The 2011-2012 Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice

July 26, 2011, 9:14 p.m.

The 2011-2012 Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice published by the UN Women’s organization looks at the current state of affairs of women throughout the world in relation to legal systems.  The report covers the following main issues: legal frameworks, the justice chain, legal pluralism and justice for women, and justice for women during and after conflict.  The report also looks at gender justice and the millennium development goals.  The report goes into detail on each of the issues listed above in relation to women and their role in improving justice for women.

This volume of Progress of the World’s Women starts with a paradox: the past century has seen a transformation in women’s legal rights, with countries in every region expanding the scope of women’s legal entitlements. Nevertheless, for most of the world’s women the laws that exist on paper do not always translate into equality and justice. In many contexts, in rich and poor countries alike, the infrastructure of justice – the police, the courts and the judiciary – is failing women, which manifests itself in poor services and hostile attitudes from the very people whose duty it is to fulfill women’s rights. As a result, although equality between women and men is guaranteed in the constitutions of 139 countries and territories, inadequate laws and loopholes in legislative frameworks, poor enforcement and vast implementation gaps make these guarantees hollow promises, having little impact on the day-to-day lives of women.

Laws and justice systems have been the focus of women’s activism because women have recognized both their potential and their current failings. Where laws are missing or discriminatory and the infrastructure of justice is broken, access to justice must mean more than simply helping women to access existing justice systems. This edition of Progress of the World’s Women underscores that laws and justice systems that are biased against women’s interests and reinforce unequal power relations between women and men, must themselves be transformed in order to fulfill the potential they hold for accelerating progress towards gender equality.

Ten Recommendations to Make Justice Systems Work for Women

1. Support women’s legal organizations

2. Support one-stop shops and specialized services to reduce attrition in the justice chain

3. Implement gender-sensitive law reform

4. Use quotas to boost the number of women legislators

5. Put women on the front line of law enforcement

6. Train judges and monitor decisions

7. Increase women’s access to courts and truth commissions during and after conflict

8. Implement gender-responsive reparations programmes

9. Invest in women’s access to justice

10. Put gender equality at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals

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