8 June 2017
A Ugandan High Court decision won the People’s Choice Gavel at the 2017 Gender Justice Uncovered Awards hosted by Women’s Link Worldwide. In 2012, a woman gave birth to two babies at Mulago Hospital, Uganda’s only referral hospital and was informed that one of the babies had died at birth. When asked to see the body, the hospital staff presented the couple with another baby that was not their child. The parents along with the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) sued the Attorney General and the Executive Director of the hospital for the unlawful disappearance of their baby.
In January 2017, Justice Lydia Mugambe ruled on this case receiving the most votes for the best decision for advancing the rights of women and girls. She ruled that “a public hospital’s negligence resulting in the disappearance of a couple’s baby resulted in psychological torture for the parents and violated their rights to health and access to information.” The couple was provided with an immediate remedy of 85 million Uganda shillings.
“The court decision stood out because it recognized the need to not only address the human rights of the couple who were parties to the case, but also the failure on the part of the State of Uganda to fulfill its obligation of the right to health,” said Lydia Muthiani, Women’s Link attorney.
The Bronze Gavel was awarded to the High Court of Tanzania for its ruling that the Law of Marriages Act violated equality provisions of the Constitution as the minimum age to marry for men was set at 18 but 15 for girls. The High Court added that the Act violated the Maputo Protocol to which Tanzania is a signatory.
However, Kenyan High Court’s decision that found a man not guilty for carrying on a sexual relationship with a 14 year old girl received the Golden Bludgeon Award (the worst judicial decision of the year).
While the Uganda and Tanzania decision set a precedent for the right to health and elimination of child marriage, the Kenya High Court’s decision puts girls at risk of sexual exploitation and denies special protection provided to children under the age of 18.