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Concerns related to a minority-rights approach to justice for women and girls who experience violence

Minority rights must not take precedence over the human rights of women and girls. Concerns related to violence against women include:

  • Minority rights recognition can be important in reducing state-imposed violence in the lives of women in minority communities, but also can serve to entrench patriarchal systems.
  • Minority rights recognition can excuse the state from taking responsibility for the protection of women and girls within its territory.
  • Group rights can be transformed into “relational” rights for women, making their access to justice exclusively dependent on relationships with males.

In many minority communities, state-sponsored violence is a constant reality. This often is the case for racial, ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities as well as for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities who confront homophobia. As a result, formal justice systems, for which police are gatekeepers and in which the majority holds power, may not present a safe path to justice for many minority women. At the same time, women in community-based or indigenous justice systems may be re-victimized by informal mechanisms that minimize violence against women. Creative strategies and innovation are imperative, especially for women who may be members of multiple minority groups. Strategies must maintain a focus on victim safety and offender accountability.