In areas where the state is absent or has less legitimacy, many communities create their own mechanisms for justice delivery. However, for any justice mechanism which deals with violence against women, stopping the violence, protecting victim safety, and ensuring offender accountability must always be the top priorities. Informal justice mechanisms must be carefully scrutinized because they may be based upon traditional or religious beliefs that are resistant to the rights of women. Or, they may not include provisions for sanctioning violence against women due to a belief that such violence is a private matter (UN Women, 2011). Many people use existing informal mechanisms because they have important cultural or traditional components; yet these same traditional components may be based on discriminatory views, such as interpretations of religious or ethnic identity that discriminate against women, or they may perpetuate discrimination through over-riding goals of social harmony (UN Women, 2011). Innovating within these mechanisms to retain critical cultural components while also establishing new components that respect and promote women’s rights can provide important gains, especially if women community leaders and local justice providers receive training on legal empowerment. If advocates such as paralegals support dialogue with justice providers and support women who wish to contest discriminatory laws and practice, progress can occur (UN Women 2011).
For more on Innovation and Providing Alternatives see that section in Programme Implementation.