J.L. v. Italy: A survivor of trivictimisation – Naming a Court’s failure to fully (recognize and) acknowledge judicial gender-based revictimisation

By Margarita S. Ilieva, a strategic equality/human rights litigator with extensive experience in  negative stereotyping.

The violent misogyny case of J.L. c. Italie (27.05.2021) is one of few in which the Court expressly addressed revictimisation (neglectful/actively injurious treatment of a survivor by those expected to address the original harm). Prior cases whereby this concept was integrated in Convention law include N.Ç. c. Turquie (9.02.2021) and A and B v. Croatia (20.06.2019). In Y. v. Slovenia (28.05.2015), the Court dealt with protection against repeat victimization (by the original perpetrator), not yet incorporating ‘secondary victimisation’ (by insufficiently heedful domestic judges).

The earlier cases concerned (severe) sexual predation of girl children. In the high-profile J.L., it was a young woman who survived gang-abuse. An art. 8 violation was found, since the appeals court’s reasons for acquitting the accused were sexist. The Court termed this ‘secondary victimisation’ breaching the State’s positive duties.

Yet, did the Court robustly address J.L.’s multi-layered revictimisation? Let’s examine the Court’s credibility on behalf of a woman, to return the gesture to tiers of (male-dominated) judges preoccupied with (de)constructing the victim’s credibility. The ECtHR judges (who problematized J.L.’s credibility) are predominantly male. Conversely, two out of three at the appeals court were women – a bleak symptom of internalized patriarchy.

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