It has been scientifically proven that sex is good for our health, and that sexual fulfilment for women increases as they get older (specifically women 45 and up), so why is it that society’s perception of older women is that sex ranks low on their priority list? If there’s one thing we learned after seeing the news headlines this week regarding Jacinda Arden’s announcement, there is still progress to be made when it comes to eradicating gender-based discrimination.
But a recent ruling in a European human rights court is helping to change not only that cause, but also ageism, another common form of discrimination.
Maria Ivone Carvalho Pinto de Sousa Morais is a 50 year old Portuguese mother of two who suffered a botched gynecological surgery that left her unable to have sex. Following the failed surgery she sued the Lisbon hospital in 1995, reports The Cut. A court ordered the hospital to pay her $116,000 in compensation, but in 2014, Portugal’s Supreme Administrative Court cut that payment by nearly a third. Their reasoning? Because of Morais’s age, the three judges on the panel (all over 50, and two of whom were men) argued that sex was not as important.
Morais challenged that decision, which was viewed by many as sexist and ageist—and the European Court of Human Rights sided with her. In a 5-2 ruling, the higher court ruled that the Portuguese judges “were guilty of ‘prejudice’ when they decided to reduce her damages,” and the France-based court then ordered Portugal to pay Morais approximately €5500 euros in damages, costs, and expenses. Now 72, she plans to reopen her case and ask for greater damages.
In its majority ruling, the court wrote, “The question at issue here is not considerations of age or sex as such, but rather the assumption that sexuality is not as important for a 50-year-old woman and mother of two children as for someone of a younger age.” In finding that Portugal ruled in favour of men in two similar medical malpractice cases, the European court asserted that “that assumption reflects a traditional idea of female sexuality as being essentially linked to childbearing purposes and thus ignores its physical and psychological relevance for the self-fulfilment of women as people.”
We are inspired by those working to overcome deeply ingrained prejudice, and we look forward to following Morais case as she takes the next step!
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