London, 27 October 2015
On 13 October 2015, the European Court of Human Rights held in Vrountou v Cyprus that Cyprus’s refugee card scheme, which restricted access to benefits based on sex violated Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court found that the scheme, which allowed children with displaced fathers to receive a refugee card and so access a range of benefits but not children of displaced mothers, had no objective and reasonable justification. The Court reiterated that states cannot impose traditions that derive from the man’s primordial role and the woman’s secondary role in the family to justify sex discrimination but that was precisely what the government’s argument sought to do. The unequivocal decision of the Court is welcome. The case is an important reminder that directly gender discriminatory laws and policies are still a reality in many states, a fact which the Equal Rights Trust’s recent research brings to the fore.