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.

RRT Case No. 0808751 Refugee Review Tribunal (2009)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices

The applicant sought a review of a decision to refuse her a protection visa under s65 of the Migration Act 1958. The application was refused because the applicant was allegedly not a person to whom Australia had protection obligations arising out of the Refugees Convention. The tribunal investigated the history of the victim and her claims of substantial risk of being forced to undergo FGM if she returned to Uganda. The evidence presented included the fact that the process is not illegal in Uganda, that her father is relatively high-ranking in a tribe that finds FGM extremely important, and that she has in the past been abducted in order to be forced to undergo the process. She changed schools and stayed with relatives, but those means of escape have not worked as eventually her father and his tribe were always able to find her. As such, the tribunal concluded that there was a risk of serious harm if the applicant were forced to return to Uganda. It also concluded that she does satisfy the s36(2)(a) of the Migration Act and was therefore a person to whom Australia has protection obligations.

In the Marriage of Todd (No. 2) Family Court of Australia (1976)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage

Mr. Todd and Mrs. Todd were married in 1960 and had two children. On 23 November 1974, Mrs. Todd left the matrimonial home with the two children, but all three moved back in on 21 April 1975, where they continued to reside until the parents decided to divorce in 1976. The application for divorce under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (the “Act”) initiated in the Family Law Division of the Supreme Court of New South Wales was transferred to the Family Court of Australia. On the question of divorce, one key issue was what constituted “separation” and “separated and apart” for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. The court held that this marriage had irretrievably broken down since 23 November 1974, and a continuous separation for 12 months the application for divorce had been satisfied. The Court held that “separation” was broader than mere physical separation and concerned the martial relationship itself. According to the Court, “Separation can only occur in the sense used by the Act where one or both of the spouses form the intention to sever or not to resume the marital relationship and act on that intention, or alternatively act as if the marital relationship has been severed.” In this case, the Court held although the spouses moved back in together in April 1975, they never restored the marital relationship.