Pro Bono Client Successfully Defeats Discriminatory Ruling

June 26, 2019

Cleary Gottlieb represented pro bono client Afsana Begum in her successful defense against her French husband before the Paris Court of Appeals and then the French Supreme Court.

The dispute related to the recognition in France of a Dubai ruling that ordered divorce and granted exclusive custody of the couple’s child to the father on the basis (inter alia) of discriminatory grounds applicable under Emirati law. The Dubai ruling was primarily based on the following grounds: our client breached the duty of the wife to obey her husband, which was found to cause him injury (this claim was supported by various affidavits sworn in by friends of the husband), and our client attended night clubs with her friends and traveled frequently.

In the lower court, the public prosecutor had supported the husband’s claim for recognition of the Dubai ruling. The first instance judgment of the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris had ruled against our client.

The Paris Court of Appeal found that the Dubai ruling was “manifestly discriminatory” insofar as it applied non-reciprocal grounds for divorce imposed by Emirati law on women only. As such, the Dubai ruling was found to be contrary to French public policy, which protects equality between spouses and equality between men and women.

The Paris Court of Appeal also refused to recognize and enforce the Dubai ruling on the ground that it had dismissed the wife’s counter claim for divorce without examining it.

In its ruling of June 26, 2019, the French Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the husband and validated the Paris Court of Appeal’s decision. The French Supreme Court found that the Dubai ruling dismissed Afsana Begum’s counter-claim for divorce without examining it, which violates French public policy.

This ruling of the French Supreme Court puts a final end to Afsana Begum’s defense against the Dubai ruling in France.

This is an important success for Afsana Begum’s defense as she will now be able to confidently pursue her divorce and custody claim in the UK, and it is a landmark victory for the defense of women’s rights and the basic concepts of justice and equality.