An international jury considered all the cases nominated to Women´s Link Worldwide´s Gender Justice Uncovered Awards to identify the best and worst judicial decisions related to gender justice from around the globe.
This year over 32 nominations were received from national, regional and international courts around the world including, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Spain, India, Malaysia, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Czech Republic, Zambia and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the ECOWAS Community Court, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights and the Special Court of Sierra Leone. Over 1,500 votes were received from members of the public.
The following decisions are the winners of the Bludgeon awards, having the worst impact on gender equality.
- The Bronze Bludgeon was awarded to a decision made by the State Council of Colombia, which suspended the decree regulating the provision of abortion services.
- The Silver Bludgeon was awarded to the decision of the Constitutional Court of Peru, which prohibited the sale or distribution of the morning-after pill.
- The Gold Bludgeon went to a decision of the First Instance Criminal Jurisdiction of Sete Lagoas in Brazil in which a judge declared the Maria Da Penha law, prohibiting violence against women, as 'diabolical'.
The Gavel Awards were awarded to decisions which had the greatest positive impact on gender equality.
- The Bronze Gavel went to the case known as Campo Algodonero, issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in which Mexico was found responsible for failing to prevent the murder of three women in Juarez - Mexico.
- The Silver Gavel went to a decision made by the European Court of Human Rights which recognised for the first time that domestic violence is a form of gender discrimination.
- The Gold Gavel was awarded to the Community Court of the Economic Community of Western African States - ECOWAS - which held, in a landmark decision, that Niger was in violation of its positive obligations to protect its citizens from sexual slavery.
People's Choice Awards
More than 1,500 votes were received from the public through the website
The winner of the Bludgeon category, for the worst decision, was granted to a statement made by Preston Crown Court, England, which acquitted a number of men accused of gang rape because the victim had spoken of sexual fantasies over the internet.
In the Gavel category, the winning decision with a high difference in the number of votes, went to a decision made by the Tribunal of Santa Fe, Argentina, criminally sanctioning doctors who refused to provide cancer treatment or to perform a legal abortion on Ana María Acevedo, a pregnant woman who subsequently died due to their actions.
THE BRAZILIAN JUDGE EDILSON RUMBELSPERGER RODRIGUES REJECTED VARIOUS CASES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE STATING THAT THE LAW THAT INCREASES THE PENALTY FOR VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AS ABSURD, DIABOLICAL AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL. ACCORDING TO THE JUDGE THIS WAS BECAUSE “THE WORLD IS MALE, GOD IS MALE, JESUS WAS A MAN AND THE WOMAN IS GUILTY OF THE MISFORTUNE OF HUMANITY.”
Judge Edilson Rumbelsperger Rodrigues
In 2007, Judge Edilson Rumelsperger Rodrigues, of the Jurisdiction of Criminal and Juvenile Matters in the First Instance of Sete Lagoas, in the State of Minas Gerais, heard various cases of domestic violence, covered by the Maria Da Penha Act, which provides for higher sentencing for those who perpetrate violence against women. He acquitted several men affirming that:
"So that he does not find himself eventually caught up in the trap of this absurd law, man will have to be a dimwit, weak, in the sense that he will find himself in the situation of having to easily cede to the pressures of the woman. The result of these diabolical rules is that the family will be in danger, just as it already is: weakened, children without rules because of having no parents, the man subjugated (...)
The modern woman, that calls herself independent, who does not even need a father for her children, needs only for his sperm, is frustrated as a woman, as female. However, the misfortune of humanity began in Eden: by fault of the woman, as we all know, but also due to the simple-mindedness, silliness and emotional fragility of the man. (...) The world is male! The idea that we have of God is male! Jesus was a man!"
On the November 20, 2007, the National Council of Justice unanimously decided to commence a disciplinary investigation against Judge Rumbelsperger.
Folha de São Paulo - Conselho irá processar juiz que criticou Lei Maria da Penha, 21 de noviembre de 2007
THE INTER-AMERICAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS (IACtHR) SANCTIONED THE STATE OF MEXICO FOR THE TORTURE AND MURDER OF THREE FEMALES ( TWO OF THEM MINORS). THEIR BODIES WERE FOUND IN A COTTON FIELD OUTSIDE OF THE CITY OF JUAREZ. THEIR MURDERS WERE PART OF A SYSTEMATIC PATTERN OF GENDER BASED VIOLENCE, WHICH HAS EXISTED IN THE AREA FOR THE LAST 16 YEARS.
Case: González and others ("Campo Algodonero") v. Mexico
Date: 16 November 2009
Judges: Ms. Cecilia Medina Quiroga (President), Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Mr. Manuel E. Ventura Robles, Ms. Margarette May Macaulay, Ms. Rhadys Abreu Blondet and Ms. Rosa María Álvarez González (ad hoc Judge)
On the 21 September 2001, after going to school and leaving the restaurant where she worked as a waitress, Laura Berenice Ramos Monarrez, a 17 year old girl, never returned home. On the 10 October of the same year, Claudia Ivette Gonzalez, 20 years old, was seen for the last time coming out of LEAR 173, a factory in Juarez. She was refused entry into the factory after arriving to work two minutes late. On the 29th of October, Esmeralda Herrera Monreal, a 15 year old girl, disappeared on her journey home after working as a housekeeper in a house in Juarez city. When the families of the victims reported them missing, the local authorities did not look for them and assumed that the woman and girls were with their boyfriends.
On the 6 and 7 of November 2001, eight bodies were found with signs of extreme sexual violence in Campo Algodonero in Juarez. Three of the bodies were identified as the missing women above.
The cases of women from Campo Algodonero represent a type of both physical and mental violence against women. Hundreds of women have been killed in Juarez since the beginning of the 90s, when NAFTA came into effect, leading to the growth of American textile companies in the region. These factories mainly hired women. The gender-based violence was evidenced in the conditions of captivity the women were subjected to and was perpetrated with the objective of degrading the women through torture, mutilation, sexual aggression, and other acts of violence which can only be inflicted on the body of a woman. The total lack of justice constituted in and of itself gender discrimination on the part of the Mexican authorities.
The Court concluded that the State of Mexico was internationally responsible because it had not acted in accordance with its due diligence obligations to adequately prevent the deaths and the aggression suffered by the victims and it had also failed to act in a reasonable manner to end the deprivation of liberty given the circumstances of the case. The Court found that the non-compliance of the State with its obligations was particularly serious given that the State was aware of the context, in which women were in situations of special vulnerability, and furthermore, they were aware of special obligations of States in cases of violence against women laid down in the Convention of Belem do Para. The Court found that the State had directly violated the Convention of Belem Do Para, which is dedicated to the prevention, sanction and eradication of violence against women. It also recognised that the murders were committed on the grounds of the gender of the the victims and used the term 'femicide', which specifically recognises the deliberate targeting and murder of women based on their sex.
New America Media, 15 December 2009, International Court Holds Mexico Accountable for Femicides
El Paso Times, 12 December 2009, Court Blasts Mexico for Juarez Women's Murders
Women's Link Worldwide's Press Release, 11 December 2009, In an unprecedented case
the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Sanctions Mexico for failing to adequately guarantee the life and personal integrity of women in Ciudad Juarez
THE COURT FOUND NIGER IN BREACH OF ITS POSITIVE OBLIGATIONS TO PROTECT ITS CITIZENS FROM SLAVERY, WHICH IN THIS CASE INVOLVED SEXUAL SLAVERY, AND ORDERED THE STATE TO PAY 10 MILLION CAF (APPROX. USD 23,100)
Judges: Ms. Aminata Malle Sanogo, (president), Ms. Awa Daboya Nana, Mr. El Mansour Tall
In the case Hadijatou Mani Koraou v. The Republic of Niger, issued on October 27, 2008, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Community Court of Justice found Niger liable for slavery.
This is the case of a woman who, in 1996, was sold to the tribe chief when she was 12 years old following the practice of "Wahiya", consisting of acquiring a young girl, generally a slave, to work as a servant as well as a concubine. She was at her master's service and he could at any time of day or night have sexual relations with her. He raped her before she was 13 years old. For about 9 years, the woman was a servant and did all sorts of housework and served as a concubine. Four children were born out of relations with her master, two of whom survived.
On August 18, 2005, her master gave her a liberation certificate from slavery. She decided to leave the house but he refused, saying that she was and remained his wife. Under the pretext of visiting her ill mother, she escaped and never went back.
In February of 2006, the applicant brought a complaint before the civil and customary tribunal, to have her desire to be totally free and live her life elsewhere recognized. The tribunal granted her request finding that she was never properly married to her master. He appealed before the Court of First Instance and won. The applicant took her case to the Judicial Chamber of the Supreme Court of Niamey and requested application of the law against slavery and slavery-like practices. The Court reversed the previous judgement on formal grounds.
After finding that the applicant had married, her former master filed a criminal complaint against her for bigamy and she and her brother were arrested. She appealed and filed a complaint against her former master for slavery. She filed a petition before ECOWAS Community Court of Justice.
The Court found that Niger was not responsible for the discrimination she was subjected to by a non-State actor, namely her former master.
The Court found that the applicant was held in slavery for nearly nine years in violation of her rights and that the elimination of slavery is a mandate to all States, therefore she was entitled to protection by the Nigerien authorities. The Court found Niger responsible under international as well as national law for any form of human rights violations founded on slavery because of its tolerance, passivity, inaction, and abstention with regard to the practice and orders Niger to pay reparations in the amount of 10 million CFA francs (approx. USD 23,100)
THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF PERU FOUND THAT HUMAN LIFE BEGINS WHEN THE CELLS OF THE WOMAN AND MAN UNITE AND THAT EMERGENCY ORAL CONTRACEPTION COULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE AN ABORTIVE SUBSTANCE WHEN THERE IS A POSSIBILITY THAT THIS WOULD INHIBIT IMPLANTATION OF A FERTILISED OVULE. THE COURT PROHIBITED THE MINISTER OF HEALTH FROM INITIATING A DISTRIBUTION PROGRAMME WHICH WOULD HAVE PROVIDED LOW-INCOME WOMEN WITH FREE EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION PILLS.
Judges: Mr. Juan Vergara Gotelli (President), Mr. Carlos Mesía Ramírez, Mr. César Landa Arroyo (concurring opinion), Mr. Ricardo Beaumont Callirgos, Mr. Fernando Calle Hayen (concurring opinion), Mr. Gerardo Eto Cruz, Mr. Ernesto Álvarez Miranda
Date: 16 October 2009
In October 2004 the NGO 'Action in the Struggle of Anti-corruption' filed a claim against the Ministry of Health in order to stop it from initiating a programme of distribution for the 'morning after pill' or emergency oral contraception in all of the health care centres which would freely distribute the pills. It argued that this would violate the right to conception, creating a danger of massive murder and that the Minister of Health was simply acting to benefit national and international economic groups (pharmaceutical companies) who were interested in business.
The Ministry of Health argued that the provision to allow the widespread and free distribution of the ‘morning after pill’ was necessary in order to benefit economically disadvantaged groups. It highlighted that it was made available after an Expert Commission issued a medical, scientific and legal report concluding that emergency oral contraception was fully compatible with the law and the constitution. The report also concluded that the availability of the oral emergency contraception for economically disadvantaged members of the population should be free, informed, voluntary and identical to the availability of the pills for persons who had access to private pharmacies in the country.
In addition, the Ministry clarified that the contraceptive measures acted (i) to inhibit or delay ovulation; (ii) by creating difficulties for sperm migration by drying cervical mucus; and (iii) by slowly affecting the endometrium. Moreover, they do not affect a pregnancy once it has started and therefore, they cannot be considered to be an abortive method.
In the first two instances the Court declared the claim to be without foundation. The Constitutional Court found that there were divergent opinions as to when human life begins and that its duty was to weigh the doubt when there is a lack of consensus and lack of certainty over the effects of emergency oral contraception. It decided that human life commences with the fusion of the cells of the woman with those of the man, which in turn creates a new cell. It found that this moment is the beginning of life rather than the implantation of the ovule in the uterus.
The Court stated that since there was a possibility that the pill affects implantation the Court had to apply the 'principle of precaution'. It concluded that sufficient indicators existed to conclude that there was a reasonable doubt as to whether oral emergency contraception pills affect the endometrium and could possibly have the effect of anti-implantation. The Court stated that its decision was not final and that it could change when there was scientific consensus on the harmlessness of emergency oral contraception with regards to implantation. The Court ordered the Ministry of Health to abstain from developing the free distribution programme as a public policy and ordered the laboratories that produce and sell the pills to include a warning that they could inhibit implantation.
THE STATE COUNCIL (HIGHEST ADMINISTRATIVE COURT) SUSPENDED DECREE 4444 OF 2006, WHICH REGULATED THE PROVISION OF ABORTION SERVICES IN COLOMBIA. THE DECREE WAS ISSUED IN ORDER TO COMPLY WITH THE DISPOSITIONS LAID DOWN BY THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT IN JUDGEMENT C-355/06, WHICH RECOGNIZED THE RIGHT OF WOMEN TO OBTAIN AN ABORTION IN THREE SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCES.
Judges: Ms Maria Claudia Rojas Lasso, Mr. Marco Antonio Velilla Moreno, Mr. Rafael E. Ostau de Lafont Pianeta, Ms. Martha Sofia Sanz Tobon.
On October 15, 2009, the Colombian State Council temporarily suspended Decree 4444 (2006), which regulated the provision of abortion services and gave instructions to health care providers in Colombia. The provisional suspension is a measure, which leaves the Decree without effect until the case has been definitively decided.
The decision to provisionally suspend the Decree was made on the basis of a procedural issue; the Court was asked to examine whether Congress rather than the Ministry of Social Protection was the correct entity to decide to issue the Decree. In judgment C-355/06, the Constitutional Court made it clear that its decision had immediate effect and did not require any regulation. The decision of the Council has had a negative impact on the ability to guarantee the sexual and reproductive rights of Colombian women because it has generated confusion among health care providers and the society in general. This confusion could ultimately result in health services providers refusing to carry out abortions with the argument that there is no regulation.
JUDGE ROBERT BROWN ORDERED THE JURY TO RETURN A NON-GUILTY VERDICT IN THE CASE OF A WOMAN WHO ALLEGED THAT SHE WAS THE VICTIM OF GANG RAPE. THE JUDGE FOUND THAT HER CREDIBILITY HAD BEEN “SHOT TO PIECES” SINCE SHE HAD PREVIOUSLY HAD A CONVERSATION ON MSN WHERE SHE HAD SPOKEN OF HER SEXUAL FANTASIES.
Judge: Robert Brown
Date: 12th January 2010
Five men were cleared of charges of rape and, another one of conspiracy to rape when a jury were instructed by the judge to return not-guilty verdicts.
The case concerned allegations made by a 24-year-old women from Liverpool. After making contact with the accused, on the internet she agreed to meet with him in order to have sex. She alleged, however, that when she arrived to the house she was gang raped by several other men, including the defendant. The prosecutor decided not to provide any further evidence in the trial after it emerged that she had had conversations on MSN with the man she went to visit regarding a group sex fantasy. The prosecutor told the court that the chatlogs in which she is prepared to entertain ideas of group sex with strangers paints “a wholly different light as far as this case is concerned. We take the view that it would not be appropriate to offer any evidence.”
The judge then ordered to return the non-guilty verdicts stating: “this case depended on the complainant´s credibility. Not to put too fine a point on it, her credibility was shot to pieces”. The case was thus closed without allowing the jury to consider the testimony of the woman.
Press articles can be found here:
THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS FINDS THAT STATES HAVE POSITIVE OBLIGATIONS TO COMBAT AND INVESTIGATE HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND THAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING FALLS WITHIN THE PROHIBITION IN THE CONVENTION OF SLAVERY, SERVITUDE AND FORCED AND COMPULSORY LABOUR.
CASE OF RANTSEV v. CYPRUS AND RUSSIA
Date: 7th January 2010
Judges: Mr. Christos Rozakis, President, Mr. Anatoly Kovler, Ms. Elisabeth Steiner, Mr. Dean Spielmann, Mr. Sverre Erik Jebens, Mr. Giorgio Malinverni, Mr. George Nicolaou
The ECtHR found Russia and Cyprus in violation of the Convention for failing to protect a young woman from human trafficking and failing to adequately investigate her death. The case concerned Ms. Oxana Rantseva, a 20 year old Russian woman, who came to Cyprus to work as an 'artiste' in a Cabaret. She attemped to escape from the cabaret by jumping off the balcony, the police found her and brought her back to the owner of the cabaret. Some time later she was found dead. Her father brought the claim arguing that Cypriot police had inadequately protected her while she was alive from trafficking and sexual exploitation and had failed to punish the persons responsible for her ill treatment. He also complained that Russia had not effectively investigated his daughter's dead and had not taken steps to protect her from trafficking.
The Court held for the first time that human trafficking is a form of exploitation in which ownership is exercised over a person. It stated in paragraph 282 that '[T]here can be no doubt that trafficking threatens the human dignity and fundamental freedoms of its victims and cannot be considered compatible with a democratic society and the values expounded in the Convention. In view of its obligation to interpret the Convention in light of present-day conditions, the Court considers it unnecessary to identify whether the treatment about which the applicant complains constitutes “slavery”, “servitude” or “forced and compulsory labour”. Instead, the Court concludes that trafficking itself, within the meaning of Article 3(a) of the Palermo Protocol and Article 4(a) of the Anti-Trafficking Convention, falls within the scope of Article 4 of the Convention.
The Court found that under the rubric of Article 4, which bans slavery, servitude and forced and compulsory labour, that High Contracting Parties to the Convention also have positive obligations to investigate when there is suspicion of trafficking and to cooperate with other States in their investigations in compliance with the Palermo Protocol.
As well as Article 4, the Court found Cyprus to be in violation of Article 5 of the Convention, which protects persons against arbitrary detention. The Court found that the Cypriot police were complicit in the detention by the traffickers who ran the club since they released the deceased to the owner of the club after her escape and arrest rather than letting her go free.
The Court ordered Cyprus to pay the applicant 40,000 Euro in damages and Russia to pay 2,000 Euros.
THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS RECOGNIZED THAT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS A FORM OF GENDER DISCRIMINATION PROHIBITED BY THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND FOUND THAT THE MANIFESTLY INADEQUATE RESPONSE BY TURKISH AUTHORITIES VIOLATED THE APPLICANT’S RIGHTS TO LIFE AND TO BE FREE FROM TORTURE.
On June 9, 2009, in the case Opuz v. Turkey the European Court of Human Rights considered the case of a Turkish woman (the applicant) and her mother, both of whom had suffered extensive abuse at the hands of the husband of the applicant and his father. Between 1995 to 2002, the women received continuous death threats and were badly beaten resulting in serious injuries. In 2002, in a brutal attack, the abuser stabbed the applicant 7 times shot and killed her mother. During the years of abuse, the applicant filed several complaints with Turkish authorities, who finally sentenced the abuser for homicide and illegal possession of a firearm.
Nevertheless, the court reduced his sentence from 15 years to 10 months imprisonment and a fine, stating that the deceased had provoked the assault. The abuser claimed that he had killed the applicant’s mother because she had induced his wife to lead an immoral life, like her own, and had been taking his wife and children away from him. He alleged that he had shot the deceased for the sake of his honor.
In this landmark decision the ECHR considers incidents of abuse in the cumulative and not as separate events for purposes of determining whether the petition was filed timely and recognizes, for the first time, that domestic violence is a form of gender discrimination prohibited by the European Convention of Human Rights. The case recognizes that domestic violence is not a “private family matter” but that it is in the public interest to ensure State protection from it.
The Court found the response by Turkish authorities to be manifestly inadequate and found that Turkey had violated the rights to life, to be free from torture and the prohibition against gender discrimination, as defined by the European Convention on Human Rights.
ALTHOUGH IN ARGENTINA ABORTION IS NOT ILLEGAL WHEN THE LIFE OR HEALTH OF THE WOMEN IS IN DANGER, IN THE CASE OF ANA MARIA ACEVEDO, A 19-YEAR-OLD PREGNANT WOMAN DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER, DOCTORS REFUSED TO BEGIN CANCER TREATMENT OR TO CARRY OUT AN ABORTION. BOTH ANA AND THE BABY DIED. THE DOCTORS INVOLVED WERE TRIED IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS.
25 June 2008 and 11 August 2008.-
Dr Eduardo Pocoví, Court of First Instance of Criminal Correction of the Fifth Branch of Santa Fe
"Judicial summons before investigating prosecutorl Nº 1 relating to the death of ANA MARIA ACEVEDO" Case Nº 2165 2007"
In September 2006, Ana Maria Acevedo, a young 19-year-old woman and mother of three children, from the province of Santa Fe, went to a local hospital for toothache. After taking out the teeth and undergoing some tests, the patient returned in October to the hospital with a facial tumor. She was admitted and more tests were carried out. The young woman was referred to other specialists to undergo other tests and scans on her head and other parts of her body. On the 23 October she was referred to the JM Cullen Hospital in Santa Fe. She was diagnosed with cancer and moved to the Hospital Iturraspe for treatment. In Novermber she was informed that they were considering the possibility of treating her with radiotherapy and after another appointment during which the patient stated that she was late in her menstruation cycle, they ordered a pregnancy test which came back positive. When you young woman was diagnosed with cancer she was not informed about the risks of becoming pregnant.
When the patient was 3-4 weeks pregnant, the radiotherapist stated that although the adequate treatment for the type of cancer would be radiotherapy, this could not be carried out because of the negative effects this would have on the fetus and he determined that the pregnancy was a contraindication to carrying out the treatment. The young woman suffered from strong pains in her face and neck and did not receive treatment for the cancer despite the fact that both the patient and the mother repeatedly requested a therapeutic abortion so that she could be treated. The doctors replied that there was nothing that they could do because she was pregnant and they went to have a meeting with other professionals, including a judge and a priest.
After speaking with the doctor, Ana Maria´s parents spoke with the Director of the hospital, who told them that they could only carry out an abortion after the order was given by a judge. The family requested help from the ombudsman, which gave them no support. During this time, the health of Ana Maria was continuously deteriorating and she only received treatment for pain rather than for the cancer.
On the 26 April 2007, when Ana Maria was 22 weeks pregnant it was decided that a cesarean section would be carried out. Dr Emilio Schinner explained in the clinical file that the birth was put forward because ´the patient was in a pre-mortem state, that is to say, with a marked respiratory insufficiency and organ failure indicating that the ending was imminent.´ The baby died within 24 hours.
After a rapid decline in her health, Ana Maria died on the 17th May 2007. After her death, the mother and father of the young woman gave permission to ´Multisectorial de Mujeres´ a group of lawyers, to represent them in criminal proceedings.
For the first time in the country, the Court of first instance decided to condemn the doctors involved for crimes of non-compliance with the duties of a public official and for the injuries suffered. This was a precedent in that the non-practice of a legal abortion was recognised as constituting a crime.
The Association for Women´s Rights in Development (AWID) highlighted the case as an example of flagrant abuse of human rights.
The Multisectorial de Mujeres of Santa Fe followed the case, politically, legally and personally from when they were first made aware of the the situation of Ana Maria Acevedo by the press. Ms. Norma Cuevas and Ms. Marylin Acevedo, mother and sister of Ana María, attended the XXII Meeting of Women which took place in Cordoba in October 2007. Over 30,000 women participating in this gathering. They spoke about the case and received huge support from the Movement of Argentinian Women.
This case has become a paragon for feminists and Ana Maria today is an emblem for thousands of militant feminists: her history, her photo and the murals telling her story have reached people all over the world.
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