LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Kenyan man’s acquittal for having sex with a 13-year-old because she seemed willing was named on Wednesday as the world’s worst court decision for women’s rights in the past year.
It beat off tough competition from Europe - where an Italian woman did not scream loud enough to prove her rape - and an Asian ruling that restricted birth control to Philippine women.
The Gender Justice Uncovered Awards recognize court decisions that affect the rights of women and girls around the world, in both good and bad ways.
The Kenyan judge in the most egregious case ruled that if only the age of victims was taken into account, “young girls would freely engage in sex and then opt to report to the police whenever they disagree with their boyfriends.”
According to court documents summing up the April 2016 judgment, age is immaterial if a girl acts beyond her years.
“Where the child behaves like an adult and willingly sneaks into men’s houses for purposes of having sex, the court ought to treat such a child as a grown up who knows what she is doing.”
The awards cover all aspects of gender equality, including those related to sexual and reproductive rights, violence, and discrimination. Cases under consideration came from as far afield as Uruguay and Chad, with all continents represented.
“In every country, political systems, traditions, and religious beliefs inform the decisions of judges, who have the power to affect women and girls’ rights, for better or for worse,” Blakeley Decktor - a lawyer at women’s rights organization Women’s Link, which gives out the awards - told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“The public has sent a clear message that they will not tolerate courts all over the world discriminating against women and girls and failing to protect their rights,” she said.
A Spanish court which ruled that the law should treat men and women differently - citing domestic violence, pension and divorce cases - was praised as the best decision.
Many of the rulings, which were nominated by members of the public, related to sexual assault cases.
In March, a survey of laws in 73 countries found rapists could avoid punishment if they married their victim in at least nine jurisdictions, including Bahrain, Iraq, Philippines, Tajikistan and Tunisia. [here]
United Nations data suggests a third of women worldwide have suffered sexual or physical violence, and one in 10 girls have been raped or sexually assaulted.
Reporting by Anna Pujol-Mazzini @annapmzn, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org