Women and Justice: Topics: Domestic and intimate partner violence, Dowry-related violence, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

Legislation

Equal Rights of the Customary Marriage Law of 1998 (1998)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Dowry-related violence, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The Equal Rights of the Customary Marriage Law of 1998 (the “Law”) repeals previous Liberian marriage laws and provides various rights and protections for women within the context of marriage. These include:

Entitling a wife to one-third of her husband’s property (Section 2.3).Providing that a husband must respect his wife’s human rights (Section 2.5).Affirming that a wife’s property acquired before and during the marriage is exclusively hers; she can deal with this property in her own name as she sees fit without consent of her husband (Section 2.6(a)).Confirming that every woman has a right to marry a man of her choosing (Section 2.10).Entitling a wife to one-third of her husband’s property when her husband dies (Section 3.2).Entitling a widow to remain on the premises of her late husband (or to take another husband of her choice and vacate the late husband’s premises) (Section 3.3).Entitling a widow to administer her husband’s estate by making a petition to the probate court of their jurisdiction (Section 3.5).

The law also prohibits some of the common harmful practices towards wives, including: 1)  husband taking a dowry from his wife or his wife’s parents (Section 2.2); 2) arranging for a girl under the age of 16 to be given in marriage to a man (Section 2.9); 3) compelling a widow to marry a member of her late husband’s family (Section 3.4(a)).



Anti-Stalking Control Law (Act No. 81 of 2000) (2000)

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

The Stalker Control Law prohibits acts of stalking, against a victim or the victim’s spouse, at the victim’s residence, place of employment or school.  In addition to broadly prohibiting stalking, the statute also includes lying in wait, demanding a meeting, violent acts, silent phone calls and sending dirty or explicit items, animal carcasses or sexually insulting materials. The Chief of Police may issue a warning, and the Public Safety Commission may issue a prohibition order, upon petition by the victim. To ensure its effectiveness, the statute provides for imprisonment with work or a fine to be imposed on people who repeatedly violate the Law or who violate a prohibition order.



Domestic Case Law

Act on the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims, etc. (Act No. 31 of 2001) (2001)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Dowry-related violence

The Act on the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims etc. (the “Act”) was enacted to prevent spousal violence. The Act aims to protect victims by establishing a system for notification, counseling, protection and support for self-reliance following an incident of spousal violence. The Act provides that the court shall, upon a petition from the victim, issue a restraining order, exclusion order and prohibition of telephone contact order (collectively, a “Protection Order”) where a victim is highly likely to experience serious psychological or bodily harm due to the actions of his or her spouse or domestic partner. The Act does not cover partners who are in a relationship but live separately. To ensure the effectiveness of the Protection Order, violations of the Act include imprisonment with work or fines.  Furthermore, the Act requires that citizens who detect spousal violence make efforts to a Spousal Violence Counseling and Support Center, temporary protection, support worker or a police officer. 



State of Rajasthan v. Jaggu Ram Supreme Court of India (2008)

Dowry-related violence

A new bride was threatened by her in-laws if her family did not provide a greater dowry. When local villagers protested these threats, the husband’s family killed his new bride by burning her with kerosene. The main issue of the case was to determine how the elements of dowry-death should be proven at trial under amended Indian Penal Code. The trial court acquitted the defendant of dowry-death in taking a narrow statutory view. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a death shall be called dowry-death when a woman dies from burns or bodily injury that would not occur under normal circumstances within seven years of marriage. The Court added it should be in consideration that soon before her death the woman was subject to harassment by her husband or any relative of his or in connection with any demand for dowry. Shifting this burden to the husband’s family and broadening the scope of dowry death provides prosecutors with more powerful tools to convict for dowry-death and is meant to curb the recent rise in dowry-related violence.



Sunita Jain v. Pawan Kumar Jain Supreme Court of India (2008)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Dowry-related violence

Immediately after a woman’s marriage, her husband and his parents harassed her for having an insufficient dowry. She was attacked on two occasions and prevented from seeing her two children. A few years later the husband filed for divorce and the woman filed a police report against her husband and his family for mental torture and dowry demands. The High Court initially allowed the case to continue and then quashed the proceedings and filed a petition against the woman claiming abuse of court. The woman appealed on the question of whether a criminal court can review its prior decisions. The Supreme Court set aside the High Court’s petition stating that the court was wrong to quash the woman’s proceedings when the High Court initially found that there was a prima facie case against the husband and family. Under the Indian Penal Code, a court does not have the power to alter its prior judgment.



Noorjahan v. State Rep. by D.S.P. Supreme Court of India (2008)

Dowry-related violence

Shortly after a couple wed, the husband and his relatives began treating the wife poorly and demanded dowry from her. The husband and his brother later strangled her with rope and his sisters held the wife’s arms. This led to her death. All of the accused were convicted and sentenced under Sections 302 and 498(a) of the Indian Penal Code. The aunt of the husband was also convicted and sentenced under 498(a) for alleged dowry-related cruelty, which can lead to a sentence of up to three years imprisonment. The aunt appealed her conviction, claiming that if she had been cruel it bore no relation to dowry. The High Court upheld the conviction, yet the Supreme Court reversed. The Supreme Court held that the purpose of Section 498(a) was to combat dowry-related death and cruelty. Because there was no evidence that the aunt had ever made a demand for dowry, rendering her conviction under Section 498 improper.



Shanti v. State of Haryana Supreme Court of India (1991)

Dowry-related violence, Harmful traditional practices

The petitioners were charged and found guilty of dowry death. The Court upheld the conviction, holding that the evidence of cruelty necessary to create a presumption of dowry death may be less than or different from the level of evidence of cruelty necessary to uphold a charge of criminal cruelty.  The two crimes are unrelated, despite using similar wordings, and a person may be convicted of dowry death without having committed criminal cruelty.



State of West Bengal v. Jaiswal Supreme Court of India (1993)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Dowry-related violence, Harmful traditional practices

A woman committed suicide by hanging herself after being mistreated and abused by her husband, being subject to complaints about her dowry and held responsible for the death of her father-in-law because of her "evil luck" by her in-laws, and being subjected to other mental torture.  In an action against the woman's husband and mother-in-law, the lower court had found insufficient evidence of systematic cruelty or physical or mental torture to sustain a conviction under 498 A of the Indian Penal Code, which provides that a relative of a woman that subjects that woman to cruelty may be imprisoned for up to three years.  The Supreme Court reversed the lower court's holding, finding that the actions of the accused husband and mother-in-law did qualify as "cruelty" because their willful conduct was of such nature as was likely to commit the victim's suicide.



Pandurang Shivram Kawathkar v. State Of Maharashtra Supreme Court of India (2001)

Dowry-related violence, Harmful traditional practices

The petitioner, having been found guilty under the dowry prohibition act, charged that because the witnesses were all related, their testimony was insufficient to prove that he participated in a demand for dowry. The Court held that the testimony is sufficient to uphold a charge, and that evidence of a demand for dowry having been presented it is up to the defendant to prove that he did not participate in the demand—to prove an alibi.



Rajeev v. Ram Kishan Jaiswal Supreme Court of India (1992)

Dowry-related violence, Harmful traditional practices

In this case, a woman's in-laws repeatedly demanded additional gifts from her. As a result of this harassment, the woman committed suicide. The Court defined dowry as any demand for gifts in relation to marriage and dowry death as a death within seven years of marriage where there have been demands for dowry.