Same-Sex Marriage, War in Ukraine, Child Brides & Equal Citizenship: Human Rights Round-Up 2022

by | Dec 12, 2022

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About Natasha Holcroft-Emmess

Natasha is a DPhil candidate in the Law Faculty at Oxford University. Her DPhil research focuses on derogation under human rights treaties. Natasha is also a Lecturer in Constitutional Law at Keble College, and she has a strong research interest in international law and human rights. She works part-time as the Research Director at the Oxford Human Rights Hub, prior to which she worked on the Hub's podcast and blog editorial teams.

Image description: a composite image of two women getting married, a protest against war in Ukraine, and a group of children.

Every December, the world celebrates Human Rights Day. This year’s theme is ‘Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All’, evoking the recognition in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that ‘the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’. At the Oxford Human Rights Hub, we are proud to provide a platform for global dialogue about developments in human rights law. To celebrate Human Rights Day 2022, we wanted to round up some of our most-viewed posts from this year, so here they are: a few of the most intriguing human rights stories of 2022, according to you – our readers.

1. Same-Sex Marriage in Japan

In this blog post, Genki Kimura (MPhil, Oxford) reported on strategic litigation in Japanese Courts targeting the non-recognition in Japanese law of marriage between same-sex couples, and the lack of any system of civil partnerships. The litigation in question took aim at provisions of Mimpo (the Japanese Civil Code) and legislation which has defined marriage as ‘only possible between the opposite sexes’. In a positive recent development, the Sapporo District Court declared provisions of Mimpo and relevant legislation to be unconstitutional. Eyes now turn to the Japanese Supreme Court, where issues of same-sex marriage and partnerships are likely to head.

Attracting over 10,000 page views, this was our most visited blog post published in 2022!

2. Same-Sex Marriage in India

Another 2022 blog post covered litigation concerning same-sex marriage – this time, in the Indian courts. Muskan Bhuteria (law student, O.P. Jindal Global University) reviewed a series of petitions pending (at time of writing) before the Delhi High Court, concerning to the constitutionality of marriage legislation and its impact on same-sex couples. These developments show the national courts grappling with the implications of Supreme Court decisions Navtej Singh Johar v Union of India and Puttaswamy & Ors v Union of India. The case commentary provides a useful insight into India’s progress in safeguarding rights of the LGBTQI community.

3. Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine & International Criminal Law

In this blog post, Dr Carrie McDougall (Melbourne Law School) argues that ‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and its ongoing use of force – is a textbook example of the crime of aggression’, as defined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Dr McDougall notes that an investigation into the situation in Ukraine was opened by the ICC Prosecutor, but there is a barrier to any prosecution for aggression: the ICC does not have jurisdiction over any crime of aggression involving a non-State Party as either victim or aggressor (except in the case of a UN Security Council referral – highly unlikely, due to the Russian veto).

This blog post was divided into two parts, with the second instalment evaluating alternative possible paths to prosecution.

4. A Landmark Judgment on Child Marriage in Pakistan

Opening with the disquieting statistic that Pakistan is home to nearly 19 million child brides, this blog post by Rida Tahir (barrister and lecturer) comments on a ground-breaking, February 2022 judgment of the Islamabad High Court. In Mumtaz Bibi v Qasim, the Court declared that marriage of children under 18 is unlawful and such marriage contracts are void ab initio (i.e., having no legal effect from the outset). Crucial to the Court’s decision was Pakistan’s being a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and efforts being made to bring the country’s laws in line with its international obligations.

The decision was ‘deservedly celebrated across Pakistan’, however it is ‘applicable only to the Islamabad Capital Territory’, necessitating further work to ensure children’s rights are protected throughout the country.

5. Malaysian Women Could Pass Citizenship to Overseas-Born Children

Closing our round-up: Zheng Hong See (Oxford, BCL) reported on the decision of Kuala Lumpur High Court in Suraini Kempe & Ors v the Government of Malaysia & Ors. In this ‘landmark’ case, the High Court declared that Malaysian women married to foreign men enjoy the right to confer citizenship, by operation of law, on their children born overseas – bringing the position of Malaysian women into line with that of Malaysian men married to foreign women. Previously, women married to non-Malaysian men did not have an automatic right to pass on Malaysian citizenship to their children born abroad, but had to go through a cumbersome application process. This High Court decision was subsequently overturned by the Court of Appeal in August 2022, however, the applicants have since been granted leave to appeal to Malaysia’s highest court. At time of writing, that appeal has not yet been heard but its implications for equality in Malaysia are clear. The High Court decision marked, in Zheng Hong See’s view, ‘a significant milestone in the struggle for gender equality in Malaysia’, and a group of UN experts has called on the Malaysian courts to ‘interpret all constitutional provisions concerning citizenship and its transference without discrimination based on sex‘.*

Between Human Rights Day 2021 and 2022, the OxHRH platform received over 400,000 page views from all around the globe. Thank you so much to all of our authors, editors and readers – we are delighted to join you in conversation about human rights law in support of dignity, freedom and justice for all!

* The OxHRH team is grateful to Kuberan Hansrajh Kumaresan for providing an update on the Malaysian citizenship case. This post was updated on 16 December to note the appeals in that case.

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