The ‘Bludgeon’ Nominees in the Gender Justice Uncovered Awards 2015

By. Blakeley Decktor, Staff Attorney at Women’s Link Worldwide. This post was first published on the Oxford Human Rights Hub.

Judges from all over the world should be held accountable for the discriminatory decisions they issue on matters related to gender equality, and for how these rulings affect the lives of women and girls. The ‘bludgeon’ category in the Gender Justice Uncovered Awards organized each year by Women’s Link Worldwide and the participation of people of all the world contribute to it.

The privilege of deciding an individual’s fate by interpreting and applying the law is one granted to judges by the people. With it comes the responsibility to protect human rights and not allow the law to compound discrimination. The people, who entrust judges to issue legal decisions, maintain the right to question these decisions, especially those that fail to protect gender equality or the rights of women and girls. Women’s Link Worldwide created the Gender Justice Uncovered Awards as a tool for people to monitor judicial decisions around the world and hold judges accountable for their decisions. Every year, we invite people from all over the world to nominate court decisions that promote gender equality for a Gavel Award, and those that set it back for a Bludgeon Award. A jury (this year: Junot Díaz, Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey and Manjula Pradeep) chooses the winners for gold, silver and bronze Gavels and Bludgeons and people from all over the world vote online for the Gavel and Bludgeon People’s Choice Awards. This article analyses some of the decisions nominated for a Bludgeon award in the 2015 Gender Justice Uncovered Awards.

In a decision by the United States Supreme Court allowing employers the choice to refuse to cover contraceptives for their employees, Hobby Lobby forces women to pay out-of-pocket in order to access contraceptive coverage. The decision defines corporations as people, awarding them freedom of religion protection at the expense of the thousands of employees who do not share their beliefs.

The Special Fast Track court of India grew out of a 2012 public outcry calling for better laws and strategies to prevent violence against women in India following the fatal gang rape of a Delhi woman. A Judge in this court specifically envisioned to advance the rights of women and girls found that forced sex within the context of marriage cannot be defined as rape. The Judge issued this decision in a case where the woman had been drugged, forced to sign marriage-related documents while intoxicated and later raped.

A court ruled to decrease the amount of compensation a woman recovered following a medical error that left the woman in severe pain and without the ability to carry out everyday tasks, sometimes as simple as walking or sitting. Employing stereotypical gender roles to justify its verdict, the Portuguese Court based her damages on her responsibilities as a wife and mother rather than compensating the woman for her significant losses of health and well-being of a woman as an individual.

In a decision refusing transgender people the ability to change gender markers on ID documents, the Constitutional Court of Peru, further marginalized and put at risk transgender people by labeling them as having a “personality disorder”, “a mental disorder” and “a pathology.” The decision uses unscientific grounds to uphold the right and safety people enjoy every day possessing identification documents that match one’s gender.

The Gender Justice Uncovered Awards provides an accessible platform for people around the world to read, discuss, and think critically about how judges’ interpret and implement the law. This form of vigilance on the part of the public forces judges to be more critical of their own interpretation of the law and ideally more committed to their duty to comply with their obligations to implement human rights.

The nomination period for the Gender Justice Uncovered Awards goes until April 30, 2015 and voting is open from May 11th to May 31st. It is the people who possess the right and responsibility to create a more equal society. Everyone can work to build a more egalitarian society. The Gender Justice Uncovered Awards are a call to action to transform anger into action in the face of these outrageous decisions and hold judges accountable.

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