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

  • Victory for Mary Sunday 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.  ...
  • First ever student hackathon! On 9th December 2017 Lawyers Against Poverty held our first ever student Hackathon!  This 12 hour event, held at Oxford Brookes University, focused on developing land rights and women’s rights content for a new access to justice website Oxfam is developing together with a number of other organisations.  The Lawyers Against Poverty women’s rights working group worked ...
  • New video: Tika’s story A short documentary is now available following the story of Tika Darlami, a woman living in Nepal who used to have serious trouble communicating with other people and becoming involved in her community due to low self-esteem. However, as the three minute film illustrates, Tika was helped by WAM (Women Association for Marginalised Women), a key ...
  • A tale of two women As part of Lawyers Against Poverty Week, 9BRi, ICLB and ARC follow the story of Zanjira, a woman who runs a legal clinic in Tajikistan, and her client Najbiddinova Bibiniso. The study was published last year by Catherine Dunmore, an international arbitration lawyer in Paris, and explores the challenges that both Zanjira and Najbiddinova had to ...

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