacher. She said that while she was writing the exam, the teacher hugged her from behind and began fondling her breasts. She moved to another seat and finished the exam. He then lifted her up and told her that she was going to help him, but she pushed him away and ran to the principal's office. The teacher denied the charges, arguing that the girl was a slow learner and was mentally disturbed. When he took the stand at the trial, however, he frequently contradicted himself. On the one hand, he stated that people outside would have seen what happened through the windows and that there were other pupils in the class at the time. On the other hand, he said that the alleged assault could have happened so quickly that nobody would see and noted that the schools closed in December, which meant that no other pupils were in class in January when the girl took the exam. Weighing the evidence and taking into account the contradictory testimony of the accused, the Resident Magistrate found that the prosecution had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. She therefore convicted the teacher of indecently assaulting the young girl.

Media 24 Ltd. & Another v. Grobler Supreme Court of Appeal (Hoogste hof van Appèl) (2005)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

The respondent won a judgment against the appellant for 13 by a manager trainee employed by the appellant. On appeal the appellant claimed (1) it could not be held liable for its employee's actions that occurred off work premises, (2) it had no knowledge of the harassment incidences, and (3) the employee was not acting within the scope of employment. The court held that employers have a legal duty to protect their employees from physical and psychological harm caused by co-employees.

Die respondent het 'n vonnis teen die appellant vir 13 gewen deur 'n bestuurder-leerling in diens van die appellant. Op appèl het die appellant beweer dat (1) dit nie aanspreeklik gehou kan word vir die optrede van sy werknemer wat nie op die perseel plaasgevind het nie, (2) hy het geen kennis van die voorvalle van teistering gehad nie, en (3) die werknemer het nie binne die omvang van indiensneming opgetree nie . Die hof het beslis dat werkgewers 'n wetlike plig het om hul werknemers te beskerm teen fisiese en sielkundige skade wat medewerkers veroorsaak.

Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan Supreme Court of India (1997)

Gender violence in conflict, Gender-based violence in general

This case involved a public interest petition filed by a group of NGOs for enforcement of the Constitution's protection of women's rights and international women's rights norms. The victim was gang-raped and before the rape had complained of 13 to the authorities, but there was no response. The court held that 13 is a violation of gender equity and the right to life and liberty and the government must provide safeguards to prevent such harassment from happening.

2007(A) No. 1961 Supreme Court of Japan (2008)


The accused was charged with the act of stalking a female customer at a shopping mall, taking photographs of her buttocks in trousers with his cellular phone with a built-in digital camera from a close distance. The court held that this act constituted an obscene act making a victim feel embarrassed or insecure under the Hokkaido Prefecture Ordinance on Prevention of Violent Public Nuisance No. 34 of 1965, which criminalizes obscene behavior.

Sentencia 09076, Expediente 02-006271-0007-CO Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia (2002)

Gender-based violence in general

Plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of Articles 8, 9(a), 9(c), 10 and 19 of the University of Costa Rica's Regulation against Sexual Harassment, arguing that they were inconsistent with the Costa Rican Political Constitution, the American Convention on Human Rights and the International Pact of Civil and Political Rights. The Court rejected the Plaintiff's challenge, affirming the constitutionality of the provisions.

El demandante desafió la constitucionalidad de los artículos 8, 9 (a), 9 (c), 10 y 19 del Reglamento de la Universidad de Costa Rica contra el acoso sexual, discutiendo que estos eran incompatibles con la Constitución Política de Costa Rica, la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos y el Pacto Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos. La Corte rechazó la impugnación del demandante, afirmando la constitucionalidad de las disposiciones.

International Case Law

The Case of Yazgül Ylmaz v. Turkey European Court of Human Rights (2011)

Custodial violence

In this case the applicant complained that, at the age of 16, she was sexually harassed while in police detention. She was given a gynecological examination – unaccompanied and without her or her guardian’s consent – to verify whether her hymen had been broken. After being acquitted and released, she suffered from post-traumatic stress and depression. Her allegations of assault in custody were largely corroborated by subsequent medical examinations. No disciplinary proceedings were brought against the prison doctors concerned. The European Court of Human Rights noted that that the law at that time did not provide the necessary safeguards concerning examinations of female detainees and that additional guarantees were required for gynecological examinations, particularly for minors. The general practice of automatic gynecological examinations for female detainees – supposed to prevent false sexual assault accusations against police officers – was not in the interests of detained women and had no medical justification. The applicant had complained of sexual harassment, not rape, which could not be disproved by an examination of her hymen. The Court noted that the new Turkish Code of Criminal Procedure regulated gynecological examinations, but made no specific provision for minors. It held that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (prohibition of inhuman treatment) concerning both the gynecological examinations of the applicant while in police custody and the inadequate investigation concerning those responsible.

Driskell v. Peninsula Business Services & Others Employment Appeal Tribunal (2000)

Employment discrimination

D described, amongst others, how her manager suggested the day before her appraisal interview that, at that discussion, she should wear a short skirt and a low-cut or see-through blouse – the inference being that doing so would further her chances of a favorable appraisal. The EAT held that the “lewd words” acted as a detriment. The Court concluded that the correct approach when dealing with a course of conduct of harassment should be to limit judgment to the finding of all facts that are prima facie relevant. The judgment said that the facts of a case in which harassment is alleged “may simply disclose hypersensitivity on the part of the applicant to conduct which was reasonably not perceived by the alleged discriminator as being to her detriment... no finding of discrimination can then follow”. The Court confirmed that the ultimate judgment of whether there was sexual discrimination reflects an objective assessment by the tribunal of all the facts, however important the applicant’s subjective perception.

Salmanoglu and Polattas v. Turkey European Court of Human Rights (2009)

Custodial violence

The applicants, 16 and 19 years old at the time, were arrested in the context of a police operation against the PKK (the Workers' Party of Kurdistan). Both girls claimed that, during their police custody, they were blindfolded and beaten. N also alleged that she was sexually harassed and, forced to stand for a long time, was deprived of food, water and sleep. P further alleged that she was anal raped. The applicants were examined during their police custody by three doctors who all noted that there was no sign of physical violence to their bodies. Both applicants also had a "virginity test"; the examinations recorded that the girls were still virgins. A month later, P was given a rectal examination; the doctor noted no sign of intercourse. Following complaints made by the two applicants, an investigation was launched by the prosecution authorities, followed by criminal proceedings against the police officers who had questioned the applicants during their police custody. During the first hearing of the case, the girls further submitted that, when brought before the public prosecutor and judge with a view to their being remanded in custody, they had not made statements about their ill-treatment as they were scared. In particular, they both contended that, during certain medical examinations and when they had made statements to the prosecution, the presence of police officers had intimidated them. The accused police officers denied both ill treatment and presence during their medical examinations or the taking down of their statements. The applicants were subsequently both diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. P was further declared as having a major depressive disorder. The applicants subsequently underwent psychotherapy. The domestic courts ultimately acquitted the police officers on the ground that there was insufficient evidence against them. Subsequently, that judgment was quashed; however, the criminal proceedings against the police officers were terminated as the prosecution had become time-barred. In the meantime, the applicants were convicted of membership of an illegal organization and of throwing alcohol. They were sentenced to terms of imprisonment amounting to more than 12 and 18 years, respectively. The ECtHR took consideration of the circumstances of the case as a whole, and in particular the virginity tests carried out without any medical or legal necessity as well as the post-traumatic stress and depressive disorders suffered, and was persuaded that the applicants had been subjected to severe ill-treatment during their detention in police custody, in violation of Article 3. The Court further concluded that the Turkish authorities had not effectively investigated the applicants' allegations of ill-treatment after seven years, in further violation of Article 3. The Court awarded the applicants non-pecuniary damages and costs and expenses.

J. v. Peru, Report No. 76/11, Case 11,769A Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2011)

Custodial violence

In April 1992, the Petitioner was arrested during a raid by DINCOTE, the counter-terrorism branch of the Peruvian police. The police believed that the Petitioner was a member of the Sendero Luminoso, a communist militant group in Peru. During the raid, the Petitioner was blindfolded, beaten and raped by some of the police officers. When she protested the sexual violence, the officers beat and kicked her. After the raid, the officers took the Petitioner to a DINCOTE facility, where she was detained for more than a year in cells infested with roaches and rats. While detained, DINCOTE officers deprived the Petitioner of access to her attorney, forced her to urinate in a can in the presence of two male officers, and doused her with cold water if she resisted their orders. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the “IACHR”) found that the Peru violated the Petitioner’s rights by failing to conduct a serious investigation of her claims, even though her claims “fit a pattern known to have existed at that time” and involved violence (¶ 207). According to the IACHR, Peru had a duty to investigate the Petitioner's claims of rape, including ordering medical tests and examinations, to either corroborate or disprove her claims. The IACHR concluded that Peru, inter alia, violated the rights recognized in articles 5(1), 5(2) and 11 of the American Convention on Human Rights (the “American Convention”), as well as Article 1 and 6 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture. Noting its well-established precedent that “rape committed by members of the security forces of a state against the civilian population constitutes, in any situation, a serious violation of the human rights protected by Articles 5 and 11 of the American Convention,” the IACHR established that rape is particularly reprehensible when it perpetrated by a state agent against a detainee, because of the victim’s vulnerability and the agent’s abuse of power (¶ 188). In addition, noting that various reports had shown a pattern of rape and sexual abuse against women by members of Peru’s security forces, the IACHR found that such sexual violence was part of a “broader context of discrimination against women” (¶ 65).


"They are Destroying Our Futures" Sexual Violence Against Girls in Zambia's Schools (2012)

Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

A report by the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School, Women and Law in Southern Africa-Zambia, and the Cornell Law School International Human Rights Clinic examining the problem of sexual violence against girls in school in Zambia.

Silence is Violence (2009)

Sexual violence and rape

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights exposes the abuse of women in Afghanistan, July 9, 2009.