Women and Justice: Keywords

Legislation

Política de Género e Estratégia da sua Implementação (Gender Policy and its Implementation) (2006)

Gender discrimination

Outlines a general plan for the creation of institutional mechanisms that will assist in the implementation of policies targeting gender inequality. Critical areas identified include economic empowerment, education, basic needs, and childbirth mortality.



Lei de Prevenção e Combate ao Tráfico de Pessoas: Lei nº 6/2008 (Law to Prevent Trafficking and Combat in Persons) (2008)

Trafficking in persons

The law defines and prohibits human trafficking. The penalty for human trafficking is 16 - 20 years imprisonment. Longer prison sentences are recommended when the victim is a woman or a child. The law provides that victims can benefit from witness protection measures and other forms of assistance, such as medical services and counseling.



Law on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests (2005)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

The Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests was adopted by the National People’s Congress on April 3, 1999 and amended on August 28, 2005. This Law stipulates that women have equal rights with men “in all aspects of political, economic, cultural, social and family life.” It also establishes the State’s responsibility to prevent domestic violence. Article 1 provides that “this Law is formulated to protect women’s lawful rights and interests, promote equality between men and women and allow full pay to women’s role in socialist modernization.” Article 7 provides that “[t]he All-China Women’s Federation and women’s federations at various levels shall, in accordance with the laws and charter of the All-China Women’s Federation,” uphold women’s rights and protect the rights and interests of women. Article 12 provides that the State shall “actively train and select female cadres” and “pay attention to the training and selection of female cadres of minority nationalities.” Article 23 provides that “[w]ith the exception of the special types of work or post unsuitable to women, no unit may, in employing staff and workers, refuse to employ women because of sex or raise the employment standards for women.” Article 23 also provides that “[t]he labor (employment) contract or service agreement shall not contain restrictions on her matrimony and child-bearing.” Articles 24 and 25 stipulate equal pay and equal opportunity for promotion for men and women. Article 26 provides that all units shall “protect women’s safety and health during their work or physical labor, and shall not assign them any work or physical labor not suitable to women,” and that “[w]omen shall be under special protection during menstrual period, pregnancy, obstetrical period and nursing period.” Article 27 provides that “[n]o entity may, for the reason of matrimony, pregnancy, maternity leave or breast-feeding, decrease a female employee’s wage, dismiss her or unilaterally terminate the labor (employment) contract or service agreement.” Article 45 prohibits husbands from applying for a divorce “within one year after childbearing or within 6 months after termination of pregnancy” of a woman. Article 46 prohibits domestic violence. Article 51 provides that “[w]omen have the right to child-bearing in accordance with relevant regulations of the state as well as the freedom not to bear any child.”



Constituição da República Portugal (Constitution of the Portugese Republic) (1976)

Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

The Portuguese Constitution in Section 9 provides that it is the duty of the State to promote equality among men and women.  Section 13 further provides that no one shall be privileged or discriminated against for birth, gender, race, language, place of origin, religion, political or ideological conditions, social or economic status, or sexual orientation.



Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, International law

Article 9 of the FDRE Constitution provides that all international treaties ratified by Ethiopia are integral parts of the law of the land. Similarly, Article 13.2 provides that fundamental rights and freedoms shall be interpreted in a manner conforming to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenants on Human Rights and International instruments adopted by Ethiopia. Ethiopia has ratified many of these treaties including ICCPR, ICESCR, and CEDAW. Article 35 of the FDRE Constitution pertains to the Rights of Women. The article provides for equal rights under the constitution, equal rights with men in marriage, entitlement to affirmative measures, protection from harmful traditional practices, the right to maternity pay, the right to consultation, property rights (including acquiring and controlling and transferring property), employment rights, and access to family planning education. It is worth noting that this article explicitly imposes an obligation and accountability on the state to protect women from violence at Article 35.4:  “The State shall enforce the right of women to eliminate the influences of harmful customs. Laws, customs and practices that oppress or cause bodily or mental harm to women are prohibited.”



Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2017 (2017)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Property and inheritance rights, Sexual harassment, Stalking

Prevent gaps in protection. An interim protection order (IPO) protects survivors during police investigation, while a protection order (PO) protects survivors during criminal court proceedings. The amendments specify when an IPO ends, and when a PO begins, so survivors won’t be left without protection between police investigations and court proceeding.Strengthen the IPO to prevent further abuse. With the amendments, an IPO can include additional safeguards, like prohibiting an abuser from coming near a survivor – so police can intervene before further violence happens.Expand the definition of domestic violence. The expanded definition will protect against: misappropriating property, which causes distress; threatening, which causes distress or fear for safety; or communicating (including electronically) with the survivor to insult modesty.Improve rehabilitation provisions. A court can no longer order a survivor to attend reconciliatory counselling with the abuser, which puts the survivor in danger. Instead, the abuser can be ordered to complete a rehabilitation programme.Recognise survivor’s right to exclusive occupancy. If a court grants a survivor occupancy of a shared residence, it must grant the survivor exclusive occupancy – not just a specified part of the residence.Keep survivors better informed. The police officer must keep survivors informed on the status of investigation, status of IPO and PO, and important court dates.Create the Emergency Protection Order (EPO). The EPO helps survivors get protection faster – EPOs are issued by social welfare officers who are easily accessible (IPOs are issued by magistrates). Survivors won’t have to make a police report to get an EPO. The EPO is valid for seven days, and protects against physical injury and fear of physical injury.


Domestic Case Law

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.



Decision of the Constitutional Tribunal, Case 2208/2013 Constitutional Tribunal (2013)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The Court held that it was not empowered to impose measures that guaranteed the physical and psychological integrity of domestic violence victims when other tribunals and bodies established for that purpose were competent. However, plaintiffs have the right to make the requests from the competent courts to take necessary measures in order to enforce its orders, using persuasive or coercive means.

La Corte sostuvo que no estaba facultada para imponer medidas que garantizaran la integridad física y psicológica de las víctimas de violencia doméstica donde otros tribunales y organismos establecidos con ese fin eran competentes. Sin embargo, los demandantes tienen el derecho de hacer las solicitudes de los tribunales competentes para tomar las medidas necesarias para hacer cumplir sus órdenes, utilizando medios persuasivos o coercitivos.



Naidoo v. Minister of Police Supreme Court of Appeal (2015)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The plaintiff attempted to bring a charge of assault against her former husband under the Domestic Violence Act of 1998 (“the DVA”). She was incorrectly advised by a police officer that she required a protection order from the Magistrate Court before she could receive police assistance. She was then told by a second officer that her former husband would bring a similar charge of assault against her if she persisted. The plaintiff, along with her former husband, was arrested. She filed a claim for damages against, inter alia, the Minister of Police, arguing that (i) the officials involved were acting in the course and within the scope of their employment and (ii) the Minister of Police was vicariously liable for failing to comply with the DVA. The court agreed that the DVA requires the police to assist and provide the maximum protection possible to victims of domestic abuse.



A., R.H. and other v. E.N. M Seguridad – P.F.A. and others Cámara Nacional de Apelaciones en lo Contenciosos Administrativo Federal (National Appeals Court for Federal Administrative Litigation) (2011)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Femicide

The plaintiff daughters, R.H. and V.C., filed suit against the State government and certain police officials requesting damages for the loss of the lives of their mother, Mrs. S., and father, Mr. A.  The day after her decision to flee her home together with her daughters and reside with other family members, Mrs. S. filed a civil proceeding against Mr. A. for domestic violence.  Mr. A. was prohibited from approaching Mrs. S. and his daughters, and Mrs. S. obtained permission to remove her and her daughters’ personal belongings from their previous home while escorted by police officers.  While accompanied by police officers and her sister to remove the belongings, Mr. A. killed Mrs. S. with a knife and subsequently committed suicide.  In finding for the daughters in the case of Mrs. S., the appellate court identified the following factors in support of its finding: (1) the existence of a real and immediate risk that threatened the rights of Mrs. S. and her daughters that had the potential to materialize immediately and which was expressly referenced by the Office of Domestic Violence, (2) the risk related to a specific threat against a woman and was therefore particular, (3) the State knew of the risk or should have reasonably known of the risk and (4) the State could have reasonably prevented and avoided the materialization of the risk.

 

Las hijas de la demandante, RH y VC, presentaron una demanda contra el gobierno del estado y ciertos oficiales de policía que solicitaron daños por la pérdida de la vida de su madre, la Sra. S. y el padre, el Sr. A. El día después de su decisión de huir de la casa junto con sus hijas, la Sra. S. presentó un proceso civil contra el Sr. A. por violencia doméstica. Al Sr. A. se le prohibió acercarse a la Sra. S. y a sus hijas, y la Sra. S. obtuvo permiso para retirar a ella y las pertenencias personales de sus hijas de su hogar anterior mientras estaba escoltada por agentes de policía. Mientras estaba acompañada por oficiales de policía y su hermana para retirar las pertenencias, el Sr. A. mató a la Sra. S. con un cuchillo y posteriormente se suicidó. Al encontrar a las hijas en el caso de la Sra. S., la corte de apelaciones identificó los siguientes factores que respaldan su descubrimiento: (1) la existencia de un riesgo real e inmediato que amenazaba los derechos de la Sra. S. y sus hijas que tenía el potencial de materializarse de inmediato y que la Oficina de Violencia Doméstica hacía referencia expresamente, (2) el riesgo relacionado con una amenaza específica contra una mujer y, por lo tanto, era particular, (3) el Estado sabía del riesgo o debería haberlo hecho razonablemente conocido del riesgo y (4) el Estado podría haber prevenido y evitado razonablemente la materialización del riesgo.



Applicants McEwan, Clarke, et al. v. Attorney General High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature (2013)

Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

On February 6, 2009, four transgender individuals (A, B, C, D) identifying as female were arrested and charged with both Loitering and Wearing Female Attire.  The police detained the Applicants for the entire weekend without explaining the charges against them.  Wearing Female Attire is prohibited under Section 153(1)(XLV11) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, chapter 8:02.  At the hearing on February 9, 2009, the Chief Magistrate commented that the Applicants were confused about their sexuality and told them they were men, not women, and needed to give their lives to Jesus Christ.  The Applicants, who were all unrepresented at the time, pleaded guilty to the charge of Wearing Female Attire.  Applicants A, B and D were fined $7,500, and Applicant C was fined $19,500 (Guyanese dollars).  The loitering charges were eventually dismissed.  The Applicants contacted the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), the Equal Rights Trust’s Guyanese partner, about the case.  SASOD agreed to represent Applicants and filed a Notice of Motion challenging the Magistrate’s Court decision and seeking redress.  The Applicants argued that the police violated the Constitution because the officers failed to inform them of their arrest and did not permit the Applicants to retain counsel.  They also argued that Section 153 (1) (XLV11) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act 1893 is: (1) vague and of uncertain scope; (2) irrational and discriminatory on the ground of sex; and (3) a continuing threat to their right to protection against discrimination on the ground of sex and gender under the Constitution.  Applicants further argued that, by instructing the Applicants to attend Church and give their lives to Jesus Christ, the Chief Magistrate discriminated against them on the basis of religion, which violated a fundamental norm of the Co-operative of the Republic of Guyana as a secular state in contravention to the Constitution.  The Court upheld the Applicants’ claims in relation to their fundamental right to be informed of the reason for their arrest under Article 139 of the Constitution, but rejected all of their other claims.  The Court found that the prohibition of cross-dressing for an improper purpose was not unconstitutional gender or sex discrimination, impermissibly vague, or undemocratic.  The Court also struck SASOD’s application in full, finding that SASOD did not have standing to be an applicant in the case.



Institutional Violence Against Women (Docket XXVII.1o.3 C (10a.)) Mexico Supreme Court (2016)

Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, International law

This isolated thesis is a relevant example of gender perspective case law, as the criteria issued by the collegiate tribunal is binding on all cases resolved by such tribunal. In addition, such criteria issued may be persuasive in similar cases arising in other federal courts. The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women “Convention of Belém do Pará,” states that violence against women is an offense against human dignity, which constitutes a violation of fundamental rights. In addition, Article 18 of the General Law for Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence establishes that any public servant’s conduct, whether by act or omission, which is discriminatory or which impairs the woman’s human rights is considered institutional violence. Therefore, if a governmental authority deprives a woman of any right in the context of family law, the court shall acknowledge the authority’s intention to discriminate or impair the plaintiff’s human rights in its ruling. Further, any court ruling seeking to restore the woman’s rights shall identify the authority responsible for the violation. (Amparo Directo: http://sise.cjf.gob.mx/SVP/word1.aspx?arch=462/04620000174646210006004.d...)

 

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 todos los casos resueltos por dicho tribunal. Además, los criterios emitidos pueden ser persuasivos en casos similares que surjan en otros tribunales federales. La Convención Interamericana para Prevenir, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia contra la Mujer "Convención de Belém do Pará", afirma que violencia contra la mujer es un delito contra la dignidad humana y constituye una violación de los derechos fundamentales. Además, el artículo 18 de la Ley General para el Acceso de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia establece que la conducta de cualquier servidor público, ya sea por acto u omisión, que sea discriminatoria o que perjudique los derechos humanos de la mujer se considera violencia institucional. Por lo tanto, si una autoridad gubernamental priva a una mujer de cualquier derecho en el contexto del derecho de familia, el tribunal reconocerá la intención de la autoridad de discriminar o menoscabar los derechos humanos del demandante en su decisión. Además, cualquier fallo judicial que busque restaurar los derechos de la mujer deberá identificar a la autoridad responsable de la violación.



Individual Application of Özlem Tuncel Kaya Constitutional Court (2016)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The applicant, Ms. Kaya, applied to the Office of Public Prosecutor (the “OPP”), claiming that she had been the victim of domestic violence. After investigating, the OPP charged the applicant’s husband with domestic violence and went to trial. However, during the trial, the applicant withdrew her claim and said that the bruises she had submitted as evidence were actually the result of an accident at the couple’s home. The OPP dropped the charges against the applicant’s husband. Two years later, the applicant filed another claim with the OPP alleging that her husband stole her jewellery and again subjected her to domestic violence.  The OPP notified the proper Court of First Instance for Family Affairs (the “Court of First Instance”). The Court issued a restraining order against the husband that prevented him from approaching the applicant and ordered that he pay alimony to her for four months. The government offered the applicant state housing for the victims of domestic violence, but she rejected the offer. The applicant was subjected to several more incidents of domestic violence. During that time, the OPP requested the Court of First Instance to issue a warrant for the arrest of the applicant’s husband. The Court of First Instance rejected the OPP’s request. The applicant appealed, but her appeal was dismissed because Ms. Kaya’s statements alone were not adequate evidence of domestic abuse. After Ms. Kaya appealed, the Constitutional Court ruled that Turkey had a duty to take affirmative steps to prevent further acts of domestic violence against the appellant and effectively investigate her claims in this case. However, after applying the legal framework addressing victims of domestic violence, the Constitutional Court ruled that Ms. Kaya’s fundamental rights under the framework had not been infringed. This decision is important because it demonstrates that even though there is a legal framework available for women affected by domestic violence, claims against state officials for failing to act on their duties under that framework need to be specific and supported by substantial evidence.



W.J. and L.N. v. Amkoah, Jamhuri Primary School, The Teachers Service Commission and the Attorney General (Petition No. 331 of 2011) High Court of Kenya at Nairobi (Constitutional and Human Rights Division) (2011)

International law, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

In July 2010, W.J. and L.N, 12- and 13-year-old female students at Jamhuri Primary School, were invited to the home of their teacher, Astarikoh Henry Amkoah. Amkoah forced the girls to perform household chores and later attempted to defile W.J. in the restroom and defiled L.N. in the hall. On several occasions later that month, Amkoah raped both girls. The girls’ education was severely interrupted by the trauma of Amkoah’s attacks and L.N. dropped out of school completely. Ultimately, Amkoah was acquitted in criminal court. In this suit filed by their guardians, W.J. and L.N. sued claiming that Amkoah’s actions unconstitutionally interfered with their rights to health, education, and dignity, and claimed that the school and state should be vicariously liable for the teacher’s actions. They invited the court to look at the claims from the perspective of a tort in negligence and as a human rights violation. However, the violations took place prior to the adoption of a revised 2010 Constitution, so the Court was required to rely partially on the 1963 Constitution which did not include those same guarantees. Still, the 1963 Constitution offered a right to freedom and security of the person. Additionally, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted through Kenya’s Children Act, promises children the right to be free from sexual or physical violence, the right to receive an education, and the right to dignity. As a result, the Court was able to rely on the guarantees of the Children Act. Moreover, Justice Ngugi recognized the 2010 constitutional right to dignity as a continuing right, meaning that while the initial crime may have occurred prior to the 2010 Constitution’s adoption, the continuous nature of the effects of sexual violence on an individual’s dignity make the provision applicable in this case. Here, the Court determined that the criminal acquittal would not serve as a bar to the action because of the differing standards of proof in a criminal and a civil trial. Importantly, the Court decided that “any educational or other institution in which teachers or other care givers commit acts of sexual abuse against those who have been placed under their care is vicariously liable for the wrongful acts of its employees.” The court noted that because children are particularly vulnerable, it is appropriate to impose strict liability on “those in charge of educational and other institutions . . . for abuses committed by those whom they have placed in charge of vulnerable groups such as minors in educational institutions” and held the four named plaintiffs—the teacher, the school, the teachers service commission, and the state—jointly and severally liable for damages of KSH two million for W.J. and KSH three million for L.N.



C.K. & 11 Others v. Commissioner of Police High Court of Kenya at Meru (2013)

Gender discrimination, International law, Statutory rape or defilement

The petitioners are eleven minors and the non-governmental organization that shelters, educates, and cares for the eleven minors. Each child claims to have been subjected to child abuse and defilement in Meru County, where police "neglected...or otherwise failed" to investigate or protect the children in any way.  The High Court of Kenya held that the police have a duty to investigate allegations of sexual abuse made by female complainants, stating that “by failing to enforce existing defilement laws, the police have contributed to the development of a culture of tolerance for pervasive sexual violence against girl children and impunity.”



Carmichele v. Minister of Safety and Security Constitutional Court of South Africa (2001)

International law, Sexual violence and rape

The applicant was sexually assaulted by a man who was awaiting trial for the attempted rape of another woman. Despite the seriousness of the alleged crime and the fact that the man had a prior rape conviction, the police and prosecutor had recommended that the man be released pending trial. The applicant sued the Minister for damages, arguing that the police and prosecutors had negligently failed to comply with a legal duty they owed to her to take steps to prevent the man from causing her harm. The High Court dismissed the applicant's claim and the Supreme Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the police and prosecution did not owe her a duty of protection. On appeal, the Constitutional Court set aside the orders of the lower courts and remanded the case to the High Court for trial. It held that the State is obligated by the Constitution and international law to protect the dignity and security of women and in the circumstances, the police recommendation for the assailant's release could amount to wrongful conduct giving rise to liability. The Court also held that prosecutors, who are under a duty to place before the court any information relevant to the refusal or grant of bail, may be held liable for negligently failing to fulfill that duty.



K. v. Ministry of Safety and Security Constitutional Court of South Africa (2005)

Sexual violence and rape

K. sued to recover damages from the Minister of Safety and Security from being raped and assaulted by three uniformed and on-duty police sergeants.  The High Court held that the actions of the police officers fell out of the scope of their employment and that the Minister could not be held vicariously liable for their conduct.  The Court held that although the police officers' actions were obviously a clear deviation from their duty, there was a sufficiently close relationship between their employment and the wrongful conduct to hold the Minister liable. 



Van Eeden v. Minister of Safety and Security (2002)

Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was assaulted, raped and robbed by Andre Gregory Mohamed, who had escaped from prison where he was facing 22 charges for indecent assault, rape and armed robbery. The appellant sued the State for damages, arguing that the police owed her a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent Mohamed from escaping and causing her harm and that they had negligently failed to comply with such duty.  The Constitutional Court applied its recent holding in Carmichele v. Minister of Safety and Security and held that the state is obliged both by the Constitution and by international law to protect women from violence and the police should be held liable for its negligence in not taking reasonable action to prevent Mohamed's escape, especially in light of the fact that they knew that Mohamed was a dangerous serial rapist who was likely to commit further offenses against women should he escape. The court affirmed the state's liability for any damages suffered by the applicant.



International Case Law

G.N. v. Burundi Committee Against Torture (2017)

International law, Statutory rape or defilement

G.N., a mother, brought the action on behalf of her nine-year-old daughter, C.N.  A friend of the family, Captain D.K., was conducting night patrols and he stopped by the family home.  G.N.’s husband was not at home, so the Captain said he was going to leave and wanted to take C.N. with him home.  G.N. declined saying it was late, but when she returned to the kitchen to finish cooking the meal and then called for her daughter, she was no longer there.  Neighbors informed G.N. that she had left with D.K.  She looked for C.N., but did not see her.  The serviceman was a friend of the family.  She thought C.N. would soon return.  When G.N.’s husband returned home, she informed him that C.N. had not returned and he reassured her so they decided to wait.  C.N. returned home the next day.  G.N. eventually learned from C.N. that D.K. had taken her to his house, raped her, and, when she cried, threatened her with his firearm if she made any more noise.  He sent her to sleep with his own children and the next day gave her 500 Burundian francs (USD 0.30). He told her never to speak about the rape and threatened her and her mother if she revealed their secret.  However, a week after the incident, her mother persisted in asking C.N. because she could not stand up and said she had a stomach ache.  The victim’s father raised the issue with Captain D.K., who proposed an out of court settlement, which was rejected by G.N.  G.N. took C.N. for a medical examination, which confirmed the rape and she reported the rape to the military prosecutor’s department.  G.N. appealed to the domestic courts, which dismissed the case because of the ten-day period between the incident and reporting of it and the calmness and availability of the Captain.  After seeking domestic remedies with no action taken, G.N. appealed to the Committee submitting that her daughter was the victim of a violation of articles 2(1), 12, 13 and 14, read in conjunction with article 1 and, alternatively, with article 16 of the Convention.  The Committee found that the sexual abuse to which C.N. was subjected by an official of the State acting in his official capacity and the associated acts of intimidation fall within the scope of article 1 of the Convention.  The Committee also determined the investigation was not impartial, effective and prompt, contrary to articles 12 and 13 of the Convention.  It relied on the fact it was closed quickly and prosecutors did not seek additional evidence to pursue the case or arrest any other suspects, meaning the perpetrator of the rape has gone unpunished even though Burundi law provides that rape is punishable by life imprisonment when committed against a child under the age of 12.  As the child received no redress, the Committee also found that Burundi violated its obligations under article 14 of the Convention.  Finally, the Committee urged Burundi to: (1) promptly reopen an investigation; (2) provide reparation including compensation for the material and moral harm caused, restitution, rehabilitation, measures of satisfaction and a guarantee of non-repetition; (3) prevent threats/acts of violence against G.N. and C.N. for lodging the complaint; and (4) advise the Committee within 90 days of the steps taken. 



A.Sh., et al. v. Switzerland Committee Against Torture (2018)

Custodial violence, International law, Sexual violence and rape

A.Sh., his wife Z.H. and their children, ethnic Chechens of the Muslim faith with Russian citizenship were residing in Switzerland and awaiting deportation to the Russian Federation.  A.Sh.’s brother-in-law was a leader of a Chechen insurgent group who went into hiding.  A.Sh. helped his sister and was arrested and beaten for collaborating with insurgents.  He left the Russian Federation with his eldest son for Switzerland.  When the police searched for him, they interrogated Z.H. about his whereabouts and then closed his shop and would not allow her to re-open it, stating it was her husband’s.  The police came to her house, searched it, and took her passport, after which the commanding officer raped Z.H.  She and her traumatize younger son went to live with her parents, and then left the Russian Federation illegally by car for Switzerland, where the complainants’ request for asylum was denied.  The Committee considered complainants’ claim that, if they were returned to the Russian Federation, they would be exposed to torture, and Switzerland would be in violation of article 3 of the Convention.  The Swiss authorities questioned complainants’ credibility and argued that the possibility they could settle in another region of the Russian Federation, other than Chechnya, meant they were not likely to be exposed to serious risk of treatment contrary to the Convention in case of return.  The Committee addressed the claim that because Z.H.’s rape was not raised at the time of the first asylum procedure, the complainants lacked credibility, stating that Z.H. and her husband had been subjected to torture and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder according to the medical reports issued by Swiss psychiatrists and psychologists.  Accordingly, since complete accuracy is seldom to be expected from victims of torture, the delay in reporting the sexual abuse did not undermine Z.H.’s credibility.  In this connection, the Committee recalled prior its prior holdings that rape constitutes “infliction of severe pain and suffering perpetrated for a number of impermissible purposes, including interrogation, intimidation, punishment, retaliation, humiliation and discrimination based on gender”, and that in other cases it has found that “sexual abuse by the police … constitutes torture” even when it is perpetrated outside of formal detention facilities.”  The Committee also rejected the Swiss authorities’ reliance on “internal flight,” citing the Russian requirement that Russian nationals must register within 90 days of arriving in a new place of residence and that this information will be accessible to Chechen authorities.  By rejecting the asylum application based on the assumption of the availability of an internal flight alternative and without giving sufficient weight to whether they could be at risk of persecution, the Committee determined that Switzerland failed its obligations under article 3 of the Convention.  It concluded that Switzerland could not forcibly return complainants to the Russian Federation or any country where there was a risk they could be returned to the Russian Federation.  Switzerland was given 90 days to respond with the steps it planned to take.



M.P. v. Denmark Human Rights Committee (ICCPR) (2017)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, International law

M.P. originally was from Sri Lanka, and of Tamil ethnicity and the Hindu faith.  She claimed her family had strong ties with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (“LTTE”).  Her father was killed and several of her brothers were subjected to violence due to the connection.  To gain protection, M.P. illegally entered Switzerland where she met her former husband and father of her two children.  Her husband was violent and abusive, and was convicted of domestic violence against her for which he was sentenced to three years imprisonment.  He was to be expelled to Sri Lanka upon his release, but forced M.P. and the children to accompany him to Denmark and make false statements to seek asylum.  M.P. was afraid of her husband, who physically assaulted her and the children and threatened to kill her and take their children away if she did no support his false version of reasons for seeking asylum.  He claimed he had been detained by the military and that M.P. had been sexually abused by the Sri Lankan army.  Danish authorities denied the family’s asylum request finding that M.P.’s husband had limited associations with LTTE.  He was returned to Sri Lanka after he assaulted another person in Denmark.  After he left, M.P. felt she could safely present the true grounds for seeking asylum in Denmark.  However, her application was rejected.  The Committee considered M.P.’s claim that forcibly removing her and her children would violate Denmark’s obligations under article 7 of the Covenant because she would be detained by authorities and beaten, raped and tortured due to her family’s alleged affiliation with LTTE.  The Committee noted its jurisprudence that the State’s role is to review and evaluate facts and evidence to determine whether a risk exists, unless the evaluation was clearly arbitrary or amounted to a denial of justice.  It then noted the findings of the Danish authorities that M.P. had not raised her family’s affiliation with LTTE before the Swiss authorities when seeking residence.  Further, it noted the finding that current background material on Sri Lanka provided no basis for believing that Tamils such as M.P. with no affiliation with LTTE whose family members had not been high-profile members of LTTE would risk persecution or abuse justifying asylum merely based on ethnicity.  Regarding claims by M.P. of alleged risk of harm by her former husband in Sri Lanka, the Committee noted that M.P. merely took issue with Denmark’s conclusions that she could seek protection if needed from her husband from Sri Lankan authorities.  The Committee concluded that the information provided did not demonstrate that M.P. would face a real and personal risk of treatment contrary to article 7 if she were deported to Sri Lanka.



Abromchik v. Belarus Human Rights Committee (ICCPR) (2018)

Custodial violence, Gender discrimination, International law

Abromchik attended a peaceful assembly on 19 December 2010 with friends in Minsk following the announcement of presidential election results.  After the event, when she and her friends were stopped by a special unit of riot police and tried to escape, they were blocked and beaten.  An officer punched her on the leg with a rubber truncheon several times.  She realized she had a broken leg and told the police officer.  She was not taken to the hospital for several hours.  She made a complaint to the prosecutor of Minsk about the unlawful actions of the police.  She provided details about the incident and witnesses were questioned, but no other actions were taken to investigate the incident or to identify the police officer who had beaten her.  The prosecutor’s office suspended the investigation, stating that it was impossible to find those responsible.  The office resumed the investigation and then suspended it again on the same grounds.  In her appeal to the Committee, Abromchik claimed that she was physically assaulted and affected mentally in violation of article 7 of the Covenant because authorities wanted her to feel helpless and to victimize her and that her age and gender should be taken into account when assessing the gravity of the ill treatment.  She also noted that her complaint of ill-treatment was not investigated promptly and impartially by the authorities, contrary to article 7.  The Committee found that, in the absence of any information from Belarus that it undertook to address the allegations made, due weight must be given to the allegations.  On this basis, the Committee concluded that Belarus failed in its duty to adequately investigate the allegations made in violation of article 7, read in conjunction with article 2(3) of the covenant.  The Committee determined that Belarus was required to provide an effective remedy, including conducting a full investigation of the ill treatment in order to prosecute the perpetrators and to punish them with appropriate sanctions, providing adequate compensation, including reimbursement of legal and medical expenses and non-pecuniary losses, and issuing a formal apology to Abromchik.  Further, the Committee stated that Belarus was under an obligation to take necessary steps to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future.



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. 



R.R. v. Denmark Human Rights Committee (ICCPR) (2017)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, International law

R.R., an Iranian national, had left Iran for Italy with her husband and children due to her husband’s activities for the Kurdish Komeleh party.  While in Italy, they lived in an asylum center and then were provided with a dwelling.  They had difficulty paying rent as they could not find steady employment and her husband became addicted to narcotics.  Her husband subjected her and the children to domestic violence and she was forced into prostitution by her husband.  She left her husband and took her children.  She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, and cervical cancer, and received help from friends to pay for surgery.  Her youngest son suffered from heart disease.  She and her children left Italy and sought asylum in Denmark.  Danish authorities rejected her asylum application, finding that Italy should serve as her first country of asylum.  R.R. claimed that by forcibly returning her and her two children to Italy, Denmark would violate its rights under article 7 of the Covenant.  She stated that her family unit were particularly vulnerable as she was a single mother, she and her son required medical attention, and they risked facing inhuman and degrading treatment upon return to Italy, including a risk of homelessness and destitution, with limited access to the necessary medical care.  The Committee, acting under article 5(4) of the Optional Protocol, decided that the deportation of R.R. and her two children to Italy without proper assurances from Italy that it would renew her residence permit and issue permits for her children and that it would receive her family in conditions appropriate for her children’s age and the family’s vulnerable status to enable them to remain in Italy, would violate their rights under article 7 of the Covenant.  The Committee required Denmark to review her claim in consideration of its obligations under the Covenant and the need to obtain proper assurances from Italy.  While considering her request for asylum, the Committee requested that Denmark not deport her and her children.



Hashi v. Denmark Human Rights Committee (ICCPR) (2017)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination, Gender violence in conflict, International law

Hibaq Said Hashi left Somalia for fear of persecution by Al-Shabaab.  She was divorced from one man and married to a second man, but her former husband claimed they were not divorced and she was having sexual relations with another man, which caused Al-Shabaab to call for her to be stoned.  Her father helped her leave Somalia and then he was killed, and her current husband was sentenced to death.  She traveled to Italy by boat, was registered and determined she was pregnant, but she faced poor conditions in Italy so she left for Sweden to have her baby.  When she learned Swedish authorities planned to send her back to Italy, she and her son moved to Denmark where she applied for asylum.  She claimed that if she returned to Somalia she would be persecuted and if she returned to Italy she would face harsh living conditions and would not be able to provide for her son’s basic needs.  She was ordered to leave Denmark to return to Italy, which Denmark considered her first country of asylum.  Upon appeal, the Committee, acting under article 5(4) of the Optional Protocol, decided that the removal of Hibaq Said Hashi and her son to Italy without any assurances from Italy that it would receive her and her son in conditions suitable for her child’s age and family’s vulnerable status would violate their rights under article 7 of the Covenant.  The Committee required Denmark to review her claim in consideration of its obligations under the Covenant and the need to obtain effective assurances from Italy.  While considering her request for asylum, the Committee requested that Denmark not deport her and her son.



C. v. Australia Human Rights Committee (ICCPR) (2018)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, International law, LGBTIQ

C. was a citizen of Australia and the United Kingdom who lived with A. as a couple in the State of Victoria and then Queensland.  They agreed to have a baby and that C. would be the birth mother.  They traveled to Canada and got married and then separated shortly after the marriage.  C. is the sole caregiver of the baby and no longer knows of the whereabouts of A.  C. wanted to formally dissolve her Canadian legal marriage so that she could remarry or enter a civil partnership in the future.  She also wanted to ensure she was not held responsible for A.’s debts.  Finally, when traveling abroad, she did not want A. to be deemed her legal spouse in certain countries where the marriage might be recognized and A deemed next of kin.  In Queensland, in order to obtain a file a divorce application to dissolve a marriage, a marital relationship must be legally recognized as a marriage.  Section 5(1) of the Marriage Act of 1961, which provided the relevant definition of marriage, define this term to mean “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”  Further, Section 88EA of the Act provided that, “a union solemnized in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man, or 9b) a woman and another woman, must not be recognized as a marriage in Australia.”  C. did not file for divorce in Australia because of the laws, nor did she apply in Canada or the United Kingdom because both had residency requirements for divorce.  C. filed her claim with the Committee claiming that the denial under Australian law of access to divorce proceedings for same-sex couples who have validly married abroad and the consequential denial of court-based relief in the form of a court order amounts to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, contrary to article 1491), ready together with article 291) (equal access to courts and tribunals), and article 26 (equality before the law) of the Covenant.  The Committee determined that C. was precluded from accessing divorce proceedings in Australia because her same-sex marriage was not recognized under sections 5(1) and 88EA of the Marriage Act of Australia, whereas couples in specific opposite-sex marriages not recognized in Australia, such as polygamous couples, do have access to divorce.  This was found to constitute differential treatment.  Australia stated they made a reasonable exception for polygamous marriages to enable parties to such marriages access to the assistance, relief and help provided by the family law courts in relation to (but not limited to) children’s matters, property matters, maintenance matters or divorce.  The Committee determined that Australia did not explain why this stated reason does not apply equally to unrecognized foreign same-sex marriages.  In the absence of more convincing explanations from Australia, the Committee found that the differentiation of treatment based on sexual orientation to which C. was subjected regarding access to divorce proceedings was not based on reasonable and objective criteria and therefore constitutes discrimination under article 26 of the Covenant.  Under article 2(3) of the Covenant, the Committee stated that Australia was under an obligation to provide C. with an effective remedy by providing full reparation for the discrimination suffered through lack of access to divorce proceedings.  Australia also was obligated to take steps to prevent similar violations in the future and to review its laws in accordance with the Committee’s views, and to provide the Committee information about the measures taken to give effect to the Committee’s views within 180 days.



Sharma, et al. v. Nepal Human Rights Committee (ICCPR) (2018)

Gender-based violence in general, International law, Sexual violence and rape

The Government of Nepal declared a state of emergency in response to a rebellion by the Maoist party and granted powers to the Royal Nepal Army to arrest individuals on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities through and to keep them in detention for up to 90 days without charge.  The first author, Sarita Devi Sharma, is the sister of Himal Sharma, Secretary-General of a Maoist-affiliated political party in Nepal.  Ms. Sharma and her friend B.M. were followed and asked about Ms. Sharma’s brother, then they were handcuffed, placed in a van and taken to Army barracks.  She was detained and held from October 2003 through 30 June 2005.  Once her husband, the second author, became aware of her disappearance, he submitted an application to the National Human Rights Commission denouncing her disappearance and submitted a writ petition to the Supreme Court of Nepal demanding an order of habeas corpus, which the court rejected, claiming lack of evidence proving her illegal detention.  He also informed Amnesty International about her disappearance, but they never received a reply from the Government when they inquired about her.  During the first four-five months, she was routinely interrogated, beaten, held underwater for long periods of time and threatened with rape.  After that, she suffered ill health and was taken to a hospital.  In the hospital, she sent a letter secretly to her husband who, after several months of not hearing any further information, shared it with members of All Nepal National Independent Student Union Revolutionary who included information about her condition in a press release.  As a result, Ms. Sharma was interrogated harshly and beaten.  Ms. Sharma was then moved to a small, dark room and kept in isolation.  Her husband filed a new petition for habeas corpus with the Supreme Court, which ordered her release.  The Committee determined that Nepal produced no evidence to show that, while Ms. Sharma was held in incommunicado detention, it met its obligations to protect her life, and that this failure resulted in a violation of article 6(1) of the Covenant.  In addition, the Committee found that the enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention of Ms. Sharma, and the acts of torture and conditions to which she was exposed constituted violations of article 7 of the Covenant.  Further, the Committee concluded that the enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention of Ms. Sharma amounted to a violation of article 9 (1-4) of the Covenant.  The enforced disappearance deprived her of the protection of the law and her right to recognition as a person before the law in violation of article 16 of the Covenant.  The anguish and distress suffered by Ms. Sharma’s husband and son, the third author, due to her enforced disappearance also were found to constitute a violation of article 7 of the Covenant.  The Committee determined that neither Ms. Sharma did not receive an adequate remedy (246,000 Nepalese rupees), in violation of article 2 (3), in conjunction with articles 6, 7, 9 (1-4) and 16, and her husband and son received no interim relief, which constituted a violation of article 2 (3), read in conjunction with article 7 of the Covenant.  Moreover, the Committee stated that Nepal was obligated to provide an effective remedy.  This remedy should include:  (1) conducting a thorough and effective investigation into the facts surrounding the detention and the treatment suffered in detention; (2) prosecuting those responsible for the violations committed and making the results public; (3) providing detailed information about the results of the investigation to Ms. Sharma and her family; (4) ensuring that any necessary and adequate psychological rehabilitation and medical treatment is provided; and (5) providing adequate compensation and appropriate measures of satisfaction for the violations suffered.  Further, in order to prevent the occurrence of similar violations in the future, the Committee stated that Nepal should ensure that its legislation:  (1) criminalizes torture and enforced disappearance and provides for appropriate sanctions and remedies; (2) guarantees that such cases give rise to a prompt, impartial and effective investigation; (3) allows for the criminal prosecution of those found responsible for such crimes; and (4) amends the 35-day statutory limit for claiming compensation for torture, in accordance with international standards.



O.G. v. Russian Federation CEDAW Committee (2017)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, International law

O.G. was in a civil partnership with K. who used drugs and alcohol and had a gambling addiction.  After O.G. left him, he sent her harassing texts, attempted to visit her, and when she refused to let him in her building, he hit her.  She reported the events to a Crisis Center for Women.  K. was sentenced to four months of labor which was suspended to a six-month probation and ordered to pay $50.  After his release, he continued to send texts to O.G. threatening to kill her.  She filed seven criminal complaints with the police, who took no action claiming there was nothing they could do because K. would not come to the police station and he was not acting on his threats.  O.G. filed a complaint with CEDAW alleging that the Russian Federation failed to fully implement the Convention by not introducing legislation on domestic violence, and that the authorities had violated her rights under the Convention by not responding adequately to her claims or implementing protective orders to ensure her safety, not providing any effective remedy or psychological support, not conducting meaningful investigation, and allowing prosecution to be time barred due to a two-year statute of limitation.  The Committee decided in O.G.’s favor, rejecting the Russian authority’s argument that O.G.’s claim to be a domestic violence victim was unsubstantiated because he was not a member of her family at the time of the alleged violence, finding that there is no statutory time limit on how long after the end of a relationship a partner can claim that violence falls within this definition.  The Committee determined that Russia had not adopted comprehensive legislation to prevent and address violence against women, and noted recent amendments to national legislation that decriminalized battery under which many domestic violence cases are prosecuted due to the absence of a definition of “domestic violence.”  This failure to amend legislation relating to domestic violence directly affected O.G.’s access to remedies and protection.  The Committee determined Russia violated O.G.’s rights under articles 1, 2 (b)-(g), 3 and 5 (a) of the Convention. It recommended that Russia provide financial compensation to O.G., adopt comprehensive legislation to prevent and address violence against women, including domestic violence, reinstate criminal prosecution of domestic violence, introduce a protocol for handling domestic violence complaints at the police station level to ensure adequate protection, renounce private prosecution in domestic violence cases, ratify the Istanbul Convention, provide mandatory training for judges, lawyers and law enforcement personnel on the Convention and related documents, investigate allegations of gender-based violence against women promptly and provide safe and prompt access to justice, provide rehabilitation programs to offenders, and develop and implement effective measures with relevant stakeholders such as women’s organizations, to address stereotypes and practices that condone or promote domestic violence.  A written response and report on actions taken was due to the Committee within six months. (Available in English, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish.)



S.F.A. v. Denmark CEDAW Committee (2018)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Forced and early marriage

S.F.A., a Somali national, applied for asylum in Denmark for herself and her son born in 2013.  She was subjected to female genital mutilation as a child and her father wanted to marry her forcibly to an older man.  She had a relationship against her family’s wishes with H., became pregnant and had an abortion.  Her father learned about the abortion and her brothers threatened to hand her over to Al-Shabaab.  She left Somalia and ended up in Italy.  H. traveled to Italy, they got married and she became pregnant and H. died.  S.F.A. and her baby traveled to Denmark without documents and she applied for asylum.  Denmark rejected her asylum application and dismissed her claim.  She filed a complaint with CEDAW claiming that, if she and her son were deported to Somalia she would be personally exposed to serious forms of gender-based violence, as defined under articles 2, 12, 15 and 16 of the Convention.  The Committee noted that the Danish authorities found that S.F.A.’s account lacked credibility due to factual inconsistencies and lack of substantiation and that they considered the general situation in Somalia.  The Committee rejected her claim that the fact she is a single woman constitutes a supplementary risk factor in Somalia, finding that she has several close relatives in Somalia.  Based on the record, the Commission deemed the communication inadmissible under article 4(2)(c) of the Optional Protocol, finding that it was not able to conclude that the Danish authorities failed to give sufficient consideration to the application or that consideration of her case suffered from any procedural defect.



A.S. v. Denmark CEDAW Committee (2018)

International law, LGBTIQ

A.S., a Uganda national, applied for asylum in Denmark.  She claimed she was wanted in Uganda and at risk of being killed there because she was a lesbian.  She was forced to marry a man and have three children, and when he died, she made a living working in a bar frequented by lesbians.  Three men made advances to her in the bar, she turned them down, and they became aggressive.  Her home was ransacked and burned, her belongings were stolen, and the police looked for her, including at her mother’s house.  She left Rwanda traveling with a visa obtained in Kampala.  Danish authorities rejected the asylum application, noting the visa contained the wrong name.  A.S. filed a complaint with CEDAW claiming that, deportation to Uganda would violate her rights under articles 1-3 of the Convention because her life would be in danger at the hands of the police and ordinary people due to her sexual orientation.  She claimed that her case was not properly investigated by the Refugee Appeals Board.  The Committee noted that the Danish authorities found A.S.’ account lacked credibility due to factual inconsistencies and lack of support related to her claim to be a lesbian and her account of the bar incident.  The Committee also noted that the authorities considered the situation of gay people in Uganda, and found that, notwithstanding the fact homosexuality is prohibited under the Penal Code, the ban has not been enforced and gay people are not targeted.  The Committee deemed the communication inadmissible under article 4 (2)(c) concluding that A.S. failed to support that the lack of reference to the Convention in the asylum decision or the refusal to call a witness stemmed from any gender-based discrimination.  It also did not find any procedural defect or arbitrariness in the decision-making process or any breach of the Convention as a result of the initial error related to A.S.’ name.



Korneykova and Korneykov v. Ukraine European Court of Human Rights (2016)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Custodial violence

The first applicant, a woman in her fifth month of pregnancy, was taken into police custody on suspicion of robbery and subsequently detained pending trial.  The woman gave birth to her son, the second applicant, while in detention.  The woman claimed that she had been shackled to bed during her stay in the maternity hospital, placed in a metal cage during court hearings before and after giving birth, and that the physical conditions of her and her child’s detention and the medical care provided to the child in pre-trial detention had been inadequate.  The Court considered that shackling to a gynecological examination chair before and after birth giving on the basis that she could escape or behave violently was unjustified, inhuman and degrading given the woman’s condition, and that holding a person in a metal cage during a trial constituted an affront to human dignity. The Court also held that keeping the woman’s son in detention without any monitoring by a pediatrician for almost three months following his birth and without adequate healthcare constituted a violation of his rights.



Y. v. Slovenia European Court of Human Rights (2015)

International law, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

Applicant is a citizen of Ukraine who came to Slovenia as a teenager with her family.  Applicant alleged that when she was 14 a family friend repeatedly sexually assaulted her.  The police investigated and an expert in gynecology examined the applicant.  After complaints and a letter from the State Prosecutor’s Office to the local police a criminal complaint was issued.  The ensuing investigation and trial extended over a period of eight years.  During that time the defendant was allowed to repeatedly cross examine the applicant.  Moreover, a lawyer with whom the applicant had shared confidential information about the case was allowed to represent the defendant.  The defendant was acquitted, the applicant was referred to civil court for damages, and the applicant received a settlement from the government for the undue delays in the proceedings.  The Court found that Slovenia violated the European Convention of Human Rights in two ways.  Slovenia violated Article 3 when it failed to promptly investigate and prosecute the complaint of sexual abuse.  Furthermore, Slovenia violated Article 8 because it failed to sufficiently protect the applicant’s personal integrity and privacy in the proceedings.



Case of W. v. Slovenia European Court of Human Rights (2014)

International law, Sexual violence and rape

In 1990 at age 18, W. was raped by a group of seven men.  Three other men aided and abetted the rape.  Seven months later, the court acquitted the men of all charges, finding that the victim had not “seriously resisted sexual intercourse.”  The Public Prosecutor appealed the judgement and in 1991, a year after the assault, the appellate court overturned the acquittal.  The Slovenian authorities attempted to locate the perpetrators, but two defendants had emigrated to Austria and could not be found.  Between 1995 and 2001, the victim wrote eight letters to the court urging the proceedings to continue and five hearings were adjourned for failure of some of the defendants to appear.  Various excuses, such as frequent changes in the presiding judges, were offered to the victim as excuses for the stalled proceedings.  Finally, in May 2001, the authorities issued an international arrest warrant for the defendants located abroad.  In June 2002, six defendants were found guilty of rape and aggravated rape.  However, due to the passage of time, they were only sentenced to eight months to one year of prison.  The last defendant was extradited in 2004, convicted of aiding and abetting the rape, and sentenced to eight months in prison.  The victim received €5,000 from the Slovenian government in recognition of delay in prosecuting the defendants; however, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that this amount (while the statutory maximum in Slovenia) was insufficient redress.  The ECtHR noted that Slovenian authorities failed to proceed with the case in a diligent manner and that the defendants received prison sentences of less than the minimum sentences prescribed by law.  Thus, the domestic authorities failed to comply with their obligations under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights.  The ECHR, deciding in equity, awarded the victim €15,000 in addition to the €5,000 she received from the domestic authorities.



Case of Bălşan v. Romania European Court of Human Rights (2017)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, International law

Applicant is a Romanian citizen who alleged that her husband had been violent towards her and their children on numerous occasions.  The assaults intensified when the applicant initiated divorce proceedings against her husband.  The applicant’s husband assaulted and threatened her on multiple occasions, for which she required and obtained medical treatment.  She then used her medical records as proof when she lodged formal complaints against her husband at the prosecutor’s office.  She told prosecutors of the incidences of violence and the fact that her husband repeatedly locked her out of their shared residence.  The police did not pursue criminal charges and only imposed an administrative fine, holding that the applicant had provoked the disputes.  A similar pattern of abuse, medical attention, and contact with the authorities occurred over a period of months.  The applicant brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights alleging that the State “had failed to protect her from domestic violence and to hold the perpetrator accountable.”  The Court found that there were violations of Article 3 and Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which forbid torture and discrimination, respectively.  The Court found that the authorities were aware of the violence against the applicant, and thus they had an obligation to act on the complaints.  The applicant exhausted domestic avenues, but without success.  The state’s responses did not comply with international standards about required state action to violence against women and domestic violence. (Available in English, Romanian, and Croatian. English version is official.)



Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community v. Paraguay Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2006)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Gender discrimination, International law, Property and inheritance rights

This case involved issues involving the exposure of vulnerable members of indigenous communities, particularly children, pregnant women, and the elderly. A petition was filed against Paraguay on behalf of the Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community, alleging violations of, among other things, the right to fair trial and judicial protection, the right to property and the right to life. The petition noted that these violations placed children, pregnant women and the elderly in particularly vulnerable situations. The Court found Paraguay to be in violation of Articles 1(1), 2, 3, 4(1), 8, 19, 21 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights. The Court ordered Paraguay to formally and physically convey to the Sawhoyamaxa their traditional lands, to establish a community development fund, to pay non-pecuniary damages, to provide the Sawhoyamaxa with basic necessities until their lands were restored, to provide the Sawhoyamaxa with the necessary tools for communication to access health authorities, and to domestically enact legislation creating a mechanism for indigenous communities to reclaim their traditional lands.



Perozo et al. v. Venezuela Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2009)

Custodial violence, International law, Sexual harassment

This case was brought against Venezuela under allegations of harassment and physical and verbal assault toward journalists, including some female journalists, by state actors over a period of four years. While the Court found Venezuela to be in violation of the right to speak freely, to receive and impart information, and to humane treatment (violations of Articles 1(1), 5(1) and 13(1) of the American Convention on Human Rights), the Court also found there was insufficient evidence to establish violations of Articles 13(3), 21 and 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights.  The Court further noted that it would not analyze the alleged actions under Articles 1, 2 and 7(b) of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.



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

Custodial violence

In April 1992, the Petitioner, Mónica Feria Tinta, was arrested during a raid by DINCOTE, the counter-terrorism branch of the Peruvian police. The police believed that Ms. Tinta was a member of the Sendero Luminoso, a communist militant group in Peru. During the raid, Ms. Tinta was blindfolded, beaten and raped by some of the police officers. When Ms. Tinta protested the sexual violence, the officers beat and kicked her. After the raid, the officers took Ms. Tinta 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 Ms. Tinta 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 Ms. Tinta’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 Ms. Tinta’s claims of rape, including ordering medical tests and examinations, to either corroborate or disprove Ms. Tinta’s 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).



Reports

Avon Global Center 2013 Women and Justice Conference Report (2014)

Acid violence, Gender discrimination, Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices, Gender violence in conflict, Forced and early marriage, Gender-based violence in general

In December 2013, the Avon Global Center hosted its annual conference in New York, NY on "State Responsibility to End Violence Against Women: The Due Diligence Principle and the Role of Judges."