Discrimination in law

Words and Deeds Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing + 5 Review Process

Action Number: 
16.1
Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
1999 Jul 1

The fundamental right to equality has been affirmed and reaffirmed repeatedly in conferences, treaties, declarations, and other public fora in which governments participate. Nevertheless, discrimination against women in its most blatant forms continues in countries around the world. In September 1995, the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing, and 6,000 delegates from 189 countries participated.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the government heads of state of the countries mentioned in this report. Call on them to ensure that the laws cited, and any other discriminatory laws in force, are repealed or amended before the Beijing + 5 Special Session of the UN General Assembly in June 2000 so that at the Special Session these reforms can be highlighted as a show of genuine commitment to (rather than disregard for) the words and spirit of the Platform for Action. Share this report and the concerns outlined above with the media and the general public, to enlist their support in this campaign to hold governments accountable to the promises of the Beijing Platform for Action. You may also wish to highlight and let us know about other discriminatory laws in your country and efforts underway to change them.

Trinidad and Tobago: The Imminent Execution of a Battered Woman's Defenders

Action Number: 
15.2
Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2000 Jul 1

Pamela RamjattanOn May 29, 1995, Indravani (Pamela) Ramjattan, Denny Baptiste and Haniff Hilaire were convicted of the murder of Ramjattan's husband, Alexander Jordan, and were sentenced to death by the Trinidad and Tobago Courts. Jordan's death marked an end to the savage beatings and brutal rapes endured by Pamela since the age of 17, when she had been sent to live with him against her will.

What You Can Do: 

Please send urgent appeals directly to the President, the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the Minister of National Security, calling for clemency on behalf of Denny Baptiste and Haniff Hilaire. Note the background of domestic violence in this case and that Ramjattan's sentence was overturned and reduced on appeal, based on this evidence. Note that Mr. Baptiste and Mr. Hilaire were attempting to rescue her from her husband's violence and that this fact should have been considered in their trials and sentencing. Cite the fundamental right to equal protection of the law, as well as the right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It is important that action be taken on an urgent basis, as the government of Trinidad and Tobago could execute these men at any time. You may also want to urge the authorities to reduce Ramjattan's sentence to time served, as she has already spent eight years in prison, four and a half of them on death row. In addition to the authorities listed below, contact your own governments and request their urgent intervention to save the lives of Denny Baptiste and Haniff Hilaire. Please also bring the case to the attention of the media.

The President
The Hon.Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson
Circular Road, St. Ann's
Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 624-1261/64
Fax: (868) 625-7950

The Prime Minister
The Hon. Basdeo Panday
Level 15, Central Bank Towers
Eric Williams Plaza, Independence Square
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 623-3653/5
Fax: (868) 627-4285

The Minister for National Security
Senator Brigadier The Hon. Joseph Theodore
Knox Street, Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 623-2441/5
Fax: (868) 627-8044

The Attorney General
The Hon. Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj
Winsure Building
24-28 Richmond Street, Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 623-2010/625-8901/623-4873
Fax: (868) 625-6530

Those of you who would like to make a contribution to "The Ramjattan Family Appeal" can send checks or money orders made out to "The Ramjattan Family Appeal," c/o Joanne Cross, Herbert Smith Solicitors, Exchange House, Primrose Street, London EC2A 2HS, United Kingdom. All funds raised will go towards a house for Pamela and her children as well as clothes, furniture, school books.

Trinidad and Tobago: The Imminent Execution of A Battered Woman and Her Defenders

Action Number: 
15.1
Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
1998 Oct 1

When she was 17 years old, Indravani Pamela Ramjattan, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, was sent against her will by her parents to live with Alexander Jordan. From the beginning her new husband was extremely violent. He beat her, he raped her, and he threatened to shoot her. Every time Pamela tried to run away, Alexander Jordan found her and forced her to return. He had friends among the local police who visited him at his home and saw Pamela with bruises but did nothing.

What You Can Do: 

Please send urgent appeals directly to the President, the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the Minister of National Security, calling for clemency on behalf of Pamela Ramjattan, Denny Baptiste and Haniff Hillaire. Note the background of domestic violence in this case and the failure of the legal system to even consider these mitigating circumstances. Note the many cases in which husbands who battered their wives to death are serving prison sentences, suggesting that the state treats those who kill in the course of inflicting domestic violence with much greater lenience than those who kill in the course of trying to stop domestic violence. Cite the fundamental human right to equal protection of the law, as well as the right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In addition to the authorities listed below, contact your own governments and request their urgent intervention in this case. Please also bring the case to the attention of the media.

The President
The Hon.Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson
Circular Road, St. Ann's
Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 624-1261/64
Fax: (868) 625-7950

The Prime Minister
The Hon. Basdeo Panday
Level 15, Central Bank Towers
Eric Williams Plaza, Independence Square
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 623-3653/5
Fax: (868) 627-3444

The Minister for National Security
Senator Brigadier The Hon. Joseph Theodore
Knox Street, Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 623-2441/5
Fax: (868) 627-8044

The Attorney General
The Hon. Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj
Winsure Building
24-28 Richmond Street, Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 623-2010/625-8901/623-4873
Fax: (868) 624-3109

Success in Nepal: The Decriminalization of Abortion

Action Number: 
10.3
Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2002 Nov 1

A new law easing the blanket prohibition on abortion in Nepal was finally passed by the Lower House of Parliament in Nepal and came into force on 26 September 2002, after the Country Code (11th Amendment) Bill was given royal assent. This new legislation is a success resulting from many years of campaigning by women's rights activists in Nepal with support from around the world.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the officials listed below, congratulating them on the passage of the Country Code (11th Amendment) Act, and asking that they use their good offices to effect the release from jail of all women who have been imprisoned for abortion. Ask also that provision be made in the country for better access to healthcare, including education on reproductive health. Letters should be addressed to:

His Majesty The King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
Royal Palace Secretariat
Narayanhity Royal Palace
Kathmandu, Nepal
Telephone: +977-1-227576, 227577
Fax: +977-1-228295

The Right Honorable Lokendra Bahadur Chand
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
Singha Durbar
Kathmandu, Nepal
Telephone: +977-1-228555, 227955
Fax: +977-1-227286

Nepal: Maternal Mortality and The Criminalization of Abortion—The Death of Bimla

Action Number: 
10.2
Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
1998 May 1

BimlaThe 20-year-old Nepali woman in this picture is shown with her husband and two daughters, aged one and three years old. Shortly after this picture was taken, Bimla became pregnant again. Harassed by her in-laws, who feared that Bimla would have yet another daughter when they wanted a grandson, Bimla sought an abortion. The "back street" abortionist she found inserted two capsules in her vagina. The next day, after painful contractions, Bimla started bleeding.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Chairman of the Law Reform Commission, and to the other government officials named below. Express concern that the anti-abortion laws in Nepal have led to such a high maternal mortality rate and that many deaths might have been averted if safe and legal abortion had been available. Cite the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in 1995 in Beijing, which urged governments in its Platform for Action "to deal with the health impact of unsafe abortion as a major public health concern" and to consider "reviewing laws containing punitive measures against women who have undergone illegal abortions." Note also the recent WHO finding that anti-abortion laws kill women—they do not necessarily prevent abortions. Express support for efforts to amend the law on abortion, while noting concern over the provision requiring the husband's consent and the exclusion of unmarried women. Urge that the draft amendment be revised to address these concerns and passed into law as quickly as possible, in the interest of saving lives. Letters should be addressed to:

Chairman, Human Rights Committee
Parliament
Singh Darbar
Kathmandu, Nepal

Secretary
Parliament
Singh Darbar
Kathmandu, Nepal

Secretary
Ministry of Law
Babar Mahal
Kathmandu, Nepal

Secretary
Ministry of Women and Social Welfare
Social Welfare Building, Lainchaur
Kathmandu, Nepal

Nepal: Abortion Imprisonment-The Case of Lok Maya Adhikari

Action Number: 
10.1
Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
1996 Jun 1

Lok Maya AdhikariLok Maya Adhikari is a thirty-eight-year-old farmer in Bhadrapur, Nepal who has been in detention since June 1995, and is now serving a one-year sentence on the charge of having had an abortion. Married at the age of 15 and widowed at 32, Lok Maya was left with five children, the youngest of whom is six years old. Her children, two sons and three daughters, have been sent to live with an uncle while their mother serves her prison term.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Chairman of the Foreign and Human Rights Committee, and to the other government officials named below. Express concern that the anti-abortion laws in Nepal have led to such a high maternal mortality rate and that many deaths might have been averted if safe and legal abortion had been available. Cite the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held last year in Beijing, which urged governments in its Platform for Action "to deal with the health impact of unsafe abortion as a major public health concern" and to consider "reviewing laws containing punitive measures against women who have undergone illegal abortions." Cite the case of Lok Maya Adhikari and question whether it is wise and whether it is just to treat a person under such circumstances, a widowed mother of five, as a criminal offender under the law, subject to imprisonment. Welcome the recent initiative to amend the law on abortion and provide access for women to safe and legal abortion, but express concern over the provisions requiring the husband or parent's consent. Urge that such provisions be deleted from the draft amendment, and that the amendment be passed into law as quickly as possible, in the interest of saving lives. Letters should be addressed to:

Hon. Jaya Prakash Anand
Chairman
Foreign and Human Rights Committee of the Parliament
Singh Darbar, Kathmandu, Nepal

Mr. Surya Kiran Gurung
Secretary
Parliament
Singh Darbar
Kathmandu, Nepal

Mr. Suresh Man Shresth
Secretary
Ministry of Law
Babar Mahal
Kathmandu, Nepal

Ms. Prabha Basnet
Secretary
Ministry of Women and Social Welfare
Social Welfare Building
Lainchaur
Kathmandu, Nepal

United States: Judicial Misconduct in the State of Maryland - The Peacock Case

Action Number: 
7.1
Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
1994 Dec 1

On October 17, 1994, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Maryland, Judge Robert E. Cahill sentenced Kenneth Peacock for killing his wife Sandra on February 9, several hours after he found her in bed with another man. In delivering his decision at the sentencing hearing, Judge Cahill said, "I seriously wonder how many married men...would have the strength to walk away...without inflicting some corporal punishment, whatever that punishment might be.

What You Can Do: 

Join the efforts of women's organizations in Maryland to protest Judge Cahill's demonstrated insensitivity to the most extreme violence against women. Write to the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities, asking them to investigate the Peacock case and take appropriate disciplinary action to demonstrate that the State of Maryland is committed to equal protection of the law, including the protection of women from domestic violence. Acknowledge the efforts of the Commission to reprimand Judge Bollinger for his conduct in the Gillette case but note that these efforts do not appear to have had much effect on the judge, indicating that more forceful action might be required in such cases. Contact the media and ask them to publicize the case of Judge Cahill. Send copies of your letters, and of any press clippings, to the Select Committee on Gender Equality and to the Women's Law Center.

The Honorable Theodore G. Bloom, Chair
Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities
Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
Courts of Appeal Building
361 Rowe Boulevard
Annapolis, Maryland 21401

Select Committee on Gender Equality
Courts of Appeal Building
361 Rowe Boulevard
Annapolis, Maryland 21401

The Women's Law Center
P.O. Box 5362
Lutherville, MD 21094-5362

Canada: Saudi Arabian Refugee Fleeing Gender Discrimination Allowed to Remain in Canada

Action Number: 
2.2
Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
1993 Feb 1

The Saudi Arabian woman known publicly as "Nada," has been authorized by the Canadian Employment and Immigration Minister Bernard Valcourt to request permanent residence status in Canada. Nada arrived in Canada on April 5, 1991 seeking asylum as a refugee on the basis of gender discrimination she faced in her home country. On September 24, 1991 the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board ruled that Nada was not a refugee.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to and/or call Mr. Bernard Valcourt, the Canadian Employment and Immigration Minister, welcoming his intervention on behalf of Nada and his broader efforts to address the issue of refugee status on grounds of gender discrimination. Letters, faxes, and telephone calls should be directed to:

The Honorable Bernard Valcourt
Minister of Employment and Immigration
140 Promenade du Portage, Phase IV, 14th Floor
Hull, Québec, K1A 0J9
Canada
Telephone: 819-994-2482
Fax: 819-994-0448

Canada: Saudi Arabian Refugee Fleeing Gender Discrimination Not Welcome in Canada

Action Number: 
2.1
Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
1992 Oct 1

The Saudi Arabian refugee known publicly as "Nada" arrived in Canada on April 5, 1991 seeking asylum as a refugee on the basis of gender discrimination she faced in her home country of Saudi Arabia. Despite the violence suffered by Nada in Saudi Arabia for her defiance of institutionalized gender discrimination, Nada's request for asylum has been denied by the Canadian Government.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to and/or call Mr. Bernard Valcourt, the Canadian Employment and Immigration Minister, and ask him to intervene on behalf of Nada to prevent her deportation to Saudi Arabia and to allow her to remain in Canada. Remind him that Canada holds itself out to the world as a leader in the promotion of gender equality and that the deportation of Nada and the remarks made by Commissioner Louis Dorion in his decision are inconsistent with Canadian obligations under international law and with the spirit of gender equality enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Human Rights. You may also wish to contact the Canadian Embassy in your country and convey your sentiments about this case to them. Please also contact your local media and ask them to publicize the plight of Nada. Letters, faxes, and telephone calls should be directed to:

The Honorable Bernard Valcourt
Minister of Employment and Immigration
140 Promenade du Portage, Phase IV, 14th Floor
Hull, Québec, K1A 0J9
Canada
Telephone: 819-994-2482
Fax: 819-994-0448

Poland: Medical Society Bars Doctors from Performing Legal Abortions

Action Number: 
1.2
Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
1992 Jun 1

"We are living in a state of women's hell" is how the Parliamentary Women's Club described their situation in Poland since the new Physician's Code of Ethics entered into force on May 3, 1992. The new Code prohibits doctors in Poland from performing abortions, even though abortion is legal in Poland. For performing an abortion in violation of the Code of Ethics, a doctor could have his or her license to practice medicine revoked by the Polish Medical Society.

What You Can Do: 

Please alert the media to this crisis situation in Poland and continue to urge the Polish Medical Society to repeal the new Code of Ethics. Also, please contact the Constitutional Tribunal and request that they take immediate action to strike down the Physician's Code of Ethics on the grounds that it is inconsistent with Polish law. Letters, telex, telegrams and telephone calls should be directed to:

Dr. Tadeusz Chrusciel, President
Polish Medical Society
Naczelna Izba Lekarska
ul. Grojecka 65a
02-094 Warsaw, Poland
Tel: 48-22-22-15-73, 48-22-22-21-54
Fax: 48-26-58-17-01

Mieczyslaw Tyczka, President
Constitutional Tribunal
ul. Wiejska 4/6
Warsaw, Poland
Tel: 48-22-21-65-03
Fax: 48-22-29-49-22

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