Security of Person

Indonesia: Petition of child bride survivors (2018)

Three child bride survivors and their lawyer from the Indonesian Coalition to End Child Marriage (Koalisi 18+) filed a judicial review petition before the Constitutional Court of Indonesia to challenge the constitutionality of Article 7 of the 1974 Marriage Law, which sets the minimum age requirement for women to marry at 16.

In a hearing presided over by Chief Justice Anwar Usman, the court argued that the rule was a form of gender-based discrimination since the minimum age for requirement for  men to marry was 19, and therefore contradicted the 1945 Constitution.

The court, however, refused to grant the plaintiffs' demand to raise the minimum age for women to marry to that of the age for men, arguing that it was the authority of lawmakers and the court did not want to make a decision that could prevent any future law revisions.  

"[The court] orders lawmakers to revise the 1974 Marriage Law, particularly in regard to the minimum age for women to marry, within a maximum three years," Anwar read out the ruling on Thursday.

Justice Saldi Isra said the provision in article would remain valid until the deadline of three years. Should there be no revision prior to the deadline, the minimum age requirement would be harmonized with the 2002 Child Protection Law, which defines a child as someone below 18 years old.
Justice I Dewa Gede Palguna said that those at the age of 16 were still categorized children under the Child Protection Law, meaning that those who married at 16 were considered as being involved in child marriage, which had negative impact and threatening children's welfare.

"Not only in terms of negative impact on health, there are possibilities of child exploitation and the increase of threats of violence against children in underage marriage," Palguna said, adding that child marriage also threatened children's rights to education.


In January 2012, up to 53 women underwent a sterilization procedure in Bihar, India, at a sterilization camp managed by an NGO which had been granted accreditation by the District Health Society, apparently without following any formal, transparent process. The women had not been given any counseling regarding the potential dangers and outcomes of the sterilization procedures. They were operated on in a school rather than a hospital, in an unsanitary and unethical manner, all by a single surgeon, under torchlight on top of a school desk, and without running water or sanitary gloves. Many of the women experienced tremendous physical pain post-operation, and consequently filed police complaints. Subsequent investigation by State authorities found that the camp had largely been a success, save for its use of expired medicine.

Following her own investigation, the petitioner, health rights activist Devika Biswas, claimed before the Supreme Court of India (Court) that these incidents constituted a violation of the Constitution of India (Constitution). The petition requested a full investigation into, and redress for, the 2012 incidents. Further, to prevent similar violations in the future, the petition also requested orders regarding strict implementation of the sterilization procedure manuals previously issued by the Government of India, following the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Ramakant Rai (I) & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors. (Ramakant Rai), in adherence to which the Government had published multiple manuals establishing procedural and substantive guidelines for female and male sterilization under family planning or public health programs, including regarding quality assurance and standard operating procedures (Procedure Manuals).

Setting out the context for these incidents, the petition highlighted other sterilization camps in states across India where similar procedures were conducted in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, and where women were either not provided any information regarding the nature of the procedure or were outright misled, for example being told by government health workers that it was compulsory to undergo sterilization. In addition, the petition focused on the reality that an overwhelming number of sterilization procedures in India - close to 100% - are targeted towards women.

The Court ruled that the respondents had violated two components of Article 21 of the Constitution (Protection of Life and Personal Liberty): the right to health and reproductive rights. The Court held that the freedom to exercise reproductive rights includes the right to make a choice regarding sterilization on the basis of informed consent and free from any form of coercion. In its deliberations, the Court referenced General Comment No. 22 on the right to sexual and reproductive health issued by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which observes that reproductive health is an integral part of the right to health. It also drew on the 2004 decision, A.S. v Hungary, by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which held that fully informed consent to sterilization is essential.

The Court emphasized the need for coordination among State governments and the Union of India, noting that the Union of India must ensure strict adherence to the Procedure Manuals. Further, the Court gave additional specific guidance, for example: directing that the checklist prepared pursuant to Ramakant Rai, as well as the impact and consequences of the sterilization procedures should be explained to each patient in a language they understand and with sufficient time for consideration; requiring data collection to strengthen monitoring and supervision of the practices; and ensuring transparency and accountability (with increased levels of compensation) with respect to any deaths or complications connected to such procedures.

In relation to the informal system of fixing sterilization targets at the State level, the Court directed each State Government and Union Territory to ensure that no such fixed targets exist, so that health workers and others do not compel persons to undergo what would amount to a forced or non-consensual sterilization merely to achieve the target. The Court also considered "the impact that policies such as the setting of informal targets and provision of incentives by the Government can have on the reproductive freedoms of the most vulnerable groups of society whose economic and social conditions leave them with no meaningful choice...and render them the easiest targets of coercion." On this issue, the Court held that "the policies of the Government must not mirror the systemic discrimination prevalent in society but must be aimed at remedying this discrimination and ensuring substantive equality [and that] the policies and incentive schemes are made gender neutral and the unnecessary focus on female sterilization is discontinued."

The Court ordered the Union of India to ensure the discontinuation of the sterilization camps as early as possible but in any case within three years, emphasising that such action must be accompanied simultaneously by measures by the Union of India and the State Governments to strengthen Primary Health Centres both in terms of infrastructure and accessibility of health care to all persons.

A 12-year-old was arrested by the police after being falsely accused of theft. He was in police custody for 20 hours before being released. In police custody, he was beaten. The officer pled guilty. In awarding the minor monetary compensation, the Supreme Court of Tonga had to consider whether the CRC came into play when minors were possibly being tortured. The Court hinted that courts in Tonga should be willing to be bound by its terms. The Court also cautioned that, considering the average Tongan’s income, future money damages should be kept in proportion to reality. This was the first application of the CRC in Tongan courts (but not the first application of a human rights convention, as seen in 2005 in R v Vola). Both cases show a departure from traditional Tongan courts’ reluctance to apply international human rights standards.


A man was allegedly tortured by the police while in their custody. The man died in custody. The man's widow petitioned the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka on behalf of her deceased husband. The Supreme Court cited the Convention Against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and held that the widow not only had the right to file suit on behalf of her deceased husband, but also that there existed in Sri Lanka a constitutionally protected right not to deprive of life, as well as a right to life. The Court said, "The interpretation that the right to compensation accrues to or devolves on the deceased's lawful heirs and/or dependants brings our law into conformity with international obligations and standards, and must be preferred." The Court then ordered a total compensation of 800,000 rupees to the wife and child of the deceased.


A man was arrested. While in police custody, he was subject to mistreatment by the police, for which he went to the hospital. Before the Supreme Court, he sought compensation for his medical bills beyond any compensation for the mistreatment he endured. The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka allowed this medical bill compensation, citing Article 12 of the ICCPR. The Court said, "Citizens have the right to choose between State and private medical care, and in the circumstances the Petitioner's wife's choice of the latter was not unreasonable -and was probably motivated by nothing other than the desire to save his life. Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights recognizes the right of everyone "to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health"".


A man was arrested for allegedly stealing bananas. He was detained in a Sri Lankan prison. While in custody, he died. The petitioners claimed that he was subjected to assault by prison authorities and died of the injuries incurred. Such treatment, it was argued, was violative of the man’s constitutional rights. The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka agreed, citing a previous UNHRC case in which a prisoner’s rights under the ICCPR were found to have been violated. The Court also cited standards of prisoners’ rights under the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, as well as the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by the United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. Relying in part on these authorities, the Court ruled that the prisoner’s rights under the Sri Lankan constitution had been violated. The Court then said that the respondent prison officials were under a duty to “take all reasonable steps to ensure that the persons kept in the Prison [we]re treated with kindness and humanity.” The Court then awarded the petitioners 1,000,000 rupees (about $8,900USD).