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  Human Rights - Legal News


India's Supreme Court on Friday lifted a temple's ban on women of menstruating age, holding that equality is supreme irrespective of age and gender.

The historic Sabarimala temple had barred women age 10 to 50 from entering the temple that is one of the largest Hindu pilgrimage centers in the world.

Some religious figures consider menstruating women to be impure. But the court ruled 4-1 the practice of excluding women cannot be regarded as an essential religious practice.

The temple argued the celibate nature of Sabarimala temple's presiding deity Lord Ayyappa was protected by India's Constitution.

The top court's verdict is part a string of recent rulings that recognize more rights of women, challenging deeply conservative Indian society. On Thursday, it scrapped a law which did not allow wives to bring criminal charges against adulterous husbands.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra in part of Friday's judgment said devotion could not be discriminatory and patriarchal notion could not trump equality in devotion.

"Religion cannot be the cover to deny women right to worship. To treat women as children of lesser God is to blink at constitutional morality," he said.

Rahul Eswaran, an attorney for the temple, said the temple management would seek a review of the court's decision. It noted girls and women of other ages were allowed in the temple without restrictions.




India’s Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a colonial-era law that made gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a landmark victory for gay rights that one judge said would “pave the way for a better future.”

The 1861 law, a relic of Victorian England that hung on long after the end of British colonialism, was a weapon used to discriminate against India’s gay community, the judges ruled in a unanimous decision.

“Constitutional morality cannot be martyred at the altar of social morality,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, reading the verdict. “Social morality cannot be used to violate the fundamental rights of even a single individual.”

As the news spread, the streets outside the courthouse erupted in cheers as opponents of the law danced and waved flags.

“We feel as equal citizens now,” said activist Shashi Bhushan. “What happens in our bedroom is left to us.”

In its ruling, the court said sexual orientation was a “biological phenomenon” and that discrimination on that basis violated fundamental rights.

“We cannot change history but can pave a way for a better future,” said Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.

The law known as Section 377 held that intercourse between members of the same sex was against the order of nature. The five petitioners who challenged the law said it was discriminatory and led to gays living in fear of harassment and persecution.

Jessica Stern, the executive director of the New York-based rights group OutRight Action International, said the original law had reverberated far beyond India, including in countries where gay people still struggle for acceptance.

“The sodomy law that became the model everywhere, from Uganda to Singapore to the U.K. itself, premiered in India, becoming the confusing and dehumanizing standard replicated around the world,” she said in a statement, saying “today’s historic outcome will reverberate across India and the world.”

The court’s ruling struck down


Chicago and state officials released a plan Friday to carry out far-reaching police reforms under federal court supervision more than a year after a U.S. Justice Department investigation found a longstanding history of civil rights violations by the police department.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson released a more than 200-page proposed consent decree that would cover topics ranging from police recruitment and training to the use of force and misconduct investigations.

Among the proposed reforms are requiring that officers issue a verbal warning before any use of force and provide life-saving aid after force is used. The Chicago Police Department would need to issue monthly reports on use of force incidents.

The plan also establishes a 180-day deadline for investigations to be completed by the police department's internal affairs bureau and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, and calls for better training and supervision of officers.

Madigan acknowledged there have been many attempts over decades to reform the department and the relationship between police and the community, most recently after video of a white police officer fatally shooting a black teen 16 times led to protests and the Justice Department investigation. Yet she said too many Chicago residents still don't feel safe in their neighborhoods, or calling the police.



Abortion rights supporters decry court ruling

  Human Rights  -   POSTED: 2018/06/27 15:48

Abortion-rights supporters say the Supreme Court "turned its back on women" by striking down a California law requiring anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion services.

NARAL Pro-Choice America calls the pregnancy centers "fake women's health centers" because they do not provide details about a full range of services. Critics of the centers say they prey on low-income women.

The group says the court's decision is a step toward dismantling abortion rights. Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California is urging the state attorney general and law enforcement officials to "protect the rights of patients from deceptive practices."

Supporters of the court's decision call it a win for free speech and say the law unfairly required the centers to promote abortion.
Abortion-rights supporters say the Supreme Court "turned its back on women" by striking down a California law requiring anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion services.

NARAL Pro-Choice America calls the pregnancy centers "fake women's health centers" because they do not provide details about a full range of services. Critics of the centers say they prey on low-income women.

The group says the court's decision is a step toward dismantling abortion rights. Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California is urging the state attorney general and law enforcement officials to "protect the rights of patients from deceptive practices."

Supporters of the court's decision call it a win for free speech and say the law unfairly required the centers to promote abortion.
Assemblyman David Chiu, the bill's author, says the court decision shows reproductive rights are more vulnerable than ever.

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which brought the lawsuit, is cheering the court for overturning what it called a "coercive law" forcing the centers to provide "free advertising for tax-funded abortions." Abortion rights groups estimate more than 4,000 such pregnancy centers are operating around the nation.


An Arizona appeals court on Thursday upheld a Phoenix anti-discrimination law that makes it illegal for businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples because of religion.

The ruling comes days after the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The high court found Monday that a Colorado civil rights commission showed anti-religious bias when it ruled against Jack Phillips for refusing to make the cake at his Masterpiece Cakeshop.

The decision, however, did not address the larger issue of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to gay and lesbian people.

In the Arizona case, the state Court of Appeals sided with the city in a lawsuit first brought in 2016 by a wedding invitation business, saying the ordinance is constitutional and does not violate freedom of religion or speech.

"We have previously found that eliminating discrimination constitutes a compelling interest," Judge Lawrence Winthrop wrote, adding that "antidiscrimination ordinances are not aimed at the suppression of speech, but at the elimination of discriminatory conduct."

The court said if Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, "want to operate their for-profit business as a public accommodation, they cannot discriminate against potential patrons based on sexual orientation."

Attorney Jonathan Scruggs of Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented the women, said they intend to appeal the decision to the Arizona Supreme Court.


A bakery owned by a Christian family asked Britain's Supreme Court on Tuesday to overturn a ruling that it discriminated against a gay customer for refusing to make a cake supporting same-sex marriage.

Ashers Baking Co. in Northern Ireland refused in 2014 to make a cake iced with the "Sesame Street" characters Bert and Ernie and the slogan "Support Gay Marriage."

The owners argued they were happy to bake goods for anyone, but could not put messages on their products at odds with their Christian beliefs.

After the customer filed a lawsuit that received backing from Northern Ireland's Equalities Commission, lower courts ruled that the bakery's refusal was discriminatory.

Judges from the London-based Supreme Court heard the bakery's appeal at a special sitting in Belfast that is due to continue Wednesday.

David Scoffield, lawyer for the bakery's owners, argued Tuesday that the family should not be compelled to create a product "to which they have a genuine objection in conscience."


The Supreme Court for the second time has refused to hear an appeal by imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich of his corruption convictions.

The justices didn't comment Monday in letting stand the convictions and 14-year prison term the 61-year-old is serving. His scheduled release date is 2024.

Blagojevich's lawyers had wanted the high court to take up his case to make clear what constitutes illegal political fundraising. They argued that politicians are vulnerable to prosecution because the line between what's allowed and what's illegal is blurry.

His convictions included trying to extort a children's hospital for contributions and seeking to trade an appointment to the Senate seat Barack Obama vacated when he was elected president for campaign cash.

The court also refused to hear his 2016 appeal.



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