A 50-year-old Portuguese woman named Maria Morais, with two children, claimed that medical negligence during botched gynaecological surgery at a Portuguese hospital in 1995 left her unable to have normal sex.
She won her compensation case for physical and mental suffering, but the hospital then won a 2013 appeal that cut the payout by around one-third.
Justifying the cut, judges in Lisbon argued sex was not as important because of her age. The three-judge panel — made up of two men and a woman — were all over 50, according to Morais’s lawyer, Vitor Ribeiro.
The case triggered a storm of protest in Portugal, where one female lawmaker described the ruling as “Taliban jurisprudence.”
The France-based European court of human rights sided with Morais, saying Portuguese judges were guilty of “prejudices” and had violated the right to respect for private and family life.
It ordered Portugal to pay Morais €3,250 ($3,790) in damages and €2,460 for costs and expenses.
The Portuguese court’s decision “ignored the physical and psychological importance of sex for women’s self-fulfillment and other dimensions of women’s sex”, the European court said.
“The [Lisbon court] decision had moreover been based on the general assumption that sex was not as important for a 50-year-old woman and mother of two children as for someone of a younger age. In the [European] court’s view those considerations showed the prejudices prevailing in the judiciary in Portugal.”