Women and Justice: Topics: Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Forced and early marriage, Harmful traditional practices

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.



Govender v. Ragavayah High Court of South Africa: Durban and Coast Local Division (2008)

Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The applicant was a woman married according to Hindu rites. Accordingly, when her husband died intestate, his parents stood to inherit his estate. The applicant sought a declaratory judgment that the word “spouse” as used in the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987 includes a surviving partner to a monogamous Hindu marriage. The Court granted the declaratory judgment and held that the applicant was entitled to inherit from her deceased husband.



Daniels v. Campbell and Others Constitutional Court (2004)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The applicant was a woman married according to Muslim rites and whose husband had died intestate. The marriage was not solemnized by a marriage officer under the Marriage Act 25 of 1961. The house in which the applicant and her husband had lived was transferred to the deceased’s estate. The applicant was told that she could not inherit from the estate of the deceased because she had been married according to Muslim rites, and therefore was not a “surviving spouse.” A claim for maintenance against the estate was rejected on the same basis. The Court held that the word “spouse” as used in the Intestate Succession Act includes the surviving partner to a monogamous Muslim marriage and that the word “survivor” as used in the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act 27 of 1990, includes the surviving partner to a monogamous Muslim marriage.



Bhe and Others v. Khayelitsha Magistrate Constitutional Court (2004)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

This judgment constituted three related cases (Bhe, Shibi and SAHRC), which were decided together and concerned the African customary law rule of primogeniture. In Bhe, a mother brought an action to secure the property of her deceased husband for her daughters. In Shibi, the applicant was denied the right to inherit from her deceased brother’s intestate estate under African customary law. In SAHRC, the South African Human Rights Commission and the Women’s Legal Centre Trust brought an action in the public interest to declare the rule of male primogeniture contained within section 23 of the Black Administration Act 38 of 1927 invalid. The Constitutional Court declared section 23 invalid, meaning that all deceased estates were to be governed by the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987, under which widows and children can benefit regardless of their gender or legitimacy. The Court also ordered the division of estates in circumstances where the deceased person was in a polygamous marriage and was survived by more than one spouse and ordered that, in such instances, a surviving spouse shall inherit a child’s share of the intestate estate or so much of the intestate estate as does not exceed in value the amount fixed by the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development by notice in the Gazette.



Hosho v. Hasisi High Court of Zimbabwe (2015)

Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

This was a dispute involving property in the name of the plaintiff and occupied by the defendant. The plaintiff sought an order for the eviction of the defendant, claiming that he had lawfully acquired the property. The defendant claimed that she was the rightful owner as the surviving spouse of the previous owner of the property through an unregistered customary law union. The court held that defendant had no right to the property as there was no concrete evidence supporting the existence of her customary marriage. The court explained that although the absence of a formal marriage certificate is not fatal to the recognition of a customary law union in matters of inheritance and constitutional protections for surviving spouses and children, the union must be proven to exist. Payment of a roora/lobola, or bride price, remains the most cogent and valid proof of a customary union/marriage, particularly where it has not been formally registered because the ceremony itself involves representatives from both families and others who could attest to the process having taken place. Furthermore, there is often documentary evidence of what had been paid and what remained to be paid. Here, the court held for the plaintiff because there was no evidence of a roora/lobola payment and the defendant could not prove her customary marriage to the deceased.



Bah v. Mukasey United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (2008)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, International law

Three plaintiffs from Guinea who underwent female genital mutilation (“FGM”) appealed decisions from the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”), which had denied their claims for relief and withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture based on FGM. An applicant who demonstrates past persecution benefits from the presumption that he or she faces future persecution, unless the government shows either a change of circumstances such that the applicant’s life or freedom would not be threatened upon return to his or her native country, or a reasonable possibility of internal relocation within the country. Here, the BIA found that the presumption was automatically rebutted because the FGM had already occurred. On appeal, the Second Circuit held that the fact that an applicant had already undergone FGM cannot, in and of itself, rebut the presumption that her life or freedom will be threatened in the future. In doing so, the Second Circuit found that the BIA had committed two significant errors in its analysis. First, it assumed that FGM is a one-time act without placing the burden on the government to show that the individuals in this case are not at risk of further mutilation. Second, to rebut the presumption, the government must show that changed conditions in the country obviate the risk to life or freedom related to the original claim; it is not enough that the particular act of persecution suffered by the victim in the past might not reoccur. The Second Circuit accordingly vacated the BIA decisions and remanded the cases.



Kone v. Holder United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (2010)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices, International law

The plaintiff, who was from Côte d'Ivoire, appealed a Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) decision affirming the denial of her asylum application, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. Her asylum claim was based on female genital mutilation (“FGM”) and her fear that her daughters would be subjected to FGM if she was removed. An applicant who demonstrates past persecution benefits from the presumption that he or she faces future persecution unless the government rebuts that presumption by showing that there is either a change of circumstances such that the applicant’s life or freedom would not be threatened upon return to his or her native country, or a reasonable possibility of internal relocation within the country. Here, the BIA found that the plaintiff’s several voluntary return trips to her native country prior to her application for asylum rebutted that presumption and undermined her credibility. The Second Circuit disagreed, finding that a safe return on one occasion does not preclude potential future harm and that the regulation does not require an applicant to show that she would immediately be persecuted upon return. Similarly, the Second Circuit also found that an applicant’s return trips are not sufficient to undermine an applicant’s credibility. The Second Circuit accordingly vacated the BIA decision and remanded the case, noting that the agency may wish to consider the application for “humanitarian asylum.”



Sentencia nº 1325 de Tribunal Supremo de Justicia Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (2011)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, International law

An indigenous man was charged with physical violence and threats against his ex-partner (a non-indigenous woman), a violation of the Organic Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence (the “statute”), which created special courts with exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases under the statute.  The special court issued a restraining order in lieu of detention pending trial.  Prosecutors appealed.  While the appeal was pending, the man violated the restraining order.  The court of appeals vacated the restraining order and ordered detention.  On a constitutional appeal to the Supreme Court, the defendant argued that, because of his identity as an indigenous person, his community’s authorities had exclusive jurisdiction to hear the case.  The Supreme Court acknowledged that (1) the Organic Law on Indigenous Peoples and Communities creates special jurisdiction authorizing indigenous communities to resolve controversies arising among their members within their lands, (2) this special jurisdiction allows the communities to apply their own laws, and (3) the national courts must recognize the decisions of the communities.  But the Court also stressed that international conventions, the national constitution, and special laws (such as the statute) placed limitations on that jurisdiction.  The Court cited, for example, Article 9 of the ILO Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which provides that “the methods customarily practiced by the peoples concerned for dealing with offenses committed by their members shall be respected,” but only “[t]o the extent compatible with the national legal system and internationally recognized human rights.”  More precisely, the Court noted that the statute itself established that indigenous authorities could serve as agents for receiving complaints of violence against women, but only without prejudice to the victim’s right to seek remedy in the special courts.  Based on that analysis, the Court held that the special courts have exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases under the statute, regardless of the defendant’s ethnic identify.  Notably, the Court ordered that its holding be published as binding precedent.   



Magerer v. Republic High Court of Kenya at Bomet (2016)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices

The appellant was convicted of (i) aiding the commission of female genital mutilation (“FGM)” on several girls, (ii) failing to report the commission of FGM, and (iii) allowing her premises to be used to perform FGM.  She pled guilty to the crimes and was sentenced to pay a fine of Kshs. 200,000 (or 3 years of imprisonment if she defaulted on the payment).  On appeal, she argued that the sentence was overly harsh and oppressive because she was a single mother of three children.  Justice M. Muya upheld her sentence, as it was the minimum allowed under the Female Genital Mutilation Act.  The Justice in this case noted that within this case “lies the clash between traditional values and the law of the land.”  Even though the appellant was abiding by a customary practice, it was in violation of Kenyan criminal law, and thus the appellate court upheld her sentence. 



Nduta v. Republic High Court of Kenya at Siaya (2015)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices

The appellant appealed his conviction and sentence for injuring his wife, who he inherited according to customary practice after her husband died in 2002.  On November 8, 2013, his wife attempted to pack clothes to visit her children in Nairobi.  The appellant refused to let his wife travel and threatened to murder her.  The appellant cut both of his wife’s arms using a panga (machete), but she managed to escape to her nephew’s home.  The nephew saw the appellant armed with the panga and a knife before taking his aunt to the police station and later the hospital.  The appellant was convicted of Grievous Harm Contrary to Section 234 of the Penal Code and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.  He appealed, arguing that the trial court failed to consider that this was a mere domestic issue that could have been resolved by village elders.  The appellant asked for a non-custodial sentence citing the fact he was an elderly man (78 years old).  The High Court upheld the conviction and the sentence, noting, “The appellant’s actions amounted to violence against women.  It is my view a gender-based violence which the court cannot condone or tolerate and let perpetrators of violence against women and girls go unpunished.”  This case demonstrates the relationship between the criminal courts in Kenya and customary law. 



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.



Mabuza v. Shongwe Supreme Court of Appeal of Swaziland (2006)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

The appellant was the maternal grandfather of two minor children (the subject of the application). The appellant was appealing a decision of the trial court which ordered that the children be placed the custody of their biological father (the respondent). The children stayed with the appellant for a period of time while the respondent pursued his education in South Africa. Upon the respondent’s return, he fetched the children from the applicant’s residence. One of the appellant’s arguments was that because the marriage between the appellant’s deceased daughter and the respondent was invalid under Swazi law, the custody of the children should be with the maternal family (in accordance with Swazi law and custom). The Court stated that Section 29(4) of the Constitution removes the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children as it states that children whether born in or out of wedlock shall enjoy the same protection and rights. The Court found that the most important considerations were the welfare, interests and happiness of the children. The Court found that no evidence was adduced to prove that the respondent was not fit to have custody over the children and the appeal was dismissed. 



Masupha v. Senior Resident Magistrate for the Subordinate Court of Berea High Court of Lesotho (Constitutional Division) (2013)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, Property and inheritance rights

The petitioner, Senate Masupha, is the firstborn, female child of a late principal Chief.  Because there were no firstborn males in his immediate family, upon his death, the late Chief’s wife and the petitioner’s mother was appointed as a caretaker Chief in accordance with the Chieftainship Act.  Following the death of the late Chief’s wife in 2008, the late Chief’s younger brother instituted a claim for inheritance of the chieftainship before a magistrate’s court, which was challenged by the late Chief’s son from a second wife, as well as that son’s mother.  The petitioner, who had not been included in the proceedings before the lower court, subsequently intervened to request a change of venue to the Constitutional Court, so that she could challenge the constitutionality of the provision in the Chieftainship Act under which she was precluded from seeking to succeed to the chieftainship, as she was the first-born child.  Masupha argued that the Chieftainship Act does not necessarily preclude her from inheriting the chieftainship and that, even if the Chieftainship Act in fact precludes her from doing so, it should be struck down, because it violates multiple provisions of the Constitution.  The High Court highlighted the fact that, in acceding to CEDAW, Lesotho specifically excluded itself from the provisions of that Convention in so far as it concerns the customary practices relating to succession to the throne and to chieftainship.  It therefore dismissed Masupha’s petition seeking to declare the Chieftainship Act provision preventing female offspring from inhering chieftainships discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional, finding that the Chieftainship Act was not discriminatory, because it allows the senior wife to inherit the title as a caretaker, if there are no living first-born males from any of the deceased’s marriages.  The High Court concluded that, when a wife succeeds her husband as a caretaker, the right to inherit reverts back to the male line of the family upon the death of the female chief.  The judgment was appealed to the highest court in the country, the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the High Court’s decision and upheld the customary law effectively denying women the ability to succeed to chieftainship.



Estate of Lerionka Ole Ntutu High Court of Kenya at Nairobi (Family Division) (2008)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, Property and inheritance rights

Lerionka Ole Ntutu was survived by multiple wives, sons, and daughters.  After his sons filed an application asking the High Court to issue to them the letters of administration to administer their father’s estate, their sisters and stepsisters filed an objection and claimed their inheritance.  The sons contested the objection, arguing that the distribution of their father’s estate was governed by Masai customary law, which did not recognize the right of daughters to claim an inheritance from their father’s estate.  The judge in the first instance found that, because Ntutu was Masai and lived in an area excluded from the Succession Act, his estate should be divided accorded to Masai custom.  The judge thus held that none of the daughters could inherit from their father’s estate.  In ruling on the daughters’ appeal, the Court of Appeal invoked international treaties and covenants, including CEDAW, in finding that the daughters of the deceased person in that case were entitled to a share of his estate.  On appeal before the High Court, the definitive question before Lady Justice K. Rawal was whether the Court should apply the Law of Succession Act or the customary law of the Masai community.  The High Court was satisfied that, even if the Law of Succession Act allowed Ole Ntutu’s community to apply customary law in the distribution of his estate, any tenet of such customary law that would abrogate the right of daughters to inherit the estate of a father would be repugnant to justice and morality and could not be applied.  The High Court thus ruled that Ole Ntutu’s daughters were entitled to inherit their father’s land.



Mmusi v. Ramantele High Court of Botswana at Gaborone (2012)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, Property and inheritance rights

Edith Mmusi and her sisters, all over 65 years of age, brought a case against their nephew, Molefi Ramantele, who claimed to have rightfully inherited the home that was occupied by Mmusi and her sisters and tried to evict them.  The sisters contested the eviction, arguing that they had paid for the home’s upkeep and expansion costs.  The applicable customary law, that of the Ngwaketse tribe, dictated that the family home of a deceased individual was to be reserved to the last born male child.  The rest of the property was to be divided among the children, regardless of gender.  The Lower Customary Court found in favor of the nephew; the Higher Customary Court held in 2008 that the home belonged to all of the children; and the Customary Court of Appeal, to which both parties appealed, held that the home should be inherited by the nephew.  The High Court noted that the issue of law being considered was whether the Ngwaketse customary law, to the extent that it denied the applicants the right to inherit the family residence intestate, "solely on the basis of their sex, violate[d] their constitutional right to equality under s 3(a) of the Constitution of Botswana.  On 12 October 2012, the High Court subsequently awarded the home to the sisters, ruling that the local customary laws prioritizing male inheritance were not in keeping with the promise of gender equality enshrined in the Constitution of Botswana and in international conventions such as CEDAW, thereby recognizing for the first time the right of women in Botswana to inherit property.  On 3 September 2013, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the High Court, observing that “Constitutional values of equality before the law, and the increased leveling of the power structures with more and more women heading households and participating with men as equals in the public sphere and increasingly in the private sphere, demonstrate that there is no rational and justifiable basis for sticking to the narrow norms of days gone by when such norms go against current value systems.”  This case was a landmark case that effectively ended the patriarchal inheritance system in Botswana.



Whitewood v. Wolf U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals) (2011)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

This case legalized same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania. Reviewing the state’s statutory ban on such marriages, the federal district court applied intermediate scrutiny and determined that the ban violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the United States Constitution. The ruling was not stayed and same-sex couples in Pennsylvania could request and receive marriage licenses immediately, and marry after a mandatory 3-day waiting period. The court’s decision made Pennsylvania the 19th state to recognize same-sex marriage.



J.Y. Interpretation No. 728 Constitutional Court (2015)

Harmful traditional practices

The court petitioner, the eldest daughter of a registered successor of an “ancestor worship guild,” was prohibited from inheriting the status of successor after her father’s death due to internal regulations of the guild, which only allow male heirs .” The lower courts dismissed the petitioner’s claims, and the Constitutional Court affirmed. The court held that the internal regulation of the guild was not a “statute” or “administrative regulation” and was therefore ineligible for a petition of interpretation on constitutionality under the Constitutional Interpretation Procedure Act. The court also found that Article 4 of the Statutes Governing Ancestor Worship Guilds, which stipulates that “for the guilds that existed before the promulgation of the Statutes, whether a person is a qualified successor to a guild should be determined by its internal regulations,” was not unconstitutional because the provision does not provide gender as a criterion for determining the status of the successor, and the objective is to preserve the stability of the law and to uphold the principle of prohibiting retroactive law. Moreover, the enactment of internal regulations for guilds should be respected based on freedom of association, property rights, freedom of contract, and the autonomy of private law. Therefore, even though the disputed provision may constitute differential treatment in substance, because it is not arbitrary it is not in conflict with the principle of gender equity nor does it infringe women’s right to property. However, the Constitutional Court urged relevant government agencies to review the related law to ensure that they are keeping pace with the times, taking into consideration the State’s positive duty to protect women under the Constitution, the principle of stability of law, changes in social conditions, and the adjustment of functions within an ancestor worship guild, so as to conform to the principle of gender equality and the constitutional intent to safeguard the people's freedom of association, property rights, and freedom of contract.



Uganda v. Seruga High Court at Kampala (2004)

Harmful traditional practices

The three defendants were indicted for the murder of Nabwire Harriet and Nakamate Gaita, an infant.  August 27, 2002, the family received an anonymous letter telling them to leave their house, which they reported to authorities.  The next night, the defendants poured petrol through the window and set the house on fire.  Defendant Seruga hired the other two defendants to burn the house because they believed they family was practicing witchcraft.  The defendants were seen together the night of the fire and heard discussing how they committed the crime afterwards.  After their arrest, the defendants confessed to working together to set the fire, which they recanted at arraignment.  The trial court found them guilty and sentenced the three to death, but vacated the second death sentences for the second victim because an execution cannot be carried out twice.



Re Namugerwa & 2 Others High Court at Jinja (2010)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The aunt of three children applied for guardianship of the children and the land they inherited following the death of their father.  The Court was unable to determine some critical information, including whether the children had a surviving parent and the source of the funds the aunt used to care for the children.  The Court was also concerned that the children’s mother might be alive and the automatic guardian, but that the aunt was chosen because she was related to the children’s male parent.  Under most customary community traditions in Uganda, being a paternal ancestor would give the aunt guardianship priority over the mother.  The Constitutional Court found these practices unconstitutional.



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. 



Economic Cooperatives of Yongxinnansha Shares v. Subdisctrict Office of Chancheng District of Foshan City Intermediate Court of Foshan City, Guangdong Province (2014)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

In 2012, the plaintiff claims their shareholder status in Nansha economic cooperative, and alleged the local subdisctrict office to affirm their qualification. The subdisctrict office affirmed and granted certificate. Nansha economic cooperative thereby sued the Subdistrict office for its administrative decision. Nansha alleged that according to article 15 of the Article of Stockholding of the Precinct of Yongxin: women married before December 31, 1992 shall be regarded as “out-married” women and shall not be given the right to share dividends, nor their shareholder qualification. The trial court finds that according to Article 61, section 3 of Law of the People's Republic of China on the Organizations of Local People's Congresses and Local People's Governments, Article 27, 36 of Law of the People's Republic of China on the Organization of the Villagers Committees; and Article 4 of rural collective economic organization regulation of Guangdong Province, the distribution of rural collective property shall not violate other laws and regulations of China, and shall not infringe other people’s legal rights. Article 15 of the Stockholding Article is in violation of the equal right of women and therefore invalid. The intermediate court affirmed the judgment.


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.



In re M Insa, Decision No. 12/PUU-V/2007 Constitutional Court of Indonesia (2007)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

Petitioner, an Indonesian male, challenged the constitutionality of a marriage law requiring monogamy with an exception that allows polygamy only with the consent of the wife and the permission of the court (Law Number 1 Year 1974 regarding Marriage). The law requires the husband to submit an application to the court of his domicile with his wife’s consent in order to engage in polygamy. Petitioner argued that because the law required the husband to obtain consent from his wife and the court before engaging in polygamy, it violated his right to freely exercise his religion because the teachings of Islam allow polygamy. The government argued that Islamic principles encourage monogamy and only allow polygamy when a wife allows her husband to re-marry for the benefit of their marriage. The court held that the practice of polygamy historically had degraded the status of women and the teachings of Islam required the preservation of the dignity of women. In addition, since the purpose of marriage is to “achieve peacefulness (sakinah),” men are required to first obtain their wives’ consent before engaging in polygamy, thus respecting their wives as legally equal partners. Therefore, the Court rejected petitioner’s claims and held the laws constitutional as they guarantee the recognition of women’s rights and allow husbands to exercise polygamy in accordance with the teachings of Islam.



Counsellor, et al. v. Republic of Liberia Supreme Court of Liberia (2008)

Harmful traditional practices, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment that appellants, Living Counsellor, Wisdom Counsellor, and Righteous Counsellor, were guilty of rape. Their four female victims ranged from ages 7 to 12. The victims were introduced into the Kingdom Assembly Church of Africa, or the “Never Die Church,” so named because it promised followers eternal life on earth. It also promoted free sexual relations among its members. The victims testified that they were beaten and raped by members of the church. The court stated that “the evidence adduced during the trial show that rape is institutionalized in the Never Die Church. The testimonies given by the prosecution witnesses also points to a situation where the victims were living in a condition of servitude almost identical to slavery.” The appellants argued that “they did not rape the girls but that they only share love with their sisters because they have no earthly mother or father but only Wonderful Counsellor.” They argued that their conviction should be overturned because they were also charged with gang rape, but the trial judge failed to instruct the jury on that charge. Still, their conviction was upheld because they were convicted of rape nonetheless.



BVerwG 6 C 25.12 Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) (2013)

Harmful traditional practices

The Court rejected the appeal and upheld the decision of the lower court that a female Muslim high school student was not exempt from compulsory swimming lessons on the grounds of her religion. In the circumstances, there was not sufficient reason to undermine compulsory school attendance of children. The parents of the girl had applied to the school for an exemption from swimming lessons on the grounds that Islamic dress custom did not allow their daughter to participate in co-educational swimming lessons. The school had rejected the application but permitted the girl to wear swimwear which would be in accordance with Islamic custom (a burkini). The decision was generally welcomed as protecting the right of Muslim girls to education.



SVFB v. Minister for Immigration & Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs Federal Court of Australia (2004)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

A citizen of Nigeria sought protection for fear that she would be subject to female genital mutilation. The Refugee Review Tribunal found that female genital mutilation constitutes serious harm amounting to persecution, but that on the facts, there was no real risk that the applicant would be subjected to female genital mutilation.



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.



Claimants (on their own behalf and on behalf of their minor children) v. the Secretary of State for Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service District Court of the Hague (2010)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, Honor crimes (or honour crimes), Sexual violence and rape

The claimants, on behalf of themselves and their two minor daughters, sought residence permits under the Aliens Act 2000. The claimants stated that if they returned to Afghanistan, the mother and daughters would be subjected to inhuman treatment under Article 3 European Convention on Human Rights. The claimants noted that women were systematically disadvantaged and discriminated against in Afghanistan. Women were subject to violence throughout the country, including the claimants’ area of origin, and had no protection from the government (if they even had the opportunity of access to the courts). Women suffer domestic violence, sexual violence, honor crimes, and arranged marriage. Women do not have the same rights as men (even though the constitution states that men and women are equal), are seen as property, and have little to no access to education or health care. The District Court found the mother’s and daughters’ appeals well-founded and ordered the government to consider the applications.



Claimant (on her own behalf and on behalf of her minor children) v. the State Secretary of Justice District Court of the Hague (2008)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices

The government had denied three of the claimant’s applications for residence under the Aliens Act 2000. The appeal stemmed from the dispute about whether the claimant’s minor daughter was at risk for inhuman treatment (specifically, FGM) in Chad under the European Convention on Human Rights. The claimant argued that her daughter was, as a Hadjarai woman, “very strongly” at risk of FGM, and she herself had been circumcised. The government denied that FGM is a matter of tradition, ethnicity, and religion and claimed that the claimant’s story was inconsistent with what was known about FGM in Chad. The District Court found that the government’s decision was subject to review referring to a U.S. Department of State report that stated that though violence against women and FGM were prohibited by law in Chad, FGM was widespread, deeply rooted in tradition and rarely prosecuted. Further, 93% of Hadjarari women were circumcised. The District Court ordered the government to decide the claimant’s application in light of the Court’s findings.



Taha Najar v. State of Israel Supreme Court of Israel (2005)

Harmful traditional practices

The appellant, a Bedouin man, was convicted for murder with malice aforethought for killing his sister after she insisted that she would travel to Egypt alone. The appellant claimed that his charge should be reduced as the killing was the result of provocation. He further argued that the court should take into account that he was defending his family honor, as it was unacceptable in Bedouin culture for unmarried women to travel alone. The court ruled that no argument of “family honor” as a motive for killing someone will be allowed by a court in Israel. The human dignity of the victim and the sanctity of life take precedence over family honor.



Claimant (on her own behalf and on behalf of her minor children) v. the Minister for Immigration and Asylum District Court of the Hague (2010)

Gender violence in conflict, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices

The claimant, of Tajik descent, had a high school diploma, was an active member of a left-leaning political organization, and was a volunteer teacher for girls while she lived in Afghanistan. The Taliban arrested a friend of the claimant who worked for UNICEF and had also pressured the claimant’s family to provide details about her whereabouts. Once the Taliban occupied her village, she and her husband hid with a relative before traveling to the Netherlands. In 2008, the claimant filed an application on behalf of herself and her minor children (two daughters and a son) under the Aliens Act 2000, citing Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The claimant argued that they were subject to inhumane treatment if they were forced to return to Afghanistan. The District Court noted that the policy relied upon did not take into account the situation of Westernized women in Afghanistan, who were at risk just having lived in Westernized society. The District Court noted that the evidence showed that not only was security a risk to all in Afghanistan, but that treatment of women and girls had deteriorated even further since the rejection of the 2003 application. Finally, the District Court referred to reports submitted in the case, noting that women returning to Afghanistan from Europe or Iran are perceived as having violated religious and social norms and, as a result, are subject to honor crimes, domestic violence, isolation and other forms of punishment. The District Court found the claimant’s appeal to be well-founded, destroyed the contested decision, and ordered the government to issue a decision taking the District Court’s findings into consideration.



In Re Estate of Lerionka Ole Ntutu (Deceased) High Court of Kenya at Nairobi (Family Division) (2008)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, Property and inheritance rights

The sons of Lerionka Ole Ntutu filed to prevent Ntutu’s married daughters from receiving their inheritance of his estate Section 82(4) (b) of the Kenyan Constitution. Under Kikuyu customary law, only unmarried daughters were allowed an inheritance. The presiding judge held that this claim was illegitimate, stating that the law cannot deprive a person of their rights only on the basis of sex and marital status. The judge followed the precedent set by the ruling in Rono v. Rono, Kenya Court of Appeal, 2005, in circumscribing customary law to prevent violations of justice, morality, and other written law. This case marked another important step in upholding women’s rights and human rights law over harmful customary practices towards women.



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.



Law & Advocacy for women in Uganda v. Attorney General Constitutional Court of Uganda (2010)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices

Petitioners challenged the tribal practice of female genital mutilation and argued that it is inconsistent with the Ugandan Constitution. They argued that the practice is cruel, inhuman, and degrading, and endangers the right to life and privacy under the Constitution. The two issues before the court were whether the petition raised any matter for constitutional interpretation and whether the practice of female genital mutilation should be declared as null and void under the constitution. At trial, petitioners produced unchallenged affidavits supporting the fact that female genital mutilation was practiced crudely, wantonly, and without anesthesia, causing permanent damage and trauma to the victim, including incontinence, paralysis, and even death. The court first held that the petition did raise serious questions for constitutional interpretation. Second, the court held that, while the Constitution protects free exercise of cultural or religious custom, such exercise must not infringe on human dignity or the right to be free from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Thus, the court held that female genital mutilation was inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution, and thus declared the custom void.



Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association v. The Cabinet Division Bangladesh Supreme Court (2011)

Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

In an application under Article 102 of the Constitution, the Bangladesh National Women's Lawyers Association (BNWLA) petitioned the Supreme Court of Bangladesh (High Court Division) to address the exploitation and abuse endured by child domestic laborers in Bangladesh. The BNWLA argued that child domestic workers are subjected to economic exploitation, physical and emotional abuse, and the deprival of an education in violation of their fundamental constitutional rights. In support of these arguments, it presented multiple reports of extreme abuse suffered by child domestic workers. In deciding this case, the Court reviewed the current laws in Bangladesh, including the Labour Act, 2006, which fails to extend labor protections to "domestic workers," including children, and lacks an effective implementation and enforcement system. The Court directed the government of Bangladesh to take immediate steps to increase its protection of the fundamental rights of child domestic workers including prohibiting children under the age of twelve from working in any capacity including domestic settings; supporting the education of adolescents; implementing the National Elimination of Child Labour Policy 2010 and applying the Labour Act, 2006 to domestic workers. Additionally, the Court directed the government to monitor and prosecute incidents of violence against child domestic workers, maintain a registry of domestic workers and their whereabouts to combat trafficking, promulgate mandatory health check-ups and strengthen the legal framework relating to child domestic workers.



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.



Abankwah v. Immigration & Naturalization Serv. United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (1999)

Harmful traditional practices

Ms. Abankwah, a native of Ghana, was a member of a tribe that punishes women who engage in premarital sex with female genital mutilation (“FGM”). While Ms. Abankwah was away from her tribe, she had a sexual relationship. Subsequently, she learned that she would be the next Queen Mother of her tribe, a position that requires a woman to remain a virgin until marriage. She knew this meant the tribe would discover she had engaged in premarital sex and she would be punished with FGM. Ms. Abankwah fled but her tribe came after her. She decided it was unsafe for her to remain in Ghana and purchased a falsified Ghanaian passport and U.S. visa and fled to the United States. Immigration authorities arrested Ms. Abankwah when she arrived in the United States and commenced deportation proceedings against her. Ms. Abankwah sought to remain in the United States by seeking asylum. To obtain asylum, she needed to establish, among other requirements, that she was unable or unwilling to return to her native country because of a “well-founded” fear of persecution, pursuant to section 208(b)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. section 1158(a). Ms. Abankwah explained that she feared returning to Ghana because, if she did, her tribe would perform FGM on her. The immigration court denied her petition for asylum because it concluded that her fear of FGM was not objectively reasonable. On appeal, however, the court found that Ms. Abankwah was a credible witness and her fear was objectively reasonable because it was “based on her knowledge of and experience with customs of her tribe.” As such, Ms. Abankwah was granted asylum and allowed to stay in the United States.



Muhammad Siddique v. State High Court of Pakistan (2002)

Harmful traditional practices, Honor crimes (or honour crimes)

Murder conviction for father's honor killing of daughter, son-in-law and grandchild upheld on the grounds that an honor killing is murder. The Court found that "[n]o tradition is sacred, no convention is indispensable and no precedent worth emulation if it does not stand the test of civil society's fundamental principles. In particular, the law must reflect changing needs and promote social progress. Accordingly, any judicial response to S's crime must serve as a deterrent.  Any other response could amount to appeasement or endorsement since a society which fails to effectively punish such offenders becomes privy to their crimes."



Case on the House Head System Constitutional Court of South Korea (2005)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

The petitioners requested the constitutional review of Civil Code provisions which establish the traditional "house head system" (Ho-jue jae-do) which holds that a household is formed around the male, and passes down only through direct male descendants serving as successive house heads.  Under this system, male members are always recorded as the head of family in the Family Registry, and hold superior inheritance rights over female members. The Court held that the provisions which establish the "house head system" are unconstitutional.  The Court held that this system is a "statutory device to form a family with  male lineage at the center and perpetuate it to successive generations."  Furthermore, the system discriminates both men and women because it determines the order of succession, and effects marital relations and parent-children relationships.  The Court held that family relationships are changing, from authoritarian to democratic relationships, where "all family members are equally respected as individuals with dignity regardless of sex."



Fornah (FC) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department House of Lords (2006)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices

The appellant arrived in the UK in March 2003, aged 15, and claimed asylum on the basis that she would be at risk of subjection to female genital mutilation if she was returned to Sierra Leone.   The House of Lords held that women in societies who practiced female genital mutilation were 'members of a particular social group' for the purposes of the Refugee Convention and affirmed that FGM was considered a form of torture.  



P. and M. v. Secretary of State for the Home Department Court of Appeal of United Kingdom and Northern Ireland (2004)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices

The first appellant, P, was seeking asylum from being returned to Kenya on the grounds of a fear of persecution because of the violence that both she and her children had suffered from her husband in Kenya, especially as domestic violence tends to be accepted in Kenya and the police had not effectively protected her against her husband.   The second appellant, M, seeks asylum on the grounds of fearing that she would be subjected to female genital mutilation at the hands of her father, who is a member of the Mungiki sect that practices FGM, and who had already previously performed FGM on her mother, causing her mother's death. The Court allowed both appeals for asylum, but did stipulate that not all cases of either domestic violence or FGM would automatically give rise to a claim to protection and asylum. 



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.



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.



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.



2004 (Ju) No. 1968 Supreme Court of Japan (2006)

Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

Two female members of a certain local community which have collective property rights to a common land (called a "common" or a "hamlet") petitioned the court to decide the unconstitutionality of a traditional practice which determined membership and property rights within the community.  The court held that this custom which excludes female descendants who married outside of the community, is "contrary to public order and therefore null and void" under Article 90 of the Civil Code.  The court held that "the male descendant requirement discriminates against female descendants only because they are females" and it is unreasonable and against the constitutional principle of "essential gender equality."



Andrew Manunzyu Musyoka (Deceased) High Court of Kenya at Machakos (2005)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, Property and inheritance rights

The applicants are the sons and wife of the deceased and are seeking to apply the Kamba customary law that would not permit a daughter to inherit her father's estate if she is married.  The Court held that the Kamba customary law is discriminatory insofar as it seeks to prevent a married daughter from inheriting her father's estate under the Succession Act.  It specifically noted that although the Kenyan constitution specifically provides for customary law to take precedence over the Constitution in matters dealing with property inheritance after death and other personal issues, Kenya is also obligated to end discriminatory practices under CEDAW and the UDHR. 



Muhammad Akram Khan v. State Supreme Court of Pakistan (2001)

Harmful traditional practices, Honor crimes (or honour crimes)

The Supreme Court for the first time ever approached the issue of honor killings from a victim's rights perspective. The Court found that no one had the right to take law into their own hands to take a life in the name of ghairat. The Court stated that "neither the land nor the religion permits so-called honour killing, which amounts to murder simpliciter." The Court added that such a murder was a violation of the Fundamental right to life of the victim as enshrined in Article 9 of the Constitution, which states that no person would be deprived of life and liberty except in accordance with law and any custom or usage in that respect is void under Article 8(I) of the Constitution.



Rol No. 465 Constitutional Court of Chile (2006)

Harmful traditional practices

In a case challenging the constitutionality of a Ministry of Education directive setting minimum standards for pre-schools, the Court reiterated the rights of both boys and girls to receive at least a certain minimum level of education.



CEHAT v. Union of India Supreme Court of India (2001)

Female infanticide and feticide, Femicide, Harmful traditional practices

In this public interest litigation, an NGO that works on health issues challenged the government's failure to adequately address the issue of anti-girl child sex selection and the enforcement of the laws prohibiting prenatal sex identification. The Court ordered the government to respond with what it planned to do to address the problem.



Dr. G.M. Natarajan v. State, Supreme Court Supreme Court of India (1995)

Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices

A woman, harassed by her husband and in-laws for additional dowry, committed suicide by jumping into a well with her baby.  The trial court acquitted the accused because the prosecution did not prove the case.  The Court reversed, holiding that if the facts necessary to create a presumption of dowry-death are shown, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant and not the prosecution.



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.



Ashok Kumar v. Birakishore High Court of India (2004)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

A father alleged that his son-in-law had kidnapped his daughter.  The daughter showed that she was of age and had married of her own free will.  The court held that a family can have no control over who an adult chooses to marry.



Association for Social Justice Research v. Union of India Supreme Court of India (2010)

Harmful traditional practices

A father married his 11–12 year old daughter to an adult man.  When an NGO intervened, the father and "husband" argued that no money had been exchanged and that the girl would have a better life in marriage.  The Court held that marriage of a minor girl is presumptively invalid unless the girl decides otherwise when she reaches 18 years of age.



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.



Legislation

Reform of Customary Law of Succession and Regulation of Related Matters Act 11 (2009)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The Act abolishes the customary rule of primogeniture in as far as it applies to the law of succession and further extends the application of the Intestate Succession Act to the deceased estates of Africans who die intestate (without a will) and provides guidelines for interpreting the Intestate Succession Act in order to give effect to the new provisions and to ensure the protection of the rights of women to inherit.



Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (2000)

Employment discrimination, Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights, Sexual violence and rape

The purpose of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act is to give effect to section 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, read in conjunction with item 23(1) of its sixth schedule. The effect of this is to prevent and prohibit unfair discrimination and harassment; to promote equality and eliminate unfair discrimination; to prevent and prohibit hate speech; and to provide for matters connected therewith. Section 8 expands on the provisions of Section 9 by setting out, without limitation, the following specific examples of such prohibited discrimination: (a) gender-based violence; (b) female genital mutilation; (c) the system of preventing women from inheriting family property; (d) any practice, including traditional, customary or religious practice, which impairs the dignity of women and undermines equality between women and men, including the undermining of the dignity and well-being of the girl child; (e) any policy or conduct that unfairly limits access of women to land rights, finance, and other resources; (f) discrimination on the ground of pregnancy; (g) limiting women’s access to social services or benefits, such as health education and social security; (h) the denial of access to opportunities, including access to services or contractual opportunities for rendering services for consideration, or failing to take steps to reasonably accommodate the needs of such persons; and (i) systemic inequality of access to opportunities by women as a result of the sexual division of labor.  The Act further regulates which party will bear the burden of proof in discrimination cases and further sets out which factors should be taken into account in determining whether discrimination is fair or unfair.



Administration of Estates Act (2002)

Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The AE Act removed inheritance laws unfavorable to widows in civil and registered customary marriages. It recognizes a union contracted according to customary rites, even without formal registration under the Customary Marriages Act of 1951 (currently under Parliamentary review as of July 17, 2019). The AE Act provides that the property of an estate is to be divided by the surviving spouse and the children, regardless of the sex of the children. It also stipulates that a widow whose husband died intestate retains rights to the family’s land upon the death of her husband.



The Domestic Violence Act (2007)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Harmful traditional practices

The DVA protects and provides relief for victims of domestic violence. It defines and prohibits domestic violence in the form of physical, emotional, sexual, and economic abuse as well as acts of abuse derived from any cultural or customary practices that discriminate against or degrade women. Examples include, but are not limited to, forced virginity testing, female genital mutilation, pledging women and girls to appease spirits, forced marriage, child marriage, forced wife inheritance or sexual intercourse between fathers-in-law and newly married daughters-in-law. The penalty for committing an act of domestic violence as defined under section 3 is a fine not exceeding USD 5,000 and/or imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years. The DVA also imposes duties on the police. Stations must have, where possible, one police officer with domestic violence expertise. Further, a police officer who receives a complaint of domestic violence must advise the complainant about how to obtain shelter or medical treatment and about their right to seek relief under the DVA. The DVA also requires that complaints made to police officers should be taken by officers of the same sex as the complainant, if complainant so requests.  Moreover, police officers have the authority to arrest a person suspected of committing an act of domestic violence without a warrant and bring that person before a magistrate within 48 hours. Finally, the DVA provides for protection and relief to survivors of domestic violence by enabling them to apply for a protection order when an act of domestic violence has been committed, is being committed, or is threatened. It also allows someone acting with the consent of the complainant to make an application for a protection order on his or her behalf with the leave of the court. A person who fails to comply with a protection order is guilty of an offense and liable for a fine not exceeding USD 200 and/or imprisonment for up to five years.



Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment No. 20) (2013)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

Zimbabwe’s new 2013 Constitution addressed women’s rights and gender equality, and its bill of rights addressed damaging cultural and discriminatory practices. A gender commission was also established to accelerate the implementation of provisions related to women. More specifically, the Constitution recognized gender equality and women’s rights among Zimbabwe’s founding values and principles. It mandated that the State and all its institutions consider gender equality in laws and policy, to implement measures that provide care and assistance to mothers, and to grant women opportunities to work. The State must also prevent domestic violence, ensure marriages are consensual, and that there are equal rights in marriages. In the event of dissolution of marriage, the State must provide for the rights of spouses and children. The state is also obliged to afford girls and boys equal educational opportunities. The bill of rights specifically stipulates that women are equal to men, including deserving equal opportunities in political, economic, and social activities. Provision was also made for legislative seats reserved for women in the National Assembly. Finally, gender equality must be considered in making judicial appointments.



Communal Land Reform Act (2002)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The Communal Land Reform Act 2002 aims to regulate the allocation of customary land rights in communal lands and to establish Communal Land Boards. Communal land that previously belonged to indigenous communities is now vested in the state, which then distributes and allocates the land among the rural communities. This Act takes precedence over customary law and is much more favorable to women’s rights. Under the Act, four women must be appointed to the Communal Land Boards. Furthermore, the Act provides that a customary land right that was allocated to a particular holder of such right shall upon the death of such holder be re-allocated to the surviving spouse. This provides protection to a surviving wife who may now remain on the communal land where previously she would lose the rights to such land upon the death of her husband.



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 Combating Rape Act (2000)

Harmful traditional practices, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The Combating of Rape Act (the “Act”) seeks to prevent rape and provides minimum imprisonment sentences for rape. It also abolishes the previous law, which presumed that a boy under the age of 14 was incapable of rape and sexual intercourse. This Act also regulates the granting of bail to perpetrators to further protect the rights of the victim, and provides protection to victims of rape and sexual abuse. Finally, it abolishes the customary rule, common among rural areas, that marriage is a justification for, or a defense to, rape.  



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.



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.”



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.



HIV Control of the Disease and Related Issues (Amending Title 33) (2010)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

HIV, Control of the Disease and Related Issues (Amending Title 33) (the “Law”), institutes various government initiatives and provides guidance in dealing with HIV-related issues specifically affecting women. For example, the Law provides that the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and/or National AIDs Commission (the “Health Institutions”) must take into consideration differences in sex and gender when providing education about HIV. Additionally, the Law lists a number of key issues which the Health Institutions should address in their strategies and programs for protecting and fulfilling the human rights of women in the context of HIV. These include:

  1. The equality of women in public and domestic life (Section 18.9(i));
  2. Sexual and reproductive rights, including the concept of consent and a woman’s right to refuse sex and her right to request safe sex (Section 18.9(ii));
  3. A woman’s right to independently utilise sexual health services (Section 18.9(ii));
  4. Increasing educational, economic, employment and leadership opportunities for women (Section 18.9(iii));
  5. Strategies for reducing differences in formal and customary law which prejudice women’s rights (Section 18.9(v)); and
  6. The impact of harmful traditional practices on women (Section 18.9(vi)).

Furthermore, the Law directs the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Justice, and the Liberian National Police to implement educational programs for their personnel in relation to sexual assault perpetrated on women. These are designed to provide personnel working for these government agencies with a better understanding of sexual assault and protect the rights of sexual assault victims.



Offenses Against the Family, Chapter 16: Penal Law - Title 26 - Liberian Code of Laws Revised (1978)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

Under Section 16.1 of the Penal Law, bigamy and polygamy are illegal unless a legal defence is provided. Such defences include a defendant’s belief that his or her former spouse is dead. Under Section 16.3, abortion beyond the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy is illegal. An abortion is legal if it occurs only after a licenced physician determines there is a substantial risk that continuing the pregnancy would gravely impair the mother’s physical and/or mental health. An abortion may also be justified if the child would be born with grave physical or mental defects or if the pregnancy was the result of illegal intercourse such as rape. Additionally, the abortion must be sanctioned by two physicians who have certified in writing the reasons why the abortion is necessary. The Penal Law also prohibits a woman from carrying out an abortion herself by any means once beyond the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy.



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:

  1. Entitling a wife to one-third of her husband’s property (Section 2.3).
  2. Providing that a husband must respect his wife’s human rights (Section 2.5).
  3. 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)).
  4. Confirming that every woman has a right to marry a man of her choosing (Section 2.10).
  5. Entitling a wife to one-third of her husband’s property when her husband dies (Section 3.2).
  6. 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).
  7. 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. 



Civil Code of Iran (Inheritance) (1969)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

With regards to inheritance law (Arts. 906-915), a widow inherits less than a widower in Iran.  A widow inherits one-quarter of her deceased husband’s property if the deceased husband left no children behind, and one-eighth if he did leave children behind.  In contrast, a surviving husband inherits half of his deceased wife’s property if she left no children behind and one-quarter if she did leave children behind (Art. 913).  Consistent with this pattern, under Iranian Civil Code Article 907, sons inherit twice as much as daughters when a parent is deceased.



Civil Code of Iran (Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage) (1969)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

The Iranian Civil Code also reflects deep gender inequalities in its divorce law (Arts. 1120-1157).  With only a few exceptions, a husband can divorce his wife “whenever he wishes to do so” (Art. 1133).  However, women may only seek divorce by making a request before an Islamic judge and in only a limited number of circumstances in which the husband has created “difficult and undesirable conditions” in the marriage (Art. 1130).  If this criteria has been satisfied, the Islamic judge can compel the husband to divorce his wife. 



Civil Code of Iran (Marital Duties) (1969)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights, Sexual violence and rape

According to Iranian law, the husband is the exclusive holder of the position of “head of the family”  (Art. 1105).  As such, the husband provides his wife with the cost of maintenance (Art. 1106), “which includes dwelling, clothing, food, furniture, and provision of a servant if the wife is accustomed to have servant or if she needs one because of illness” (Art. 1107) Article 1108 creates a duty on the part of women to satisfy the sexual needs of their husbands at all times.  This is the tamkin (submission) requirement of Sharia law.  If a wife refuses to fulfill her duties, she may be barred from receiving maintenance payments. The husband determines his wife’s place of residence and thus controls her freedom of movement (Art. 1114).  If the dwelling of the wife and husband in the same house involves the risk of bodily or financial injury or that to the dignity of the wife, she can choose a separate dwelling.  If the alleged risk is proved, the court will not order her to return to the house of the husband and, so long as she is authorized not to return to the house, her cost of maintenance will be on the charge of her husband (Article 1115). In addition, the husband may prevent his wife from exercising a certain profession if he deems it “incompatible with the family interests or the dignity of himself or his wife” (Art. 1117).



The Islamic Penal Code of Iran, Book 5 (2013)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

Articles 623-624 of Book Five of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran ban abortion and proscribe prison sentences for, respectively, "anyone" and doctors, midwives, and pharmacists. Article 630 of the Iranian Penal Code allows a man who witnesses his wife in the act of having sexual intercourse with another man (zina) to kill both of them if he is certain that his wife is a willing participant. If the husband knows that is wife was the subject of coercion, he is justified in murdering only the other man. Under Article 638 of the Iranian Penal Code, women who appear in public without the Islamic hijab may be sentenced to ten days to two months in prison or fined fifty thousand (USD $1.50) or five hundred thousand Rials (USD $15.00). (Full Persian version: http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex4.detail?p_lang=en&p_isn=103202)



The Islamic Penal Code of Iran, Books 1 & 2 (2013)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, LGBTIQ

Article 147 of the Islamic Penal Code specifies that the age of maturity triggering criminal responsibility is 15 Islamic lunar calendar years for boys, but only nine Islamic lunar calendar years for girls. This signifies that young girls can be charged as criminally responsible adults in Iran before they reach the age of puberty. Articles 237-239 forbid same-sex kissing and touching, which will be punished by 31-74 lashes. Female genital touching (musaheqeh) is punished by 100 lashes. Article 225 mandates the death penalty for adultery (zina), which international commentators have noted is disproportionately applied to women (e.g., UN Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women report: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/A-68-340.pdf). Article 199 describes the number and gender of witnesses needed to prove various crimes; no crimes may be proven with female witnesses alone and any female witness requires corroboration of a man and another woman. (Full Persian version of the Penal Code available at: http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex4.detail?p_lang=en&p_isn=103202)



Gender Law of 10 May 2007 (2007)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, LGBTIQ, Property and inheritance rights, Sexual harassment

The Gender Law of 10 May 2007 combats discrimination between women and men (thereby implementing European Union legislation) and prohibits every form of discrimination based on gender, change of gender, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. Direct and indirect discrimination, giving orders to discriminate, intimidation and sexual intimidation are all explicitly prohibited. Discrimination is prohibited with regard to access to goods and services, social security, social benefits, membership of professional organizations, and employment relations and conditions. Differences (in terms of access to certain goods or services, or employment conditions) are only allowed if it is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and if the restrictions are appropriate and necessary to achieve this aim. Differences are also allowed on a temporary basis in the context of positive action to prevent or compensate for gender-related disadvantages. Victims of discrimination can submit a reasoned complaint or take legal action. If the plaintiff has produced facts which indicate that there has been discrimination, the burden of proof is on the defendant to demonstrate that there was no gender-based discrimination.


Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2010 (2010)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices

The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act (“PFGM”) outlaws all acts of FGM on oneself and others as well as attempts, procurement, and participation.  It allows no exceptions for consent, religion, or culture, and creates a duty to report to the police any knowledge of planned or completed FGM.  The penalty is imprisonment not to exceed 10 years for the perpetrator and five years for any participants or abettors.  Violations are considered aggravated if the FGM causes death, the offender has control over the victim (e.g., a parent or guardian), the victim has a disability, the victim contracts HIV/AIDS, and/or the perpetrator is a health worker.  The penalty for aggravated violations is life imprisonment.  The PFGM Act also prohibits any discrimination against women and girls who have not undergone FGM and discrimination against male relatives of women who have not undergone FGM.  



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.



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."


Lessons Learnt and Experiences Gained in the UNFPA Supported WPC Project on Addressing Sex Selection (2012)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

During a three-year project (2008-2011) in India, the WPC assessed the circumstances surrounding and methods to address growing sex selection in India. A systematic process was put into place to set up multiple local-level implementing partners to collect data; increase education and awareness; and launch and maintain programs to induce long-term change of the traditional practices that lead to sex selection.


Exclusion of women from the legal profession in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and South Africa (2012)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

Although great strides have been made in breaking down the barriers that have previously kept women from being able to have the same rights and privileges to work in the legal profession that men enjoy, there is still progress to be made.



They Took Me and Told Me Nothing (2010)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices

Human Rights Watch report on female genital mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan.



GENDER 2010 Report Card on the International Criminal Court (2011)

Gender discrimination, Sexual violence and rape, Harmful traditional practices

Report by The Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice assessing the implementation by the ICC of the Rome Statute, Rules of Procedure, Evidence and Elements of Crimes, and in the gender mandates they embody.


The Dynamics of Social Change: Towards the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Five African Countries (2010)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices

Report by UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre highlighting solutions and examples of communities ending the practice of female genital mutilation. The report examines what conditions are necessary for a consensus to abandon FGM/C and identifies strategies for sustainable abandonment (2010).


You Dress According to Their Rules (2010)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Sexual harassment

Report by Human Rights Watch documenting acts of violence, harassment, and threats against women in Chechnya to intimidate them into wearing a headscarf or dressing more "modestly."



International Case Law

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. 



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.



Bullock v. Department of Corrections Human Rights Review Tribunal (2008)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

Ms. Bullock, the plantiff, was made to sit in a row behind the male employees and was not given a speaking role in a company event. The plantiff believed the her employer was participating in gender discrimination and attempting to justify this as a company policy that followed traditional Mauri customs. The tribunal ruled that Ms. Bullock's employer was in fact practicing gender discrimination according to the Human Rights Act of 1993.



Slovak Republic, Constitutional Court, Decision No. 10/2010-36, 2010 Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic (2010)

Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices

Ms M.V. (the claimant) was sterilized while giving birth to her second child.  She was informed that sterilization would be performed on her shortly before delivery by C-section, to which she did not give her written consent.  The day after giving birth, while inquiring about her own health and that of her child, she was informed that sterilization was performed due to health reasons, as another pregnancy could be dangerous.  She was given a form to sign for the “sake of her health,” which she did without reading or inquiring due to her concerns about the well-being of her newborn child.  The claimant only later found out that sterilization was not a “life-saving” procedure after speaking with a representative from a non-governmental organization.  Her claim was dismissed by the district and regional courts based on hospital records which contained her written consent and the testimonies of the doctors and other staff members.  She filed a claim with the Constitutional Court which held that the decisions of the district and regional courts did not sufficiently address the claimants claims, in breach of the claimants' right to a fair trial. The Constitutional Court awarded the claimant EUR 1,500 damages and ordered the re-examination of the matter by the district court.



Collins and Akaziebie v. Sweden European Court of Human Rights (2007)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices

The first applicant, the mother, filed for asylum upon arriving in Sweden, claiming she had fled Nigeria while pregnant with her daughter, the second applicant, in an attempt to flee the female-genital mutilation ("FGM") that would have been performed on her during childbirth if she stayed in Nigeria. The Swedish Migration Board rejected the asylum application, explaining that FGM was not grounds for asylum, and that FGM was outlawed by Nigerian law so it was unlikely the first applicant would be submitted to the procedure upon return to Nigeria. The Swedish Aliens Appeal Board rejected the applicant's appeal, rejecting her argument that FGM was a deep-rooted Nigerian tradition, carried out despite modern law. Following several more attempts within Sweden to be granted asylum, the applicants filed a complaint with the ECHR, alleging that if they were returned to Nigeria, they would face a high likelihood of being submitted to FGM. The argued this would violate Article 3 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The ECHR rejected the complaint, ruling that the applicants had failed to "substantiate that they would face a real and concrete risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation upon returning to Nigeria.



Interights (on behalf of Husaini and Others) v. Nigeria African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (2005)

Custodial violence, Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices

Interights, an international human rights organization, filed a complaint before the Commission on behalf of Ms. Safiya Hussaini and others, arguing that Nigeria's Islamic Sharia courts had violated their rights to a fair trial and due process. Safiya Hussaini, a nursing mother, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. Ms. Hussaini was tried under Sharia law, according to which adultery is punishable by death. The petitioners also included Amina Lawal, a woman sentenced to similar punishment for adultery, and Bariya Magazu, an unmarried woman who received 100 lashes as punishment for zina (voluntary premarital sexual intercourse). In response to the complaint, the Chairman of the African Commission sent an urgent appeal to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, urging him to suspend further implementation of the Sharia penal statutes and convictions under those laws pending the outcome of the complaints before the Commission. In response to the Chairman's urgent appeal, the Secretary General of the African Union formally brought the matter to President Obasanjo. The President's Chief of Staff wrote to the Chairman of the African Commission that while the federal government could not suspend the operation of Sharia law, the administration would ensure that the "right to life and human dignity" of Ms. Hussaini and the others would be adequately protected. Before the court ruled on admissibility of the complaint, the complainant moved for withdrawal of the complaint, and it was withdrawn from the Commission.



Memoranda

Exploitation of Child Workers in Bangladesh (2010)

Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, Trafficking in persons

This memorandum examines the exploitation of child domestic workers in Bangladesh and the ties between child domestic labor and trafficking.



Public Policy Considerations of Child Domestic Labor and Exploitation of Child Domestic Workers (2010)

Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices

This memorandum examines the public policy considerations raised by child domestic labor and the exploitation of child domestic workers.