Law and regulation

The formal and informal justice sectors overlap substantially and interact in important ways. Individuals who seek a remedy for harm may do so in a number of different ways, and may try several different formal and informal methods of resolution over time (Wojkowska/UNDP, 2006). This is particularly the case for women confronting violence, the vast majority of whom may confront problems of access and discrimination in both the formal and informal justice system.

Formal and informal justice systems may be linked through law and regulatory mechanisms. For example, in many countries, informal justice practices are recognized in the constitution or through legislation. The informal system may not only be recognized, but may also be regulated by the formal sector. For example, many constitutional and legal provisions recognizing the informal sector do so only to the extent that informal sector practices do not violate constitutional provisions or other fundamental rights protections. For more information see addressing conflicts between customary and formal laws.

Legal recognition and regulation of informal systems may also lead to the results of proceedings in the informal sector being registered with the formal sector. For example, customary marriages would become officially registered, thus allowing the state to better monitor and prevent child marriages.

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