Theme: Women’s Rights

The Women’s Rights Thematic Group arranged its first event in early 2015; lawyers from The Gambia and Uganda spoke on public interest litigation in those countries and under regional human rights law instruments. Since then, Lawyers Against Poverty has funded strategic litigation in the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in relation to violence against women and the culture of police impunity (read below for further details).

Women’s rights is a cross-cutting issue which enters into the work of other groups, including the Refugee and Twinning Thematic Groups. The Refugees Thematic Group held a series of workshops on employment, criminal and family law for women refugees in Oxford and the first Twinning Programme was established between the League of Women Lawyers in Tajikistan and members of Lawyers Against Poverty.

Strategic Litigation for Women’s Rights

On 17 May 2018, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (the Court of Justice) ruled in favour of the complainants in ECW/CCJ/APP/26/15 – WARDC and IHRDA (on behalf of Mary Sunday) v Nigeria. This is a very significant victory for victims of domestic violence in Nigeria and more widely.

The case was brought on behalf of Mary Sunday, a victim of a violent attack by her fiancé, by the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) and the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC). Lawyers Against Poverty supported them with a contribution from members of $30,000.

In August 2012, Mary was attacked and beaten by her fiancé, sustaining multiple and severe injuries and burns (she was set on fire by a stove he had thrown over her head and body). Because her fiancé was a serving police officer, police inquiries into the incident manifestly were not carried out in an impartial and independent manner and concluded that she had intentionally inflicted the injuries upon herself. Her fiancé was never charged.

The IHRDA and the WARDC submitted that the failure of state authorities effectively to investigate the allegations and prosecute the perpetrator constituted a violation of the victim’s rights under (inter alia) the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Maputo Protocol, including the rights to dignity and freedom from torture, the right to a remedy and the right to freedom from discrimination.

The Court of Justice held that Nigeria had violated the right to an effective remedy as well as the right of access to justice and the right to be heard (although, regrettably, not the right to freedom from discrimination). It ordered Nigeria to pay Mary compensation of 15 million Naira (approximately $41,500) , which we understand will be used for reconstructive surgery.

The case affirms the principle that states are required to prevent violations by non-state actors, safeguard vulnerable individuals, investigate and prosecute perpetrators and compensate victims. Our hope is that it will make material advances in enforcing the rule of law, increasing state accountability and ending police impunity for violence against women and other offences.

News and Blog

  • FGM According to the World Health Organisation, it is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), with three million at risk every year. FGM is defined as the removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons (whether complete or incomplete) and today is carried out ...
  • An Evening with Sarah Morris Lawyers Against Poverty is delighted to host a talk with Sarah Morris, daughter of Sue Lloyd-Roberts who wrote The War on Women: And the Brave Ones who Fight Back. Sue was a widely acclaimed and multi-award winning journalist who sadly died before finishing her book, which was subsequently finalised by Sarah. In The War on Women, Sue ...
  • Advancing Women’s Rights Through Strategic Litigation and Other Tools   On Wednesday 28 November, Lawyers Against Poverty hosted a discussion on the tools we can use most effectively to advance and assert women’s rights. We heard firstly from Naomi Passman, one of the members of our women’s rights working group. As an introduction, she shared with us a series of facts which made eminently clear the ...
  • Advancing Women’s Rights Through Strategic Litigation and Other Tools   Many women in the world today suffer disadvantage and discrimination, marginalisation and violence. One in three will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime and only 52% of women who are married or in a relationship freely make decisions about contraception and healthcare. Globally, 750 million women and girls were married before 18 ...
  • Rohingya Women and Girls As at 1 August 2018, close to one million Rohingyas have fled from Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, seeking refuge from a military campaign described as “ethnic cleansing” by the UN. 52% among this number are women and girls; 55% are under the age of 18. Alongside Action Against Hunger and Save the Children, ...

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