February 7, 2013 | Law and Justice

One Woman, Two Rules: Getting Justice for Women is More Complicated than Just Passing Laws

On the surface, it looks like the world has made progress in the treatment of women and girls. Country after country has enacted laws that protect their rights.

But national laws aren’t the only ones that most people live under. There are local laws, tribal laws and customs that are as ironclad as anything coming out of a legislature. That’s just one roadblock women’s rights champions face. Other hurdles include the entrenched roles of women in their communities, and lack of access to counsel and to money to pay for legal help. To succeed, women’s advocates need to adopt creative strategies, says a new report from The International Development Law Organization (IDLO), a nonprofit devoted to empowering people and enabling governments to reform laws.

Helping women gain access to the legal system helps everyone. “By empowering women to claim their rights, women are better equipped to bring about change in their communities,” says Shirin Ebadi, Iranian human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The IDLO report notes that in many communities, women are seen as undeserving of the same rights and protections as men. The best way to bring change, says the report, is to do it at the grassroots level: engaging local leaders, basing new practices on existing ones and showcasing the successes that result when justice for women improves.

Other effective strategies include providing a safe space for women to discuss legal and cultural rules, supporting women who go to their community leaders to advocate for fair treatment, and creating organizations to give women assistance in navigating complex legal systems.

To read the full report, click here.