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Over the past four months we asked you, the public, to nominate the year’s most significant judicial decisions which positively (Gavel nominees) or negatively (Bludgeon nominees) impacted gender equality for the Gender Justice Uncovered Awards 2015, organized each year by Women’s Link Worldwide. The results are in and the 67 nominations, 33 Gavels and 34 Bludgeons, show how gender-based discrimination operates within the judicial system for women and girls.
Seven nominations this year came from the United Kingdom, four of which were nominated as Bludgeons. This post looks at the Bludgeon nominees, which deal with gender-based violence; sexual and reproductive rights; and employment, intersecting with immigration and socioeconomic issues (Links to the original judicial decisions can be found to the right of the Gender Justice Award summaries provided in the hyperlinks).
Gender-Based Violence and Immigration
Diverse forms of gender-based violence, including physical, psychological, and emotional are the focus of several of the nominated cases.
In one tragic case, where the police arriving too late to an incident of domestic violence and were therefore unable to prevent a man from brutally murdering his ex-girlfriend, the Supreme Court of United Kingdom found the police could not be held accountable for the woman’s death even though the police had negligently downgraded the urgency of her call. The woman twice called police when her ex-boyfriend showed up at her house behaving aggressively. A miscommunicated message within the police station resulted in police arriving after her ex-boyfriend had killed her. Despite the Court’s in-depth analysis of the “shocking” and deeply-rooted situation of domestic violence in the country, it ruled the police did not owe a duty to respond, deciding in part because compensation to victims in these circumstances would be very expensive.
In another high profile case involving “diplomatic immunity,” two women, one from the Philippines and the other from Indonesia, were trafficked as domestic workers into the United Kingdom to a Saudi Arabian diplomat’s home. Following their escape, both women courageously sued their previous employers, the diplomat and his wife, for violence, racial discrimination and unpaid wages. Despite these serious human rights violations, the UK Court of Appeal concluded that the claims were barred due to diplomatic immunity. It justified its ruling explaining that the diplomats were acting in the scope of their immunity when employing the domestic workers, and that deference to diplomatic immunity was paramount in its purpose of fostering goodwill between nations.
Sexual and Reproductive Rights
Nominated cases involving sexual and reproductive rights demonstrate how women’s rights to bodily autonomy becomes politicized in the context of abortion, sterilization, and pregnancy.
For example, the High Court of England and Wales refused to ensure access to safe, legal and affordable abortion services for Northern Ireland residents’ who travel to England to undergo abortion procedures by denying non-residents the same cost-free coverage English residents enjoy. Because of Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion law women seeking safe, legal abortion must travel across the border only to be forced to pay high fees for medical care. The result disproportionately burdens poor women’s access to the safe, legal medical services the State is responsible to provide.
The Court of Appeal upheld a decision to cut the amount of spousal maintenance a woman would receive while caring for the divorced couple’s children, determining that the woman needed to work outside the home. The Court asserted that the woman could and must find employment outside the home but failed to pursue realistic job opportunities or account for her absence from the workforce during a 10-year marriage while she cared for the couple’s children. The decision demonstrates the Court’s failure to consider caring for the children as work.
The cases outlined above from the United Kingdom exemplify the ways that gender discrimination is perpetuated inside the courtroom.
Now that the nominations are in, it is time to vote for the cases that matter to you and show judges that we are paying attention. The Gender Justice Uncovered Awards were created to bring to light the various ways gender-based discrimination exists in courts across regions, socioeconomic statuses, ethnicities, sexual orientations and gender identities. The Awards offer a platform to become informed of this discrimination and vote to tell judges you will not tolerate it. Your vote makes a difference.