Women and Justice: Topics: Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Employment discrimination, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

Legislation

Lei da Família: Lei nº 10/2004 (Family Code) (2004)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Employment discrimination, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

The law defines family relationships and establishes certain “rights of the family.” The law prohibits various forms of discrimination against women, including through polygamy, inheritance, age at marriage and choice of children. The law defines marriage as a “voluntary union between a man and a woman”, which requires mutual consent. Coerced marriage is subject to annulment. The law provides that both husband and wife have the right to “represent the family”, to administer the family finances, and to work. The law also outlines provisions for divorce. Husbands are required to pay child support in case of divorce,



Schweizerisches Strafgesetzbuch/Swiss Penal Code, Article 264e: War Crimes (2019)

Forced and early marriage, Forced sterilization, Gender violence in conflict, International law, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

Art. 264e provides for a criminal penalty of not less than three years for any person who commits certain specified offenses in connection with an armed conflict, including (among other things) raping a person of the female gender protected by international humanitarian law or, after she has been forcibly made pregnant, confining her unlawfully with the intent of affecting the ethnic composition of a population, forcing a person to tolerate a sexual act of comparable severity or forcing a person protected by international humanitarian law into prostitution or to be sterilized.  In especially serious cases, and in particular where the offense affects a number of persons or the offender acts in a cruel manner, life imprisonment may be imposed. In less serious cases, imprisonment of not less than one year may be imposed. Unofficial English translation available here.



Schweizerisches Strafgesetzbuch/Swiss Penal Code, Article 264a: Crimes Against Humanity (2019)

Forced and early marriage, Gender violence in conflict, International law, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

Provides for a criminal penalty of not less than five years for any person who commits certain specified offenses as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, including (1) assuming and exercising a right of ownership over a person, in particular in the form of trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation or forced labor; and (2) raping a person of the female gender or, after she has been forcibly made pregnant, confining her unlawfully with the intent of affecting the ethnic composition of a population, forcing a person to tolerate a sexual act of comparable severity or forcing a person into prostitution or to be sterilized. Unofficial English translation available here.



The Marriage Act of 1961 (2017)

Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination

Section 11 sets the marriage age at 18. Section 12 allows authorization of marriage of persons under 18 but above 16 years of age in exceptional circumstances, after obtaining authorization from a Judge or Magistrate. Furthermore, section 13 provides that a marriage of a minor is not to be solemnized without consent of parents and other administrative steps.



Criminal Code Act of 1995 (2018)

Forced and early marriage, Trafficking in persons

Division 270 of the Criminal Code Act prohibits slavery and slavery-like offenses. Section 170.1A defines these offenses and related terms including coercion, forced labor, and forced marriage. Section 270.2 specifies that slavery offenses are unlawful, whether committed inside or outside of Australia. Section 270.4 criminalizes servitude offenses, 270.6A criminalizes forced labor offenses, section 270.7B criminalizes forced marriage offenses, section 270.8 criminalizes slavery-like offenses, 271.2 criminalizes trafficking in persons, 271.4 criminalizes trafficking in children, and 271.5 criminalizes domestic trafficking in persons. Section 270.11 clarifies that for all above offenses it is not a defense that a person consented to or acquiesced to prohibited conduct.



Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act (2013)

Forced and early marriage, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

The Act defines and prohibits human trafficking. The PCTP Act adopts a broad definition of human trafficking, namely, that a person is guilty of human trafficking if he or she delivers, recruits, transports, transfers, harbours, sells, exchanges, leases or receives another person, through various means, including the use of force, deception, or coercion, aimed at the person or an immediate family member for the purpose of exploitation. Furthermore, a person who adopts a child, facilitated or secured through legal or illegal means; or concludes a forced marriage with another person, for the purposes of exploitation of that child or person, is guilty of an offence. The PCTP Act criminalizes various acts that constitute or relate to trafficking in persons and imposes harsh penalties, including life imprisonment for trafficking in persons; 15 years’ imprisonment for engaging in conduct that causes a person to enter into debt bondage or benefiting from services of a trafficking victim; and 10 years’ imprisonment for facilitating trafficking. The PCTP Act also provides for severe fines and enables the state to confiscate the assets of traffickers.



Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China (2001)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination

The Marriage Law of the People’s Republic of China was adopted by the National People’s Congress on September 10, 1980 and amended on April 28, 2001. Article 2 provides that the marriage system is “based on the free choice of partners, on monogamy and on equality between man and woman.” Article 3 prohibits interference by a third party, mercenary marriage and exaction of money or gifts in connection with marriage. Article 6 provides the minimal marriage age is twenty-two for men and twenty for women. Article 13 provides that husband and wife shall have equal status in the family. Article 34 provides that “a husband may not apply for a divorce when his wife is pregnant, or within one year after the birth of the child, or within six months after the termination of her gestation.” Article 43 provides that neighborhood committee, villagers committee or the unit[1] to which the family belongs have an obligation to deter domestic violence. English version available here. 

 

[1] “Unit” is a term of art with strong communist connotations, which refers to the company/organization/group to which a person belongs.



The Constitution of the People's Republic of China (Articles 48-49) (2004)

Employment discrimination, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China was adopted by the National People’s Congress and promulgated for implementation on December 4, 1982. It has been amended several times, with the most recent amendment occurring on March 14, 2004.  Article 48 provides that women and men have equal rights. It states that “[w]omen in the People’s Republic of China enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life, in political, economic, cultural, social and family life. The State protects the rights and interests of women, applies the principle of equal pay for equal work to men and women alike and trains and selects cadres from among women.” Article 49, moreover, provides that “violation of the freedom of marriage is prohibited. Maltreatment of old people, women and children is prohibited.” English version available here. 



Married Persons Equality Act (1996)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The Married Persons Equality Act (the “Act”) abolishes the marital power of the husband over his wife and her property and amends community property laws. It further provides women with the power to register immovable property in their own name, gives them legal capacity to litigate and contract, and allows them to act as directors of companies. The Act also establishes that the minimum age for marriage is 18, thereby prohibiting child marriages.



The Constitution of the Republic of Namibia (1990)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Employment discrimination, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination

The Constitution serves as the fundamental law of Namibia and establishes the Republic of Namibia as an independent, secular, democratic, and unitary state safeguarding the rights to justice, liberty, dignity, and equality. Chapter 3 of the Constitution protects fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to equality and freedom from discrimination, including on the grounds of sex. It also bans child marriages and mandates equal rights for men and women entering into marriage, during the marriage, and at the dissolution of the marriage. Additionally, Parliament may not make any laws that contravene the Constitution, nor can the Executive take any action that abolishes or contravenes Chapter 3 of the Constitution. Any such laws or actions would be invalid.



Código Penal (Penal Code) (2018)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Forced and early marriage, Gender-based violence in general, LGBTIQ, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

Under section 142 (Crimes against people) of the Portuguese Penal Code, abortion is permitted if performed by a doctor and in the following scenarios: (1) risk of death or grave physical or mental harm to the mother; (2) the fetus is in risk of grave illness or malformation, up to the 24th week of pregnancy; (3) pregnancy was caused by rape or sexual assault, up to the 16th week of pregnancy; (4) by the mother’s choice, up to the 10th week of pregnancy. Article 118 provides that the statute of limitations on crimes of sexual violence and female genital mutilation against minors do not expire until the victim is at least 23 years old. Prostitution is not considered a crime in Portugal. However, the economic exploitation of prostitution by third parties is considered a crime under the Penal Code. A homicide that reveals “especial censurabilidade ou perversidade” (special censorship or perversity) is punishable with 12 – 25 years imprisonment. These special circumstances include a current or former spousal relationship between the perpetrator and victim, a sexual motive, and hate crimes including those based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Article 144a bans female genital mutilation and imposes a prison sentence of two to 18 years. Articles 154b, 159, and 160 ban forced marriage, slavery, and human trafficking, respectively. Article 163 bans sexual coercion, which carries a sentence of one to eight years for coercing a significant sexual act. Article 164 punishes “violação”, which is forcible intercourse, with imprisonment for one to six years.



Código Civil (Civil Code) (2010)

Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, LGBTIQ

Section 1577 of the Portuguese Civil Code provides for the right of marriage, regardless of gender, to anyone over the age of 16, provided that whoever wishes to marry before the age of 18 must also present an authorization of their parents or legal guardians. The Civil Code also provides that marriage requires free will of both parties, and therefore any marriage that is performed without the will of both spouses is void.



Law No. 1 of 1974 Marriage Law (1974)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

This law sets the legal age of marriage without parental consent at 21 years of age. With parental consent, girls may marry at age 16 and men may marry at age 19. Marriages under the legal age are void and there are penalties for knowingly entering into or authorizing child or early marriage. The law also sets the requirements for polygamy, which include the first wife’s inability to fulfill her spousal duties (e.g., bearing children), the permission of the man’s current wife or wives, permission from the local Court, and proof that the man will treat all of his wives and children fairly and provide for them equally. Women are prohibited from marrying a second husband. The law also provides the conditions for the cancellation (annulments and divorce) of a marriage, the obligations of husbands and wives, property rights of spouses, the obligations of parents to their children, the legitimacy of children, the requirements of guardianship, foreign marriages, and the children of mixed-religion marriages.



Criminal Code (2000)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Forced and early marriage, LGBTIQ, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The Belize Criminal Code defines and criminalizes rape, including marital rape (Sections 46, 71-74); carnal knowledge of female child (Section 47); procuring or attempting to procure a woman (Section 49-50); compulsion of marriage (Section 58); incest by males (Section 62); abortion, miscarriage, and child destruction (Sections 111-12, 127).  The Code mandates a minimum sentence of eight years for rape (Section 46), 12 years of carnal knowledge of a female child (Section 47), and a life sentence for habitual sex offenders (Section 48).

Of particular note:

Marital rape under Section 72 requires a showing that the spouses have separated, the marriage is dissolved, an order or injunction has been made, granted or undertaken against the spouse, or that the sexual intercourse was preceded or accompanied by assault and battery.  Lack of consent is not enough if the parties are married.  The Criminal Code also criminalizes same-sex relationships under Section 53, which criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal.”Abortion and the aiding of abortion are felonies and carry a prison term of 14 years to imprisonment for life under Section 111.  There are limited exceptions under Section 112 if two registered medical practitioners agree that the abortion is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother or her family or if the child may be seriously handicapped.


The Revised Criminal Code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (2004)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Forced and early marriage, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

The Ethiopian Criminal Code criminalizes most forms of violence against women and girls including physical violence within marriage or cohabitation (Article 564), Female Genital Mutilation/ Circumcision (Articles 565-6), trafficking women (Article 597), rape (Articles 620-28), prostitution/exploitation of another for financial gain (Article 634), and early marriage (Article 648). The Criminal Code outlaws abortion, except in cases of rape or incest, risk to the life of the mother or fetus, severe or incurable disease or birth defect, a mother who is mentally or physically incapable of raising a child, or “grave and imminent danger” that can only be addressed by terminating the pregnancy.



Revised Family Code (2000)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The current family law in Ethiopia provides that there must be, inter alia, consent by both spouses to constitute a valid marriage (Article 6); respect and support between spouses (Article 49); equal rights in the management of the family (Article 50); fidelity owed by both husband and wife (Article 56). This is a substantial step forward in Ethiopian law.



Social and Economic Development Policy Act (2006)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Employment discrimination, Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

Section 7 (Gender Equity, Equality and Empowerment) provides for: (a) gender equality through gender policy aimed at the elimination of structural gender biases and increased participation in education; (b) strengthening the activities of Ministry of Gender Development and women’s rights NGOs; (c) adequate protection from violence through penal and civil sanctions; (d) protection of female children, notably from female genital mutilation, early marriage, and teenage pregnancy; (e) increasing women’s participation in labour force and policy and economic institutions; (f) elimination of legal and customary practices which are barriers to ownership of land, capital and other property; and (g) establishing reproductive health services.



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)).



Schweizerisches Strafgesetzbuch/Swiss Penal Code (2014)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Forced and early marriage, Harmful traditional practices, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

Art. 124: A person who seriously injures a female’s genitals can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison or fined.  A person may be punished for causing such injuries abroad if the person is not extradited.

Art. 181a: The statute provides that anyone who coerces someone to marry or register a same-sex partnership by the use of force or threats can be punished by sentence of custody of up to five years.  The statute applies even if the marriage occurred outside Switzerland if the person has not been extradited. 

Art. 187: A person can be punished by up to five years in custody or a fine for (1) committing a sexual act with a person under 16 years old, (2) inciting a child under 16 to commit a sexual act, or (3) involving a child under 16 in a sexual act.

Art. 190: A person can be sentenced to between 1 and 10 years in custody or a fine for using violence, threats, or psychological pressure to force a female to engage in a sexual act, or for making her incapable of resisting. 

Art. 195: A person can be sentenced to 10 years in custody or fined for (1) inducing or encouraging a minor to engage in prostitution for financial gain, (2) inducing a person into prostitution by taking advantage of their dependency, (3) restricting a prostitute’s freedom to act by controlling his or her work as a prostitute, or (4) making a person continue as a prostitute against his or her will.

Art. 198: A person may be fined for offending someone by performing a sexual act in the presence of another who is not expecting it or sexually harassing someone through physical acts or indecent language. 



On the Amendments to the Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes of Ukraine in order to implement the provisions of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (2017)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Forced and early marriage, Forced sterilization, Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, International law, Sexual violence and rape

The Criminal and Criminal Procedural Codes of Ukraine were amended in December 2017 to adopt provisions of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) adopted in 2011.  As a result of these amendments, forced marriage (i.e. forcing a person to marry or to continue being in a forced marriage, or to enter into a cohabitation without official registration of marriage, or to continue such cohabitation) is punishable by restraint of liberty for up to three years or imprisonment for the same period and domestic violence (i.e. deliberate systematic violence against a spouse or ex-spouse or other person with whom the perpetrator is in family or intimate relationship, leading to physical or psychological suffering, disorder of health, disability, emotional dependence) is punishable with public works for up to 240 hours or detention for up to six months, or restraint of liberty for up to 5 years or imprisonment for up to two years.  In addition, the amendments:

introduce new corpus delicti, such as “illegal abortion or sterilization” (i.e. performed by a person without medical education or without consent of the victim) which is punishable by imprisonment for up to 3 years;establish punishment for rape of a spouse or ex-spouse or other person with whom the perpetrator is in a family or intimate relationship (imprisonment for up to 10 years); andincrease punishment for sexual violence to up to 15 years, if such acts resulted in serious consequences.


Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court International Criminal Court (1998)

Femicide, Forced and early marriage, Forced sterilization, Gender discrimination, Gender violence in conflict, Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

The intention behind the Rome Statute of 2002 (“Rome Statute” or “Statute”) in establishing the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) is to prosecute the most serious crimes of international concern and to end impunity.  The Rome Statute is significant in being the first international criminal law instrument that recognises forms of sexual violence, such as rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, and enforced sterilization, as distinct war crimes.  This legal instrument is also novel in prescribing gender-based crimes as the basis of war crimes or crimes against humanity committed during armed conflicts.  In particular, the Statute gives the ICC jurisdiction over gender-based crimes if they constitute acts of genocide.  In this case the crimes, such as rape, can be an integral part of the destruction inflicted upon the targeted groups and may be charged as genocide.  The Prosecutor must further apply and interpret the Statute in line with internationally recognised human rights, including women’s human rights and gender equality.  The States Parties should also consider the need to appoint judges with legal expertise on violence against women or children.



Law No. 06/019 of 20 July 2006, Modifying and Completing the Decree of 6 August 1959 Relating to the Congolese Penal Procedure Code (2006)

Forced and early marriage, Gender-based violence in general, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The 2006 amendment to the Congolese Penal Code has the explicitly stated aim of bringing Congolese law relating to sexual violence in line with international standards.  The age of minority was raised from 14 to 18, the definition of rape was widened, and new types of sexual assault were criminalised.



Customary Marriage (Registration) Act of 1973 (1973)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

The Customary Marriage Act (CMA) sets parameters for acceptable customary marriages and requirements for registration and dissolution.  Customary marriages are prohibited if the female party is younger than 16 years old or the male party is younger than 18 years old, either party is of unsound mind, they are too closely related, the marriage is otherwise prohibited by one of the parties’ customs, or one of the parties is still in an existing monogamous marriage.  Subsequent monogamous or Muslim marriages will not be recognized and are void if there was a pre-existing customary marriage.



Domestic Case Law

Lei Nº 13.811 (2019)

Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination

This law amends Article 1,520 of the Civil code in order to establish that only persons who have reached the age of marriage determined in article 1,517 of the Civil Code may marry. Article 1,517 of the Civil Code provides that a man and woman who have not reached the age of majority may marry at age 16 if they have received authorization from both of their parents or their legal representatives. (Article 5 of the Civil Code provided that minority ceases at the age of 18, when the person is entitled to practice all acts of civil life.) Before this amendment, Article 1,520 of the Civil Code established that those who had not yet reached the age of marriage according to Article 1,517 would be allowed to marry to avoid the imposition or enforcement of criminal penalties or in the case of pregnancy. This is no longer permitted as a reason to marry younger than the age of 16.



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.



Attorney General of Belize v. Matus Supreme Court of Belize (2017)

Forced and early marriage

The Attorney-General of Belize brought a claim under Belize’s Civil Procedure Rules to declare the marriage between the respondent and a 16-year-old minor null and void under the Marriage Act because it was executed without the consent of the child’s father.  Section 5 of the Marriage Act requires the consent of both parents before a minor can marry.  The court granted the respondent’s application to dismiss the claim because the Attorney-General should have commenced the action by petition under the Matrimonial Causes Rules.



Jezile v. State High Court of South Africa: Western Cape Division (2015)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Forced and early marriage, Harmful traditional practices, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

The appellant was convicted in a regional magistrates' court of one count of human trafficking, three counts of rape, one count of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, and one count of common assault against a 14-year-old schoolgirl, whom he had married in accordance with customary marriage laws. After she ran away from the appellant, the appellant took the complainant to Cape Town by taxi, where they resided with the appellant's brother and his wife. There, the incidents of rape and assault occurred. The appellant raised as one of his defenses and as a ground of appeal that the alleged rapes took place in the context of a customary arranged marriage, or ukuthwala. According to expert evidence, ukuthwala was an irregular form of initiating a customary marriage. Experts have stated that, in its traditional form, ukuthwala was consensual and innocuous, but there existed an 'aberrant' form in which young girls were abducted and often raped and beaten to force them into marriage. The magistrate held that the matter was not about ukuthwala and its place in our constitutional democracy, but about whether the state had shown that the accused had committed the offences he was charged with and, if so, whether he acted with the knowledge of wrongfulness and the required intent. The court held that child-trafficking and any form of abuse or exploitation of minors for sexual purposes is not tolerated in South Africa’s constitutional dispensation. Furthermore, it ruled that the appellant could not rely on traditional ukuthwala as justification for his conduct because practices associated with an aberrant form of ukuthwala could not secure protection under the law. Thus, the Court could not find that he did not traffic the complainant for sexual purposes or that he had committed the rapes without the required intention  ̶  even on the rather precarious grounds of appellant’s assertion that his belief in the aberrant form of ukuthwala constituted a 'traditional' custom of his community.



C1 427.265-1/2012/7E Asylum Court (2012)

Forced and early marriage, Harmful traditional practices

The Applicant, a member of the Hazara ethnic group, illegally immigrated to Austria with her parents and four minor siblings from Afghanistan when she was approximately nine years old. The Federal Asylum Agency of Austria denied her and her family’s petitions for asylum. The Asylum Court reversed the denial, in part because the Federal Asylum Agency failed to adequately investigate and assess the dangers to the Applicant in Afghanistan. The Asylum Court found that the Federal Asylum Agency erred in summarily denying asylum based on the Applicant’s statements without considering outside credible reports or sources relevant to the applicant’s asylum claim. The Asylum Court concluded that the Applicant belonged to a particular social group based on her gender, age, and cultural and religious origins, and that she would have to live in accordance with the family’s conservative values if she returned to Afghanistan. As such, the Applicant would not have the opportunity to pursue any goals outside the religion and customs of her community nor would she be able to protect herself against violence or undesired restrictions. Specifically, returning to Afghanistan would mean that the Applicant would be raised to be a homemaker despite any wishes to have a career outside the home, would be married to a man chosen by her father or grandfather, and her freedom of movement and educational opportunities would be severely restricted. In granting the Applicant’s asylum claim, Austria’s Asylum Court considered both gender-specific and child-specific factors that were not brought forth by the Applicant but rather gathered from credible investigative sources. 



Yunnan Province v. Enguang Yang, Wenjian Li People’s Procuratorate of Honghe Harniyizu District Court (2014)

Forced and early marriage, Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

The defendants Yang and Li trafficked 17 Vietnamese women who were prostitutes in Vietnam to Yunnan Province, China. Yang and Li pretended to be clients and brought the women to hotels and restaurants where they kidnapped the women and transported them to China. The defendants offered the women to villagers in remote rural area of Yunnan Province, China and forced the women to marry buyers by force or threats. Under Article 48 and Article 240 of Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, the two defendants were sentenced to the death penalty and their private property was confiscated by the court. The women were provided with assistance to return to Vietnam.



Unknown v. Austria Asylum Court (2012)

Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices

A female minor applicant whose home state was Afghanistan, together with her parents and four minor siblings, applied for international protection in Austria. The Federal Asylum Agency refused and the applicant appealed. The Asylum Court upheld the appeal and granted asylum. In particular, the Asylum Court noted that on return to Afghanistan, the applicant would, among other things, (1) receive no education, (2) be married to a man chosen by her father or grandfather, (3) not have the opportunity to lead an independent life in line with her beliefs, and (4) not have the opportunity to protect herself against violence and undesired restrictions.



VWFG v. Minister for Immigration & Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs Federal Court of Australia (2005)

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

A citizen of Ghana sought protection for fear that she would be subject to arranged marriage and female genital mutilation. The Refugee Review Tribunal found the applicant to be not credible, in part because she could not identify the ethnic group that the proposed husband came from. The court found these factual conclusions satisfactory and affirmed.



R v. S High Court of New Zealand (2012)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Forced and early marriage, Sexual violence and rape

S was convicted for repeated violent rape within an arranged marriage over the course of 13 months. The court imposed a sentence of 13 years, six months imprisonment for the rape, with concurrent sentences for the lesser offenses, calculated as a 15 year base due to the violent nature of the acts and the vulnerability of the victim, with a downward adjustment for the respondent’s lack of prior convictions. The court declined to impose a minimum period of imprisonment, explaining that a minimum period of imprisonment is only warranted if the sentence imposed would be insufficient to hold one accountable, to denounce their conduct, or to protect others.



In re A-T United States Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) (2011)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, Sexual violence and rape

After over six years in immigration court, an immigration judge reversed his previous judgment to give a woman from Mali asylum protection in the United States. As a child in Mali, the woman was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). She studied in the United States; her father then ordered her back to Mali to marry her first cousin, despite the fact that she already had three children in the U.S. Fearing forcible marriage and rape for herself and forced FGM for her daughters, the woman applied for asylum. The immigration court denied her request initially in 2004. On appeal, the Board of Immigration Appeals reasoned that FGM is a one-time occurrence, making future persecution unlikely. However, in 2008, the Attorney General intervened, pointing to the interconnectedness of sexual violence and the possibility of future persecution. The Attorney General directed that the case be reconsidered, and after a new trial, the judge granted the woman asylum, indicating that the threat of spousal rape alone was enough to constitute persecution. The case is important for asylum applicants, because violent acts like FGM are no longer to be considered isolated events unlikely to lead to further persecution.



KHO 2005:87 Supreme Administrative Court (2005)

Forced and early marriage, Harmful traditional practices

The issue here was whether A should get a residence permit to Finland because of family ties. He had entered into marriage with his cousin B in Syria in 2004 who was 15 years old at the time and had lived in Finland since 1996. The Directorate of Immigration (now Finnish Immigration Service) denied A's application for residence permit. According to Section 114(1) of the Finnish Aliens Act (301/2004, as amended) (the "Aliens Act"), a residence permit is issued on the basis of family ties to a family member of a refugee or an alien who has been issued with a residence permit on the basis of the need for subsidiary protection or humanitarian protection, or who has enjoyed temporary protection if: (i) the sponsor lives in Finland or has been issued with a residence permit for the purpose of moving to Finland; and (ii) the applicant is not considered a danger to public order, security or health. According to Section 4 of the Finnish Marriage Act (234/1929, as amended) (the "Marriage Act"), (i) a person under 18 years of age shall not marry, (ii) The Ministry of Justice may, however, for special reasons grant a person under 18 years of age a dispensation to marry. Before the matter is decided, the custodian of the applicant shall be reserved an opportunity to be heard if his or her whereabouts can be determined with reasonable measures. The Directorate of Immigration considered that the marriage was against Finnish law and not valid. Hence A could not be considered a family member in accordance with the Aliens Act.  The Administrative Court reversed the Directorate of Immigration's decision.  It held that the marriage was made under Syrian law and the fact that B was under age according to the Finnish law did not matter in this case. Also taking into account the religion, culture and traditions of B and her family, the Court found that issuing permit of residence would not be against the interest of the child. On appeal from the decision of the Administrative Court, the Supreme Administrative Court concluded that the fact that some countries allow underage marriages does not mean that such marriages can be the basis for a residence permit in the same way as are marriages between consenting adults. Although Section 115(1) of the Marriage Act generally recognizes the validity of marriages concluded in other countries, the law contains an exception where the application of a foreign provision would have an outcome contrary to Finnish public policy (ordre public (Section 139 (2) of the Marriage Act). Taking into account Article 1(1) of the Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age For Marriage, and Registration of Marriages; Article 23(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); and Article 16(1)(6) and (2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Court held that it was not possible to use culture to justify marrying B to a person whom she is claimed to have met when she was a small child and taking her into a country where she does not have any family ties. Marrying a child and applying for permit of residence on the basis of this marriage can be seen as intention to evade the provision on entry into or residence in the country (Section 36(2) of the Aliens Act). On these grounds, the Supreme Administrative Court held that the decision of the Administrative Court would be revised and the decision of the Directorate of Immigration would be enforced.



Smt. Seema v. Ashwani Kumar Supreme Court of India (2007)

Forced and early marriage, Harmful traditional practices

The Supreme Court ordered that all marriages be registered in order to prevent child marriage.



Sentencia C-507/04 Constitutional Court of Colombia (2004)

Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination

The Court was asked to examine the constitutionality of Article 34 of the Colombian Civil Code, which established the minimum age of marriage for women as 12, while the minimum age for men as 14. The Court struck the wording from the Civil Code that differentiated in age based on gender, and set the minimum age of marriage at 14.



C16 427.465-1/2012/7E Asylum Court (2012)

Forced and early marriage, Harmful traditional practices

The Applicant, a member of the Hazara ethnic group, illegally immigrated to Austria with her parents and four minor siblings from Afghanistan when she was approximately nine years old. The Federal Asylum Agency of Austria denied her and her family’s petitions for asylum. The Asylum Court reversed the denial, in part because the Federal Asylum Agency failed to adequately investigate and assess the dangers to the Applicant in Afghanistan. The Asylum Court found that the Federal Asylum Agency erred in summarily denying asylum based on the Applicant’s statements without considering outside credible reports or sources relevant to the applicant’s asylum claim. The Asylum Court concluded that the Applicant belonged to a particular social group based on her gender, age, and cultural and religious origins, and that she would have to live in accordance with the family’s conservative values if she returned to Afghanistan. As such, the Applicant would not have the opportunity to pursue any goals outside the religion and customs of her community nor would she be able to protect herself against violence or undesired restrictions. Specifically, returning to Afghanistan would mean that the Applicant would be raised to be a homemaker despite any wishes to have a career outside the home, would be married to a man chosen by her father or grandfather, and her freedom of movement and educational opportunities would be severely restricted. In granting the Applicant’s asylum claim, Austria’s Asylum Court considered both gender-specific and child-specific factors that were not brought forth by the Applicant but rather gathered from credible investigative sources.



Reports

Our Time to Sing and Play: Child Marriage in Nepal, Human Rights Watch (2016)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Statutory rape or defilement

While there are certain legal protections in place, such as a law establishing the minimum age of marriage at 20, enforcement is weak. Police and local governments rarely intervene to prevent child marriages. Nepal’s Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, Goal 5, targets ending child marriage by 2030. Further developing the National Plan of Action to End Child Marriage would advance Nepal’s National Strategy to End Child Marriage. 37% of girls in Nepal marry before age 18, 10% percent marry before age 15, and many marry around the time they begin menstruating. Child marriage, mostly resulting from forced marriage arrangements, is most prevalent in marginalized and lower caste communities. The key factors contributing to child marriage include poverty, lack of access to education and reproductive healthcare, child labor, social pressures and gender inequality, and the institution of dowry, which is payment by a bride’s family to the husband’s family for the marriage. In Nepali society, girls are often seen as a burden to a family, because they are expected to live with the husband’s families, as opposed to staying with and financially providing for their own families. The negative impact of child marriage includes dropping out of school, bearing and raising children too early in a child’s life, and domestic violence by the husband or husband’s family.



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."


International Case Law

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.



Hadijatou Mani Koraou v. Republic of Niger ECOWAS Community Court of Justice (2008)

Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

Hadijatou Mani, who was born to a mother in slavery, was sold to a local chief at age 12. For the next nine years she was subjected to rape, violence, and forced labor without remuneration. When Niger’s Supreme Court failed to convict her master under Article 270.1-5 of the Nigerien Criminal Code, which made slavery illegal in 2003, Hadijatou brought her case before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice under Article 9(4) of the Supplementary Protocol A/SP.1/01/05. The court ruled that Hadijatou had been a slave under the definition in Article 1 (I) of the Slavery Convention of 1926 and that in failing to convict Hadijatou’s former master, Niger had not upheld its legal responsibility to protect her from slavery under international law. This case was the first ECOWAS ruling on slavery and only the second conviction made under Niger’s 2003 anti-slavery law. The case gained a high level of publicity, setting the precedent for women to fight back against the traditional slavery practices common to Niger and other ECOWAS nations. As of 2009, there had been approximately 30 more cases upholding the prohibition of slavery in Niger.



Diene Kaba v. Canada Human Rights Committee (2008)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Female infanticide and feticide, Forced and early marriage, Harmful traditional practices

Diene Kaba was severely beaten by her husband when she intervened to prevent the clitoral excision of her six-year-old daughter. Both mother and daughter fled Guinea and arrived in Canada where Kaba claimed refugee status for herself and her daughter on the grounds of membership of a particular social group as single women and victims of domestic violence, and in view of the serious risk of her daughter’s excision. The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) refused to grant refugee status for lack of credibility. Kaba then applied for an exemption to the permanent resident visa requirement on the basis of humanitarian and compassionate considerations, as well as a pre-removal risk assessment. The IRB rejected both applications and ordered her removal from Canada. Kaba included supporting documents in each application, including reports confirming the risk of excision in Guinea and a letter from her uncle in Guinea that attested to her husband’s threats to harm Kaba if he ever saw her again, or kill her if she did not return his daughter to him. Kaba’s husband had subsequently obtained a court order forcing Kaba’s brother and mother to do everything possible on pain of severe penalties to return his daughter to him in Guinea. The affidavits for the order show that Kaba’s daughter faced certain excision and forced marriage upon her return to Guinea. In her complaint to the Committee, Kaba cited violations of several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including article 7 prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment. The Committee held that there was no question that subjecting a woman to genital mutilation amounted to treatment prohibited under article 7 of the Covenant, and although Kaba’s daughter was fifteen at the time the Committee addressed the communication, the context and particular circumstances of her case demonstrated a real risk of genital mutilation upon her forced return to Guinea.



Memoranda

Child Marriage in Bangladesh: Causes, Consequences, and Legal Framework (2013)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination

This memorandum discusses the context, causes, consequences, and legal framework of child marriage in Bangladesh



Child Marriage in Bangladesh: Occurrence and Links to Sexual Harrassment (2013)

Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination

This memorandum examines the occurrence of child marriage in Bangladesh and explores its link with sexual harassment. Bangladesh has one of the highest occurrences of child marriage in the world. This high rate of marriage of girls below the age of 18 is due to a variety of causes, including patriarchal social mores, parental desire to safeguard girls against premarital sex and out-of-wedlock pregnancies (and the associated social stigma associated with these), and poverty, linked with the perception of girls as an economic burden. In addition to these more widely known causes of early marriage, the widespread prevalence of severe and public sexual harassment in Bangladesh is gaining attention as an important, albeit lesser-studied cause of child marriage.



Child Marriage in Bangladesh: Birth and Marriage Registration (2013)

Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination

This memorandum discusses the link between child marriage and birth and marriage registration. Section I of this memorandum focuses on birth registration, including the importance of registration, government and civil society birth registration initiatives in Bangladesh and the factors that perpetuate low rates of birth registration and recommendations for overcoming them. Section II briefly introduces marriage registration, the unreliability of which also contributes to Bangladesh’s high rates of child marriage.



Child Marriage in Bangladesh: Impact of Discriminatory Personal Laws (2013)

Forced and early marriage

This Memorandum discusses the impact of personal laws on the treatment of child marriage within Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s antiquated personal laws relating to marriage fail to protect children,reinforce support for early marriage, and directly contradict statutory law in Bangladesh. Examining Bangladesh’s current legal framework highlights the problematic influence that discriminatory personal laws have on the fulfillment of national and international obligations concerning child marriage.