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Formal sector may reflect wider societal biases

Last edited: December 20, 2011

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  • Acceptance of the subordination of women, which often is codified and institutionalized in the formal sector, contributes to unequal laws and practices which violate women’s human rights.
  • The subordination of women can be exacerbated by other biases such as against race, sexual orientation, and disabilities.
  • Women may fear that they will be shamed by the justice sector and their community if they report violence. Many people including judges and other actors in the formal justice sector, condone and/or falsely believe that women bring on violence by their actions, such as arguing with a spouse, dressing provocatively to go out, or walking alone at night. Women are often blamed for the violence perpetrated against them.
  • Customs or traditions may not allow women to access the justice sector. In some countries, women may not travel alone, drive a vehicle, or may not spend a night away from home.
  • Evidentiary rules may be biased against women. For example, in some countries, a woman’s testimony is worth less than a man’s testimony, or the burden of proof may fall on the victim instead of the state, for example in cases of rape.
  • These longstanding social attitudes may be difficult to change but may also be a critical prerequisite for all other types of justice sector reforms.