The Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome | Photo: Alessandro di Meo/Archive/ANSA
The Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome | Photo: Alessandro di Meo/Archive/ANSA

The Italian Court of Cassation on March 5 upheld an appeal filed by a young Nigerian woman who had fled her homeland after being pressured by a relative to marry someone she did not want to. The court ruled that women migrants fleeing "forced marriages" can be granted a form of protection to enable them to remain in Italy.

Women migrants fleeing "forced marriages" can be granted a form of protection to enable them to remain in Italy, Italy's highest court has ruled.

The Supreme Court of Cassation (Corte Suprema di Cassazione) established this precedent in a ruling March 5 on an appeal filed by a young Nigerian woman who fled her country after a relative induced her into a marriage that she did not want.

The woman's request for asylum had been rejected in Florence. Asylum would have provided her with a longer stay permit than humanitarian protection, which the high court ruled she met the requirements for.

Case dates back to 2017

The case dates back to 2017, before more recent changes to a security degree. In her request for protection, the woman said that she had given birth at age 16 and that her uncle had told her that if she did not marry an elderly man he would not have helped her.

The request was rejected because this "threat" was not considered a true threat to the young woman, who by that time was over 20 years old.

In challenging the decision, the defense claimed that it was a case of "forced marriage" that deserved protection and that the vulnerability the woman would have faced in Nigeria due to her situation if she returned had not been taken into account.

Forced marriage a condition requiring protection

The Court of Cassation agreed in holding that cases of "forcing, or even inducing" in marriage can require that protection be granted.

In this case, previous rulings had held that the "pressure -- even if reiterated and of an 'insinuative' sort -- were not at the level of a true imposition."

For this reason, not having the possibility to move forward with a different reconstruction of the case, the Court of Cassation was not able to grant refugee status.

However, the court, said "this does not mean that the pressure and inducing suffered did not lead to severe hardship and suffering" and that "this affected her self-determination ability", putting her in a "situation of vulnerability" able to be categorized as a "serious reason of a humanitarian nature".

The Florence Court of Appeals will now have to reassess its decision in light of the Court of Cassation's ruling.

 

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