Judges from all over the world are held accountable for the decisions they issue and for how these rulings affect the lives of women and girls worldwide. This post considers the court decisions recognized by the jury and the public for advancing or setting back gender equality in the 2014 edition of the Gender Justice Uncovered Awards.
A few weeks ago, I blogged on some of the decisions that did the most to help or harm gender equality, which had been nominated for the 2014 Gender Justice Uncovered Awards, presented by Women’s Link Worldwide.
On June 25 2014, the jury spoke, as did the public, who voted for the People’s Choice Awards, picking the decisions that did the most to advance or set back gender equality. Their votes helped raise awareness of the ability of the Awards to create dialogue between civil society and justice systems.
In its review of decisions in which judges used their legal authority to guarantee equality, the jury, made up of Yvonne Mokgoro from South Africa, Héctor Abad Faciolince from Colombia, and Kerry Kennedy from the United States, awarded the Bronze Gavel to the “Genocide of the Ixil Maya People” case from Guatemala. In this case, the court sentenced Efraín Ríos Montt to 80 years in prison for genocide and war crimes, including sex crimes and gender violence. The Silver Gavel went to the “Two-Finger Test” case from Bangladesh, in which the Supreme Court ordered several government agencies to justify the continued use of this invasive procedure performed on rape victims. In response, the Bangladeshi government formed a committee to create new guidelines, which if implemented would ban the practice. And the 2014 Golden Gavel was won by the “160 Girls Case” from Kenya, in which a judge ordered the police to reopen its investigation of a long list of cases of child rape and enforce applicable laws.
Turning to the worst court decisions for women’s and girls’ human rights, the jury awarded the Bronze Bludgeon to the “Tzotzil Girl Case” from Mexico, in which a 14-year-old indigenous Tzotzil girl was jailed and fined after she left her husband and returned to her family. The Silver Bludgeon went to the “Punished for Driving” case from Saudi Arabia, a ruling sentencing a woman to 150 lashes and 8 months in prison for driving a car and resisting arrest when she was stopped by local police. And finally, the 2014 Golden Bludgeon was taken by the “Gang Rape” case from India, where a Village Council sentenced a 20-year-old woman to be gang-raped as punishment for having a relationship with a man from another community.
The public got involved in the Awards too, casting its votes on the Women’s Link Worldwide web site, applauding the court rulings that upheld women’s and girls’ rights and denouncing sexist decisions that set back gender equality. The People’s Choice Gavel went to the “Double Orphan” case from Spain, a ruling in which a judge found that the daughter of a victim of gender violence was a total orphan after her father went to prison for murdering her mother. And the People’s Choice Bludgeon was taken by the “Yakiri Case” from Mexico, in which a young woman who was kidnapped, assaulted, and raped was imprisoned for aggravated murder for defending herself against the rapist who tried to murder her.
Every year, the Gender Justice Uncovered Awards show that judges worldwide need to be held accountable for their decisions. The Awards encourage dialogue about how these rulings uphold principles of equality or fail to do so. This year, 34 decisions were nominated for a Gavel and 31 for a Bludgeon, and many organizations and members of the public got involved too, helping raise awareness that gender justice has to become a worldwide reality.
You can have an accountable judiciary or you can have an independent judiciary. But you can’t have both at the same time and in the same country,