Friday, March 16, 2018
In honor of St. Patrick's day, a review of posts on Irish law and gender:
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
UK Survey on Women in the Law Shows Unconscious Bias, Worklife, Flextime and Male Networks Still Barriers to Equality
The largest international survey of women in the law has been released by the Law Society of England and Wales to mark International Women’s Day 2018, shedding light on the road to gender equality in the legal profession.
“As women solicitors practising in England and Wales outnumber men for the first time in history, people working in law across the world have spoken out about the challenges the profession faces in achieving gender equality,” said Law Society vice president Christina Blacklaws. . . .
"“While more and more women are becoming lawyers, this shift is not yet reflected at more senior levels in the profession. Our survey and a wider programme of work during my presidency in 2018-19 seek to understand progress, barriers and support remedies.
“Unconscious bias in the legal profession is the most commonly identified barrier to career progression for women, while flexible working is seen as a remedy by an overwhelming 91% of respondents to our survey.
“Interestingly, while half of all respondents said they thought there had been progress on gender equality over the last five years, there was a significant difference in perception by gender with 74% of men reporting progress in gender equality compared to only 48% of women.”
- 7,781 people responded to the Law Society’s Women in the Law survey (5,758 women, 554 men and 1,469 unknown or other)
- 74% of men and 48% of women reported progress on gender equality in the last 5 years (overall 50%)
- Main barriers to career progression perceived as:
- Unconscious bias (52%); however, only 11% said unconscious bias training is consistently carried out in their organisation
- Unacceptable work/life balance demanded to reach senior levels (49%)
- Traditional networks/routes to promotion are male orientated (46%)
- Current resistance to flexible working practices (41%)
- 91% of respondents said flexible working is critical to improving diversity
- 52% work in an organisation where flexible working is in place
- 60% are aware of gender pay gap in their place of work
- Only 16% see visible steps taken to address gender pay gap
Monday, March 12, 2018
Mala Htun & S. Laurel Weldon, The Logics of Gender Justice: State Action on Women's Rights Around the World (Cambridge Univ. Press March 2018)
When and why do governments promote women's rights? Through comparative analysis of state action in seventy countries from 1975 to 2005, this book shows how different women's rights issues involve different histories, trigger different conflicts, and activate different sets of protagonists. Change on violence against women and workplace equality involves a logic of status politics: feminist movements leverage international norms to contest women's subordination. Family law, abortion, and contraception, which challenge the historical claim of religious groups to regulate kinship and reproduction, conform to a logic of doctrinal politics, which turns on relations between religious groups and the state. Publicly-paid parental leave and child care follow a logic of class politics, in which the strength of Left parties and overall economic conditions are more salient. The book reveals the multiple and complex pathways to gender justice, illuminating the opportunities and obstacles to social change for policymakers, advocates, and others seeking to advance women's rights,
Friday, March 9, 2018
Rebecca Gills & Christian Jensen, Where are the Women? Legal Traditions and Descriptive Representation on the European Court of Justice, in Politics, Groups, and Identities (Feb. 2018)
What constrains the representation of women on the European Court of Justice (ECJ)? In this paper, we investigate how gender-based double standards can diminish the likelihood that the member state will select a female candidate. We find that the appointment of women to the ECJ depends upon the relationship between the appointee's policymaking backgrounds and the degree to which legal traditions in the member state provide policymaking experience to ordinary judges. The fact that this configuration has a disparate impact by candidate gender reflects the fact that female candidates are expected to demonstrate partisan neutrality or policymaking expertise, while male candidates are assumed to have these traits. Our findings demonstrate the importance of informal job requirements and institutional constraints on the ability of governments to achieve their representation goals.
Thursday, March 8, 2018
But what is International Women’s Day? Where did it come from, and why is it necessary?
The day actually has fairly radical origins, involving the Socialist Party of America. Over the past few years, however, it has become a corporate-backed, global rallying day for women’s issues with a key goal: to finally bring about gender parity around the world.
In short, it’s a day to work toward gender parity.
The Socialist Party of America organized the first National Women’s Day in New York in 1909 to commemorate the 1908 strike of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. (Women garment workers in early-20th-century America had plenty of reasons to walk off the job, as the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire would tragically prove.)
A year later, National Women’s Day became International Women’s Day at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, where more than 100 women from 17 countries decided to establish a worldwide day of celebration to press for working women’s demands.
In fact, the Russian Revolution has International Women’s Day to thank. The 1917 demonstrations by women demanding “bread and peace” sparked other strikes and protests, which led to the abdication of Czar Nicholas II four days later and granted women the right to vote.
International Women’s Day became a more popularized holiday after 1977, when the United Nations invited member states to celebrate it on March 8.
Campaign Website, internationalwomen'sday.com
Slate, Made in the USA
Americans may think of International Women’s Day as a sentimental export from abroad—but this week’s global strike is a throwback to its real history.
In the United States, the holiday’s reddish tint caused it to fall out of mainstream favor rather quickly, and until a few years ago, few Americans had heard of it. Recently, however, as digital marketing campaigns flow across national borders, the softer and more commercial descendent of the original radical American holiday has arrived back on our shores. A coalition of corporations, including BP and PepsiCo, now promotes International Women’s Day online with hashtags and official themes. (This year’s is #BeBoldForChange. Inspired yet?) A March 8 Google Doodle last year celebrated “Doodle-worthy women of the future” by asking women across the world to talk about their aspirations, from the unobjectionably noble (improve girls’ access to education) to the unobjectionably fun (swim with pigs in the Bahamas). Americans can now order an International Women’s Day bouquet to “honor an inspiring woman in your life,” or celebrate by buying perfume or mascara whose proceeds go to empowerment-related causes. Capitalism hearts your socialist holiday!
Tension over the radical origins of Women’s Day is nothing new. One long-popular origin story had it that the holiday was first established in 1907 to mark the 50th anniversary of a massive demonstration by female garment and textile workers in New York City, whose rally against low wages and 12-hour work days was brutally shut down by the police. There was only small problem with this inspiring tale: Neither the 1857 protest nor the 1907 tribute seem to have actually occurred. Two French feminist historians busted the myth in the 1980s, revealing that the 19th-century uprising was actually invented in 1955, in part “to detach International Women’s Day from its Soviet history.”
The organizers reclaiming International Women’s Day this week, by contrast, have no qualms about its far-left origins and are in fact trying to restore that spirit to the soft-focus holiday it’s become. Ashley Bohrer, a member of the International Women’s Strike’s national planning committee, described the strike in part as an effort to draw attention to “the decoupling of InternationalWomen’s Day from its very radical working-class background.” Early on, she pointed out, the holiday had often been called International Working Women’s Day. “In recent years people have celebrated March 8 as Women’s Day,” she said, “but what’s been lost is the ‘working’ part and the ‘international’ part.”
Though we now fondly know March 8 every year to be the day we celebrate International Women’s Day, it’s not always been that way. In 1908, amid early discussions about women’s poorly paid labor, long hours, and lack of voting rights (hahahahaha, sound familiar?), the first Women’s Day marches took place. The very first was in 1908, when 15,000 women (in New York City, baby!) took to the streets to protest. Only a year later and the inaugural national Women’s Day was born on February 28, 1909, in conjunction with the Socialist Party of America. Were the first Bernie Bros actually women? It really makes you think.
This tradition of celebrating National Women’s Day continued for five years in the States, while Germans Louise Zietz and Clara Zetkin were floating a larger idea internationally. Taking inspiration from Zietz, Zetkin, a Marxist and advocate or women’s rights, brought the idea of having an International Women’s Day to the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910. Her idea was appreciated so much by the hundreds of women in attendance — socialists, workers, and union laborers alike — that they all decreed that it must happen the following year. On March 19, 1911, Europe saw its first-ever International Women’s Day. The date was subsequently changed to March 8 two years later, and stuck. It’s been that way ever since.
The holiday continued steadily on every year and was finally acknowledged by the U.N. in 1975, who decided to officially sanction and recognize the holiday on a yearly basis. The day began receiving yearly themes in 1996, and has since been celebrated with themes like World Free of Violence Against Women, Investing in Women and Girls, and this year’s Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality, though many of the recognized themes are just as evergreen as the need to celebrate the day itself....
International Women’s Day is a national holiday and day off in the following countries — Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macedonia (for women only), Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia — but not the United States. Maybe next year?
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Gendered Relations of the Judges on the Brazilian Supreme Court and the Impact on Judicial Decisionmaking
Supreme Courts are generally portrayed as institutions particularly well-positioned to defend and promote rights of minorities, including gender rights. However, gender discrimination often occurs within these institutions. Although existing empirical studies have largely focused on how the gender of the judge affects his or her decisions on the merits of the case, gender hierarchy and gender stereotypes can have an impact in other aspects of Court’s operation, such as in how judges relate to one another during deliberations. The paper aims to explore one facet of this phenomenon by looking at gendered relations judges in the Brazilian Supreme Court decision-making process. By examining a database containing all the court rulings debates between 2001 and 2013, we analyze the impact of gender in two dimensions of judicial behavior in a collegiate setting. More specifically, we test whether the gender of their colleagues affect how Brazilian Supreme Court Justices behaves when it comes to (i) dissenting from the case reporter's opinion; and (ii) asking for deliberations to be suspended, after the case reporter has spoken, in order to further study the arguments and case files. In all these dimensions, we expect the justices' confidence in the reporter's or the dissenter's knowledge or authority on the issues being discussed plays an important role, which makes them relevant to understanding the role of gender stereotypes. Our preliminary results point to gender biases in the Justices' attitudes towards female case reporters and female dissenters in at least one of these dimensions: when the case reporter is female, the other Justices are more likely to dissent. We interpret these results as suggesting that gender stereotypes -- for example, that women are less competent or reliable, and/or less likely or less able to retaliate -- might help us understand decision-making in the STF and in Brazilian courts more generally.
Rosa Freedman & Aoife O'Donoghue, United Nations Gender Network: United Nations Policy Proposal on Gender Equality and Parity
The UN Gender Network (UNGN) is rooted in both strengthening the UN’s leadership of gender equality and the empowerment of women working within the UN Secretariat, Funds, Programmes and Agencies. The UNGN believes that to enhance the UN’s leadership legitimacy in all areas but particularly regarding gender equality; to ensure the UN attracts the best talent from around the globe and to guarantee the UN fully represents ‘we the peoples’ significant change regarding gender equality amongst UN staff is required.
This policy paper places the women who work at the UN at its core. This policy looks at the history of women working at the Organisation, past attempts to strengthen their roles and looking to the future, suggests changes at the both the policy and practice levels to ensure that women working at the UN will be better served. This policy proposal aims to cause a significant shift in not just the numbers of women working at all levels at the UN but also their experiences within the workplace. The policy’s goal is to make the UN a better place for all staff to work and in doing so ensuring they can lead states in making their own workplaces into spaces where gender equality is without question a good.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Dalhousie law professor Craig’s impeccably researched book, which analyzes how Canada’s criminal justice system contributes to the trauma of sexual assault victims, is an outstanding work that dovetails perfectly with the #MeToo movement. Working from interviews with legal professionals, analyses of problematic judicial decisions, and reproductions of stomach-turning trial transcripts, Craig (Troubling Sex) skewers the still prevalent notion that Canadian sexual assault survivors enjoy a free pass in the courts. By reproducing contemporary accounts of aggressive cross-examinations that “whack the complainant,” unsavory defense strategies intended to intimidate complainants into withdrawing their cases, and reliance on rape myths—revealing clothing, alcohol use, past sexual history—in criminal trials, Craig expertly makes the case that, despite progressive law reforms, the legal system remains predominantly unsafe for survivors. Combining academic rigor with an eminently readable style that is cohesive and fearless (prominent lawyers and judges are pointedly called to account), Craig makes several proposals—including improved education and training for all judicial system participants, public reporting of all decisions, and making courtroom culture less imposing—that would mitigate harm without impinging on the rights of the accused. This is a must-read title for judges, lawyers, politicians, courtroom staff, and anyone concerned about sexual violence.
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
The UK Labour Party has long utilised All-Women candidate shortlists in an aim to ensure that female representation in the House of Commons increases. This has always been controversial, however it has been responsible for a noted increase in the number of female MPs in general and female Labour MPs in particular. Here, Mary Nugent and Mona Lena Krook dispel some of the myths around All-Women Shortlists, and show that gender quotas do not pose a threat to "merit," and that the diversity they have fostered has brought about a number of important democratic outcomes.
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Tuesday marks 100 years since British women won the right to vote — sort of.
The 1918 law set certain conditions for women to vote. They had to be over age 30 and own or occupy property — or be married to a man who did. The law allowed all men over 21 to vote.
Ten years later those restrictions for women were finally lifted.
In the United States, some women were allowed to vote in 1920, after the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. Nearly a half-century later, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 guaranteed the right to vote regardless of race.
Elsewhere around the world, New Zealand was the first country to grant women the right to vote, while Saudi Arabia waited until 2011 to allow it.
Here's a timeline of when counties allowed women to vote, compiled by the Nellie McClung Foundation, named for the Canadian suffragist.
1893 New Zealand
1918 Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia
1920 United States
1928 Britain, Ireland
1947 Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan
1957 Malaysia, Zimbabwe
1963 Iran, Morocco
1990 Western Samoa
1993 Kazakhstan, Moldova
1994 South Africa
2006 United Arab Emirates
2011 Saudi Arabia
*Aborigines, male and female, gained the right to vote in 1962.
**Canadian First Nation, male and female, did not win the vote until 196
Monday, February 5, 2018
Cornell International Law Journal, Symposium: Transnational Legal Feminisms: Challenges and Opportunities
This symposium brings together feminist scholars from around the world to discuss, offer, critique or disseminate a vision of transnational legal feminisms and the challenges and opportunities it presents.
In particular, we seek to explore three contemporary developments. First, we are interested in the rise, paths, success and challenges of transnational feminism. The far and wide reach of different feminist legal ideas changed the world wherever they touched.
A second development is the rise and maturation of critique within the feminist movement. Feminism has always been an introspective movement. Yet in recent years, some critical voices about feminist paths of power in the national and transnational sphere gained increased foothold within feminist thought.
A third contemporary development this symposium will explore, is the rise of right wing, populist, mostly conservative, politics, in many different parts of the globe, from center to periphery and back again. We are interested in exploring together the meaning of this political tidal wave to feminist politics, movement and national and transnational advocacy.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Karen Engle, Feminist Governance and International Law: From Liberal to Carceral Feminism, in Governance Feminism: Notes from the Field (Janet Halley, Prabha Kotiswaran, Rachel Rebouché & Hila Shamir, eds.) (University of Minnesota Press, 2018)
Feminist legal theory came to international law and discourse later than it came to many other legal fields. It primarily emerged in international human rights where, in a surprisingly short amount of time, it went from being extremely marginal to relatively mainstream. Not unrelatedly, it has primarily grown, and also developed significant influence, in the doctrinal areas of international humanitarian and criminal law. This piece, written as a chapter in a book on governance feminism, chronicles the trajectory of feminist engagement with international law, paying special attention to how both feminisms and feminists have played governing roles in its development and operation.
The chapter provides an account of three distinctive feminist approaches to women’s human rights that developed from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s. Each of the three approaches is identified according to its distinctive concern: liberal inclusion, structural bias, and the Third World, respectively. During the early period of feminist engagement, these approaches variously competed, complemented, and exchanged with each other in the push for a feminist foothold in human rights law. But the end of the Cold War, a compromise around “culturally sensitive universalism,” the emergence of a preoccupation with sexual violence in conflict, and the pursuit of criminal law as the primary response to it all ultimately functioned to favor a strand of structural bias feminism focused on female sexual subordination and to suppress and sideline the other feminist critiques, especially their material dimensions.
Tracing this genealogy, the chapter calls into question a dangerous common sense about sexual violence in conflict, a common sense that bears upon culture, sex, economic distribution, and criminalization, and that still dominates human rights law and discourse today. It seeks to motivate a return to, and reevaluation of, other possibilities of feminist critique that were left by the wayside when the structural bias critique prevailed, and when sexual violence and carceral responses became central to feminist approaches to human rights law.
One of the most widely publicized cases of our time is that of Amanda Knox, the college student from West Seattle who was convicted of murdering her British roommate in Italy and served four years in prison before being acquitted and released. Retried in absentia, she was convicted again, only to be exonerated by the Italian Supreme Court, which handed down its final opinion in September, 2015. Throughout its eight-year duration, the case garnered worldwide attention, in part because of the pretty, photogenic defendant and the drug-fueled sex game that the prosecutor adduced as the motive for the crime. Interest in the case spiked again with the release of a Netflix original documentary, Amanda Knox, in the fall of 2016.
While the Amanda Knox case has been remarkable for its ability to fascinate an international audience, it is not altogether unique. Rather, it is emblematic of broader themes and a broader problem−that of human beings’ prejudice against “strangeness” and our desperation for a hasty assessment of guilt or innocence‒qualities that can bleed into a legal system to the detriment of the quest for truth.
In this Article, I explore the Amanda Knox case in the context of our defective ability to judge. In Part One, I use the conceit of a “What Not to Do” list to highlight the role played by Amanda’s “strangeness” in bringing about her arrest and two convictions. In Part Two, I re-examine the usual rationale for Amanda’s behavior and suggest that a better explanation lies in her age and developmental stage. In Part Three, I shift from the interpreted to the interpreters, arguing that the latter were powerfully affected by the Madonna/whore complex and cultural differences between Perugia and Seattle. In Part Four, I analyze the impact of the Italian legal system, with its deep roots in the inquisitorial paradigm and its limited adversarial reforms.
This Article is based not only on scholarly research but also on my four sojourns in Italy, where I retraced Amanda’s footsteps and discussed the case with numerous legal experts. I had the opportunity to interview Amanda herself after she was free in Seattle.
Monday, January 22, 2018
Dr. Shivaun Quinlivan, Disrupting the Status Quo? Discrimination in Academic Promotions, 14 Irish Employment J. 68 (2017)
In June 2016 the HEA Report of the Expert Group: HEA National Review of Gender Equality in Higher Education Institutions (Gender Equality Review p.11) reported and stated that there was a need for “radical action” without which they could not guarantee that Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) would “ever be free of gender inequality”. This report was commissioned in the aftermath of the now high profile case of Sheehy Skeffington v National University of Ireland Galway (DEC-E2014-078) (hereinafter NUI Galway) and the controversy surrounding this decision. This article addresses the decision in Sheehy Skeffington v NUI Galway, the fallout from that decision and the recommendations of the Gender Equality Review as regards recruitment and promotion. In particular, this article looks at that recommendation considered most radical, yet also considered necessary, namely the introduction of mandatory gender quotas. This article seeks to assess why it was deemed necessary for the Expert Review Group to recommend the introduction of mandatory quotas and to posit the question: what happens if the HEIs do not comply with that recommendation?
Friday, January 19, 2018
Roxana Banu, A Relational Feminist Approach to Conflict of Laws, 24 Michigan J. L. & Gender 1 (2017)
Feminist writers have long engaged in critiques of private law. Surrogacy contracts or the “reasonable man” standard in torts, for example, have long been the subjects of thorough feminist analysis and critique. When private law issues touch on more than one jurisdiction, Conflict of Laws is the doctrine that determines which jurisdiction can try the case and—as separate questions—which jurisdiction’s law should apply and under what conditions a foreign judgment can be recognized and enforced. Yet, there are virtually no feminist perspectives on Conflict of Laws (also known as Private International Law). This is still more surprising when one considers that feminist approaches to Public International Law have been developing for over a quarter century.
In this Article, I show that there is a fundamental need to rethink the image of the transnational individual in Conflict of Laws theory and methodology. It is here, I argue, that feminism—specifically relational, often known as cultural, feminism—has an important contribution to make to Conflict of Laws. I develop a relational feminist approach to Conflict of Laws and apply it to a pressing contemporary issue, namely transnational surrogacy arrangements.
Overall, this Article shows how relational feminism can illuminate the problems of adopting an atomistic image of the individual in a transnational context, as well as provide an outline for an alternative—a relational theory of the self that redefines autonomy and the law, creating an important shift in how Conflict of Laws perceives its regulatory dimensions. The Article connects three of relational feminism’s core insights—the notion of relational autonomy, the focus on relationships, and relational theories of judging—to Conflict of Laws theory and methodology.
Thursday, January 18, 2018
A group of former prostitutes have taken a groundbreaking legal challenge to the high court, arguing that government policy criminalises victims of abuse and trafficking.
The women argue they have been stigmatised by the existing law, which requires people convicted of crimes to disclose their past when applying for a range of jobs or volunteering activity after DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks.
It is the first time the system of recording and disclosing convictions has been challenged on the grounds of gender discrimination, said Harriet Wistrich, the women’s solicitor.
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Taylor Stoneman, International Economic Law, Gender Equality, and Paternity Leave: Can the WTO Be Utilized to Balance the Division of Care Labor Worldwide?, 32 Emory Int'l Law Rev. 51 (2017)
Which public policies most effectively promote gender equality and how can they be realized internationally to support women on a global scale? I first argue that longer periods of paid paternity leave must be embraced to challenge the historical conception of women as the primary caregiver in a male-female partnership and to bring men into the private sphere at the important confluence of a couple’s childfree and parental lives. In order to broadly achieve these policies, I turn to international law. Building off Charlesworth, Chinkin, and Wright’s observation of the international legal order’s gendered nature, I demonstrate that the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) core labor standards, as they are today, reflect a gendered understanding of the labor market and are insufficient to support the basic needs of a working population that includes both men and women. I further argue that a reimagined set of these standards should be incorporated into a World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade-Related Agreement on Labor Standards that would impose substantive obligations on Member States. Such an agreement would be consistent with the WTO’s historical embrace of “embedded liberalism” and could ultimately drive domestic policy transformations benefiting women worldwide.
Marisa Cianciarulo, For the Greater Good: The Subordination of Reproductive Freedom to State Interests in the United States and China, 51 Akron Law Rev. 99 (2017)
This Article provides a comparative analysis of two very different restrictions on reproductive freedom that have startling parallels and similarities. Both China and the United States impose limits on reproductive freedom: China restricts the number of children that families can have, often in ways that violate international law, while some U.S. states have attempted to restrict access to abortion in ways that violate the precepts of Roe v. Wade as well as international law. Both China and U.S. states impose restrictions on reproductive freedom in order to achieve compelling state goals: protecting development and sustainability in China, and protecting prenatal life in the United States. Finally, both China and the United States have means other than severe restrictions on reproductive freedom at their disposal to achieve the governments’ goals: broad access to birth control and sex education. This Article uses the lens of international human rights law to evaluate the concept of subordinating individual reproductive choice to a perception of the common good. Part II provides an overview of the major international instruments addressing individual rights and how they interact with the rights and responsibilities of the state. Part III discusses anti-abortion laws in the United States and the anti-abortion movement’s rationale that protecting prenatal life justifies limiting reproductive choice. Part IV discusses China’s vast and population control system and the government’s rationale that providing a controlled, sustainable population justifies limiting reproductive choice. Part V examines three levels of coercion—compulsory sex education and unrestricted access to contraception, monetary incentive and disincentive programs, and forced abortion and forced child-bearing—and analyzes whether these levels of coercion are consistent with international human rights principles. Finally, the Article concludes that in light of modern access to education and contraception, and the ability to reduce the incidence of unwanted pregnancies via those means, more coercive means are unnecessary (in the case of monetary incentives and disincentives) and unjustifiable (in the case of forced abortion and forced child-bearing).
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
The Impediments to Effective Enforcement of the Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
Ruman Islam, CEDAW -- The Promise and the Pain of the Promise, ELCOP Yearbook of Human Rights (2017)
The Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979 (CEDAW) is one of the core international legal instrument aiming at the protection and promotion of women’s rights. It is considered as the most comprehensive code of women’s rights at international level, with its overwhelming focus on socioeconomic, civil, political and cultural rights in all spheres of women’s life. However with the inherent weak enforcement mechanism and with the numerous number of reservations made by the State Parties it is sometime doubted how far the Convention serves as an effective tool for promoting and protecting women’s right, since such reservations jeopardizes the very essence of the convention−to ensure ‘substantive equality’ both at public and private life of the women. This article examines these different aspects of the CEDAW Convention, namely what it promises to achieve and in reality what are the impediments to materialization of those promises−the pain of the promise.
Coulibaly v. Stevance, decided Wednesday by the Indiana Court of Appeals, considers whether Indiana courts should honor a Malian child custody decree (involving Malian citizens). Indiana has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), under which state courts must enforce out-of-state and out-of-country custody decrees.
[T]the question was whether Malian child custody law violates human rights principles as Indiana courts understand them; the Indiana court of appeals said no, even though aspects of the law involved sex discrimination, and even though Malian law more generally doesn’t ban Female Genital Mutilation. (One of the couple’s children is a 15-year-old daughter.)
Mother notes that Mali’s divorce law is fault-based, and … argues that Mali’s marital laws evince a preference for men such that women will more often be found at fault for a divorce, resulting in a de facto paternal preference in child custody decisions. Specifically, Mother notes that statutory law in Mali expressly provides that “[t]he husband owes protection to his wife, the wife obedience to her husband.” The law provides further that the husband is the head of the household, that the household expenses “fall principally on him,” that he has the right to choose the family residence, and that the wife must live with him and he must receive her.. Additionally, a woman is prohibited from running a business without her husband’s permission.
In light of the prevailing fault-based divorce system, it is unsurprising that the Malian court made a number of findings with respect to the parties’ conduct during the marriage. The court expressly found Mother’s physical abuse allegation to be unsupported. The court also noted that under Malian law, a husband is entitled to choose the family residence and that Mother’s dispute regarding Father’s decision to live in Mali was therefore grounds for divorce. The Malian court further found that Mother admitted that she had “a habit of uttering insulting and offensive remarks toward” Father, which constituted “serious abuse”, and also that Mother’s persistence in her plan to emigrate with the children without Father’s knowledge or consent was a violation of her duty of loyalty, a mutual duty imposed by Malian marital law upon both spouses irrespective of gender. In light of these findings, the trial court granted Father’s petition for divorce and dismissed Mother’s counter petition.
Further, although Mali’s marriage laws impose different duties on husbands and wives based on gender, either spouse may be granted a divorce based on the other spouse’s failure to fulfill his or her respective duties. Whatever we might think about the wisdom of Mali’s marital and custody laws in this regard, we simply cannot say that they are so utterly shocking to the conscience or egregious as to rise to the level of a violation of fundamental principles of human rights.
Mother’s remaining arguments suffer the same infirmity — she essentially asks us to look beyond Mali’s custody law to conclude that Mali’s legal system and culture are, on the whole, so oppressive to women that no custody order issued in that country could be enforceable in the United States. [Footnote moved: Mother … notes that men in Mali are permitted to have multiple wives, while women may have only one husband. Mother notes further that the marital laws permit (but do not require) the payment of nominal dowry by the husband upon marriage “where required by custom.”] We are in no position to make such a judgment, and the language of the UCCJEA prohibits us from attempting to do so. Mother has not established that Mali’s child custody laws violate fundamental principles of human rights, and she is consequently unable to avoid enforcement of the Malian custody decree.