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

Last edited: December 20, 2011

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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.