Societal Determinants of Justice
- Indra Prasad KHAITU
Social justice is the equal access and privileges within a society to available resources such as opportunities and any kinds of privileges within a society. Though there are legal documents with relation to equal to the equal justice to every member of society, certain sections section of the society such as female members of the society are treated with biases and prejudices. Basically such prejudices are often manifested in relation to religious as well as sociological categories such as violence and discrimination.
Though social justice is widely considered as a significant aspect to every level of society, there is still a vast variation in terms of practical implication. It is a bit complicated to conclude from observation of the familial arrangement that what is discrimination and victimization. When the person who seems to be victimized feels feel totally comfortable and at ease to bear all those suffering, it is hard to declare that the person needs fair and justice from an outsider’s perspective. The whole study revolves around the deeper understanding of the societal aspect that determines the livelihood of the people.
The early chapter of this thesis establishes literature review and statement of the problem along with objectives of the study. The research methodology that gives rationality of the research and its methodology. This includes data generated from the narrative of the cases studied among the four selected women. It also contains the information collected from other key informants that are related to the research.
The research findings on which perception of marriage in general among the Newar community. Newar has been presented with empirical evidence from the cases studied. The central idea of this chapter lies behind the social cohesion, associational participation, exemplified by much of the recent social traditions among the Newars community. In this article, I have explored how marriage tradition is perceived among the Newars community of Bhaktapur. Besides, it also explains cultural reasons and consequences as to how marital life tends towards breakdown among the Newar family. This is presented through the collected evidence especially from the current situation of the selected women. It explains as to how the existing socio-cultural traits of a community cause inequality and the development of gender conception among the women of the Newar community. Drawing on several narratives from the women, I try to explain how marriage makes difference in the women’s life of the Newar community. The findings and conclusion include in-depth analyses of all the issues mentioned along with the theoretical linkage that revolves around the whole thesis. It finally draws all the facts together, presenting implications and conclusions of the whole study.
Keywords – “Women”, “Justice”, “Empowerment”, “Womanhood”, “Violence”
This study is about the understanding of societal meaning related to justice as regards married women who have been living separately from their husbands. There is no doubt to the fact that justice is central to human lives, but the meaning of justice does not seem uniform across different sections of society (Zuhur, 2001). One of the pressing concerns of societies across today is the access to justice for certain sections of society, especially women, where the perceptions of justice look in complete contrast to legal definitions of justice. The different experience of justice for women is determined by various external societal factors, such as family, kinship, schools, peer circles, etc. This research is based on four cases of married women living in Bhaktapur. The perception of justice is explored, and sociological explanations are sought in explaining the differences.
There are possibilities for victim women to get access to the legal system through court, legal services, alternative dispute resolution, or local administrative services for safety and to exercise their rights. But, due to social stigma and various socio-cultural factors, freedom to live becomes beyond their imagination for a certain section of women. Not all women can get access to justice even though there are various means to get access to it as declared by the state. (Thapa, 2009). The number of divorces has doubled in the last five years which reached up to 1,824 in 2013, most of which are filed by women (Rai, 2014). One in every ten family cases filed in the courts is divorce cases relating to land, money lending, and inheritance. “People are embracing divorce as an option if they cannot get along,” says advocate Sapana Pradhan Malla. “However, only a small section of the urban population is socially and economically empowered to exercise these choices.” Women can directly file a case for divorce in Nepal’s courts, whereas men have to appeal through the local Village Development Committee or Municipality. Even though there is legal provision for the protection and promotions of women in Nepal, it is not yet found to be common for several women to get the benefit of it due to socio-cultural effects (Malla cited in Rai, 2014).
Malla explains: “Many women who file for divorce may not be making free choices because most of them get nothing or very little from their husband’s property share after divorce. Polygamy is illegal, and in most cases, men force their wives to file for divorce in order to let them remarry. According to Nepali law, if a wife takes her share of property, her husband is allowed to remarry without divorcing his first wife. Women’s rights activists say that such provisions encourage and abet polygamy although the 11th amendment to the MulukiAin, which entitles daughters to inherit property at birth, might have improved the chances of social and financial safety for women after divorce. A 28-year-old girl has filed a case for divorce in a court; she had to agree on an out-of-court settlement. Due to a lack of financial support, she was unable to afford legal fees to fight for a part of her husband’s property. “It could have taken me years to get my share of the small plot of land that I was entitled to after divorce, so I decided to settle,” she says. So, a person having no funds to case file will not be able to go to court for justice. There is no other way rather than to tolerate or withstand husband’s mental torture. So, the husband and in-laws’ family try to take the benefit of it (Malla-Pradhan 2014 : 01).
According to the writings by Acharya (2005), divorce easily occurs within a more open and industrial society. It is emerging as a form of new sociological events due to the pattern of socio-cultural changes by the process of modernization and simultaneously urbanization. In his findings, economic hardship and ambition, cruelty, sexual maladjustment, wife barren, unequal social, educational, and economic status, and more expectations by the spouses after marriage are the major causes of marital disruption.
Some scholars claim that societal pressures to get married against one’s will is a major factor in failed marriages. “Young people’s aspirations are radically different from that of their parents and grandparents and when they are forced into marriage, it falls apart quickly,” she says. Although there are no national statistics on divorce, sociologists say that changing livelihoods coupled with urbanization are leading to new dynamics of married couples in both urban and rural areas (Rai, 2014).
“With the high rate of foreign employment and migration, the connection to family and wider kin has become brittle,” says sociologist Chaitanya Mishra. “Without these agents of stability, it is difficult to save marriages from falling apart” (Mishra cited in Rai, 2014). The phenomenon of couples choosing to live separately has been observed more in the capital, Kathmandu. December 2014 figures from the Kathmandu District Court also indicate a rise in the number of divorces. Eighty percent of the cases were filed by women, predominately from the urban middle-class. Studies suggest that the reasons behind the increasing number of young divorces in the capital are changes in social values, sex roles, and behaviors brought about by feminism, while in other parts of Nepal, divorces are on the rise due to the use of alcohol, financial insecurities, sexual dissatisfaction, preference for the male child, dowry, violence by in-laws/the husband.
With the increased awareness of legal rights and reduced association with social stigma, it was found that there are more women filing for divorce in Nepal (especially in the urban areas). Despite this shift in the law and women’s awareness, a feature published in 2013 by World Bank found that “Seventy-seven percent of the episodes of violence against women are reported as being from within the family” (World Bank, 2013) and establishing “Gender Empowerment and Coordination Unit were viewed as particularly important, and have raised the profile of government’s activism surrounding its GBV policies”. This, along with the equal distribution of assets to both partners, brought about through amendments to Nepal’s Family Law of 2006, has allowed and empowered women who were earlier forced to remain stuck in abusive marriages without the legal option and means to leave their spouse.
Thapa (2009), argues that there are several numbers of factors that inhibit women from articulating their inner interests, right, and voices along with their concerns. For instance, besides providing a monetary allowance to widow, there is no any system to ensure social security and protection for women. In most cases, once they are married, they are found to be like pendulum in case of failure to get success at having good relationship with their husband. They are dependent in one way or another on male partner for any kinds of household work.
Due to lack of awareness about their individual rights in their everyday life, the majority of the women couldn’t get access to justice. Besides, they have also claimed that the existing judicial system is inefficient, unresponsive complaint-making procedure and long delays of the legal procedure. While figuring out the weakness of the women’s failure to get access on judicial, the study has also found that due to lack of adequate information about the existing laws and remedies as well as limited knowledge of rights has made barrier to bring awareness among the women. The women were found to be having limited knowledge about the legal framework of the state due to which they lack confident and fails to get justice in favour of them. On the other hand, the study has found out that due to lack of education, they are not known about the official language due to which they cannot get benefit of the states’ facilities on getting equal access to available law and justice. It further says that due to the weaknesses of women organizational structure in the whole South Asian Region, it fails to redress the issue of violation of indigenous women’s rights and advocating for changes in promotion, protection and respect of individual rights.
Progress of the World’s Women : In Pursuit of Justice (2011/12) is a comprehensive survey of women’s access to justice across the globe. The report offers 10 recommendations to overcome the paradox that while huge improvements have been made in the legal position of women over the last century, there is still a dramatic lag in translating that into equality and justice. Access to justice underlies every aspect of women’s lives, not least their access to land and education. It is considered that gender has been designated as one of the priority areas for the World Bank up to 2014, with a real need to invest in improving justice for women. This report clearly highlights that too much aid is still gender blind. For women, regardless of whether they live in rich or poor countries, the search for justice is fraught with difficulty and laws and legal systems frequently discriminate against them.
True social justice is attained only through the harmonious co-operative effort of the citizens who, in their own self-interest, accept the current norms of morality as the price of membership in the community. Rawls believes that the first principle that must be secured in any society is social justice because if justice is achieved then, all other necessary principles will shortly follow.
All societies have a basic structure of social, economic and political institutions on both formal and informal. In testing how well these elements fit and work together, Rawls based a key test of legitimacy on the theories of social contract. To determine whether any particular system of collectively enforced social arrangements is legitimate, he argues that one must look for agreement by the people who are subject to it. Obviously, not every citizen can be asked to participate in a poll to determine his or her consent to every proposal in which some degree of coercion is involved, so we have to assume that all citizens are reasonable. Rawls (1999), constructed an argument for a two-stage process to determine a citizen’s hypothetical agreement:
To emphasize the general principle that justice should rise from the people and not be dictated by the law-making powers of governments, Besides, Rawls (1999), asserted that, ‘There is a general presumption against imposing legal and other restrictions to conduct without sufficient reason’. The concept of social justice may hold some or all of the following beliefs:
- Historical inequities insofar as they affect current injustices should be corrected until the actual inequities no longer exist or have been perceptively “negated”.
- The redistribution of wealth, power and status for the individual, community and societal good.
- It is government’s (or those who hold significant power) responsibility to ensure a basic quality of life for all its citizens.
In order to combat patriarchy, it is important to work on a social and legal level combined. Socialization begins at home. The reflection of every individual being is reflective from the family background. It is not that women are inferior to men, but traditional religious practice formed over time by and for men, discounts women’s rights.
Paudel (2011), argues that in order to combat patriarchy, it is important to work on a social and legal level combined. Socialization begins at home. The reflection of every individual being is reflective from the family background. It is not that women are inferior to men, but traditional religious practice formed over time by and for men, discounts women’s rights. Women were denied in several kinds of decision making with social construct of patriarchy providing men the necessary power to restrict women from any social realms outside the household. This is due to the socio-cultural view held by the majority of Nepalese population, political forces upholding these views, economic constraints placed upon women, and their limited educational opportunities.
The concept of justice differs in every culture. Thinkers in the social contract tradition argued that justice is derived from the mutual agreement of everyone concerned. In the 19th century, utilitarian thinkers including John Stuart Mill argued that justice is what has the best consequences. Egalitarians argue that justice can only exist within the coordinates of equality. John Rawls (1999), used a social contract argument to show that justice, and especially distributive justice, is a form of fairness.
According to Plato (1984), justice differs in every culture, as cultures are usually dependent upon a shared history, mythology and or religion. Each culture’s ethics create values which influence the notion of justice. Although there can be found some justice principals that are one and the same in all or most of the cultures, these are insufficient to create a unitary justice apprehension. In Republic by Plato (1984), he argues that justice is the interest of the strong merely a name for what the powerful or cunning ruler has imposed on the people. According to thinkers in the social contract tradition, justice is derived from the mutual agreement of everyone concerned; or, in many versions, from what they would agree to under hypothetical conditions including equality and absence of bias refers to an equal ground for all people concerned in a disagreement.
According to the egalitarian principles, justice can exist only within the parameters of equality. This basic view can be elaborated in many ways, according to what goods are to be distributed – wealth, respect, opportunity – and who or what they are to be distributed equally among – individuals, families, nations, races, species. Commonly held egalitarian positions include demands for equality though this is often defended by adherents of non egalitarian conceptions of justice as well. Fair distribution of available resources is justice to the deprived ones. Besides, higher poverty rates among women means that in general, women have less access to resources that would enhance their capability. Women-headed houses are significantly more likely to be on a lower income which acts as a barrier on their freedom of confidence to live as equal beings as other members in the society. The main factors leading to women’s suffering in terms of poverty, unemployment, loneliness and domestic violence are over-represented with lack of awareness about an individual freedom of life due to which they are mostly tend to fall on vulnerability. These cases are caused due to the socialized gender roles which play a part in women’s experience of social justice.
The women were forced to obey traditional behavior which has further leaded them to be like puppet. In case of found to be exercising for any changes of progress or individual freedom, they are tend to fall on social isolation or exclusion. This may lead them to be a cause of substantial anxiety to many women in the existing society. Gender differences in the socialization process make a big difference. Due to the various suffering that the women must bear from their husband, there is seen much disorders, such as depression, anxiety and psychological distress due to which they cannot concentrate in their everyday life. The connection between gender inequality and adverse mental health outcomes for women is acknowledged to be significant (Wiest, Mocellin et al. 1994; Tansella 1998), but a lot of research still fails to make the link between socialized roles and women’s mental health. The women are found to be lacking far behind especially on communities which are economically and socially vulnerable. Indeed, the common factor in recent earthquakes in Nepal has shown the majority of victims were women and children who were considered to be the most vulnerable groups (Bhaktapur Municipality, 2015).
In developing countries, disasters bring higher mortality rates for women than men (Domeisen, 1998; Neumayera and Plümperb, 2007), mostly as a result of socially determined gender roles and subsequent exposure to risk. As women are poorer than men in all countries, they are more likely to live in poorly constructed housing and risk-prone areas (Scanlon, 1998; Dasgupta, Siriner et al., 2010; Neumayera and Plümperb January, 2007). Another factor is women’s responsibility for children along with restriction in the home. (Rivers 1982; Molin Valdés, 2009; Henrici, Helmuth et al., 2010).
In the context of Nepal, women are mostly left with the responsibility to protect home and be dependent on men. Socially constructed gender roles play a part for men to take greater risks than women and are more likely to be involved in outdoor activities (Haynes, 2008; Neumayera, 2007). However, United Nation General Assembly’s Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power on 29 November 1985, 96th plenary meeting has clearly figure out the basic guidelines related to access to justice and fair treatment are as:
- Victims should be treated with compassion and respect for their dignity. They are entitled to access to the mechanisms of justice and to prompt redress, as provided for by national legislation, for the harm that they have suffered.
- Judicial and administrative mechanisms should be established and strengthened where necessary to enable victims to obtain redress through formal or informal procedures that are expeditious, fair, inexpensive and accessible. Victims should be informed of their rights in seeking redress through such mechanisms.
- The responsiveness of judicial and administrative processes to the needs of victims should be facilitated by :
- Informing victims of their role and the scope, timing and progress of the proceedings and of the disposition of their cases, especially where serious crimes are involved and where they have requested such information;
- Allowing the views and concerns of victims to be presented and considered at appropriate stages of the proceedings where their personal interests are affected, without prejudice to the accused and consistent with the relevant national criminal justice system;
- Providing proper assistance to victims throughout the legal process;
- Taking measures to minimize inconvenience to victims, protect their privacy, when necessary, and ensure their safety, as well as that of their families and witnesses on their behalf, from intimidation and retaliation;
- Avoiding unnecessary delay in the disposition of cases and the execution of orders or decrees granting awards to victims.
- Informal mechanisms for the resolution of disputes, including mediation, arbitration and customary justice or indigenous practices, should be utilized where appropriate to facilitate conciliation and redress for victims.
Despite all those principles, there are still needed to be implemented of those guidelines at grassroots level so as to protect from any kinds of abuse on individual’s freedom to live. As earlier stated, the meaning of justice is understood in different way from person to person. So, it is more contextual than being universal or uniform to every individual. The commonly understood meanings of justice as laid down in national and international legal documents might sound unfamiliar or irrelevant to many women who either do not know that their rights have been guaranteed by law or who do not want to take legal remedies to seek justice they want to achieve. Their experience of justice is not rooted in legal documents but in social contexts.
Justice is viewed from two different angles. One is legal and the next is social (Rawls, 1999). It means what is formally written on legal documents can be different from what is actually experienced or perceived as law in society. How is it being felt by women ? How is it being experienced ?
My present research is concerned on how do married women are experiencing as well as reacting to the cause of suffering from their husband in their everyday life ? For this, the research has analyzed the everyday life experience of the studied women. The laws related to them were found to be limited only in the court or in printed books. What the concerned was to analyze the justice for the women as an equal member of a society.
In this dissertation, the psychological impacts of experiences (suffering from their husbands) and their individual perception of justice that impacts severely on the well being of the women have been accounted. It digs out the main reasons behind the individual’s differentiated perceptions of justice in their marital lives. This study was an attempt to point out this gap between justices in texts vs. justice in contexts. To meet this objective, this study has accounted the lives of four married women who have had different courses in their marital and familial lives. This has resulted in their varied understanding or experience of justice in their actual lives.
Objectives of the Study
Gender situation in Nepal has been changing over last two decades due to considerable political transition and social change. Although much progress has been made in many spheres of social life of women, they still receive less investment for health care, education and intellectual development (UNICEF, 2010). Despite of all those progressive changes seen among Nepali society, there are still various kinds of social discrimination that continues to be based on traditional belief system that consider women as inferior to men. In many cases, voices of women as well as women’s access to justice from violence are minimized by their own families on the pretext of ‘reputation’. The women being illiterate and assigned only household works, lack knowledge, awareness and information relating to state’s laws and policies. There is a huge impact of socio-cultural settings of Nepal due to which they are deprived of their rights on the basis of their class, caste and gender. Though the Nepalese Government has formally announced that both men and women have equal rights, the announcement has not been transmitted into reality. One illustration of this is the Citizenship Act (2006), which allows children to claim citizenship in their mother’s name. The Constitution (2015), and certain articles and provisions of the Citizenship Act continue to limit the rights of women on the issue of citizenship based on matrimonial status. According to these, women are allowed to receive the citizenship certificate in the name of their husbands which gives equal space to women. The baseline survey on criminal justice system (CeLRRd, 2002) also pointed out the following weaknesses in the judicial system of Nepal: Insufficient access to justice – delayed justice persists; poor and needy are unable to get justice; expensive, traditional and lengthy process of justice exists; public faith in judiciary is decreasing.
This paper has made effort to achieve effective endeavor towards addressing the life condition of women across different section of the human beings.
To address the aforesaid issues, the study has the following specific objectives :
- To describe individual perception on marital relationship, divorce and family life among the women who have been separated from their husbands and
- To explore societal explanations of justice as experienced by the women who have been separated from their husbands.
Bhaktapur district, the area containing the city of Bhaktapur and its surrounding towns, villages, and open lands, with its population of 304,651 (CBS : 2011), is the most densely populated of the three valley districts of Nepal. An inventory of the small stalls and shops that crowd the bazaar street gives some idea of the variety of the supplies and of the specialists who provide them. Celebration of feast and festivals among families, relatives and kin groups are the symbolic life of the city among the Newar community. The economy of Bhaktapur is mainly dependent on farming and handicrafts items which are produced and distributed mostly within the city or its near environs. Very few people are involved in administrative or bureaucratic jobs within the city itself, and much of the household income was “in kind” rather than in cash (Levy, 1990).
Methodology of the Study
For the study purpose, case study was used. ‘Case study’ here basically indicates that what can be learned from studied individual cases. It explores the hidden social elements through individual’s story telling. It is through the case study that we have the possibility to make direct observation and interaction with the key informants to get reliable data. Case study was an effective way to understand justice in terms of legal perspective which we call formal law and sociological perspective of looking at justice to individual. Yin (1994) has famously said, case studies are a preferred approach when ‘How’ or ‘Why’ questions are to be answered. The researcher has little control over events where the focus is on a current phenomenon in a real-life context.
This research studied the four different cases of women who were making different perception on justice as regards to their experience on everyday life. The choice of case is made because it is expected to advance our understanding of the research phenomenon. The aim of the research work was to dig out individual perception of justice. During the process of study period, the selected women along with some people living in the similar society were also interviewed. The women who were experiencing drastic life with their family members as well as communities and the other women who were having satisfied married life were also considered as key informants in the research. They all live in Bhaktapur and represent typical Newar community, the communities whose parental occupation is farming.
A case study involves data collection through multiple sources such as verbal reports, personal interviews, in-depth interviews, qualitative method, observations, families, friends and other key informants. In-depth interviews were suitable to understand behavior of decision-making process on an individual level. At the same time, the participants found it useful to share all their experiences with us during the interview. Personally, I have found the case study tremendously useful to widen the broader perspective on how an individual’s choices are made and to what extent the societal perception makes effects on an individual being a member of the society. I have also used checking information mentioned in interviews. The study was done with in-depth understanding and insights into culturally embedded problems of our everyday life.
For this study, face-to-face interview was mainly used as a method of data collection. Formal as well as informal discussions were also done to maintain a natural flow of information. Most of the interviews were recorded where possible. In interviewing the informants, a story telling narrative method was used. This method helped in digging out their past and present life conditions basically related to their marital as well as family life.
Limitations of the Study
The study was done among few women in Bhaktapur District, mostly Newars. Because of the selected few number of cases, the findings might not be generalizable for all women living in other parts of Nepal or for women undergoing different life experiences. In addition to this, the researcher had to rely on the narratives given by the women studied for all information related to the objectives of the study. There has not been a cross-verification of the narratives produced by these women, and hence the study does not focus much on the fact about justice as such, but has focused on the narrative understanding of justice.
Changing Notion of Justice
Justice varies with context and differs its meaning across the member of society. While speaking about justice among the women who were selected for the case study, they all have different perception on justice and were found to perceive it from their self understanding. They all seem to be making calculation from their own understanding regarding their everyday situation in the family as well as during their future death. The women though realized of being totally neglected by their husbands, but still are hoping that they would come back one day. Also the socio-cultural beliefs and values system is determining their perception of justice. So, they are not alone to make this decision as what is universally being accepted as fair meaning to life. While talking about Karmila, it seems that her life would be worst with her possible decision to get second marriage. She says that man has more choices in life than for woman. She narrates:
My husband was already been married with two new women. They have both betrayed him and I still didn’t. For me, he is my husband and I cannot imagine any other man as a husband. I hope that he will come back to me one day. So, I am still waiting for him. I have never scolded nor betrayed him. I am fully confident that one day he will come back to me and consider me as his wife again. If this happened, for me, this will be justice.
At the beginning, due to her husband’s remarriage, she left her husband’s house and went to live at her natal’s home for around 5 years. She has even planned to case a file against the husband’s remarriage. She consulted with a layer and finally came to conclude that such performance will make no any sense for her livelihood. Instead, she will have to spend much of her time and finance on varieties of expenses that occurs for the legal procedure. She thinks that incase of filing any case against her husband for justice, the family members and society would consider her as a unique woman. She was scared that filing a case against her husband create shameless to the whole family. This shows that to what extent the family financial as well as academic background shapes an individual’s perception on justice. According to the present legal aspect, polygamy is a crime, and her husband can be sued and punished. But for her, these legal standards or provisions do not have much meaning.
THEORETICAL REFLECTION AND CONCLUSION
From the findings and analysis of cases studied, it clearly depicts the fact that in most cases, women are likely to face more obstacles than men due to their less ownership on access to land, education and several other productive resources which can strengthen their capabilities. In most of the family, women are engaged on household work such as caring, feeding and cleaning for the family. Besides, women are mostly involved on physical labour to make their earning.
As men, women can do productive and essential contributions to society if they are provided opportunity. Poverty as well as illiteracy eradication strategies must consider women as active agents. If women are vulnerable, it is only because they have been made vulnerable through the carried out historical process such as legal, economic, cultural, sexual and social structure since centuries. The existing gender discrimination kept women at risk of social justice. Equal opportunity is necessary to enhance the capacity building of the women. Getting communities out of poverty will depend on women’s leadership as well as equal access to education, property, etc through which women can enjoy their reproductive, sexual and equal rights in the family.
In the initial stages of this research, the researcher was contemplating on the potential causal relationship between society and economy, and was speculating the limits of a person’s understanding of justice in a given social setting. Law and justice used to be known as formal social institutions and were considered to have universal application. But, as the research began, it was clear that law and justice are not uniformly embedded in people’s lives as in the cases of the selected women. In the cases studied for this research, then it became intriguing in knowing how these different perceptions of justice came from the women studied.
The actual finding of this study was that there was a relation between society and our perceptions of law and justice, and Marxism could offer a useful theoretical insight in finding out the linkages between our society and law. For Marxists, the existing economic structure shape society which finally make an impact on individual member of the society. In the case study, investigation related to economic matter seems to be the chief factor that determines the justice perception of women.
The study has found the reason regarding the women who do not seek for legal solution. The study reveals that economic empowerment is the determining factor that governs one attitude of justice perception. Those families who are economically strong seek for legal solution whereas the one with weak economic background or those who are economically dependent give different meaning to justice. When there is no any solution for their independent individual life, there is no option rather than to expect support from their only husband for their livelihood. They are found simply waiting for the hope of reunion with their husband’s break out linkage with the second wife. So, the different access and perception to justice come from socio-economic structures, and in most of the cases here, the economic background relate to the husband’s land and property which finally determine the justice perception at individual level.
From the study carried out, there is seen less economic participation from the women which generally made them vulnerable. It has shown that women are unduly affected by the social conception such as women are considered as weaker than men which form the social construction of womanhood. There is need of awareness among both men and women to inspire towards equalizing the access for both men and women on available resources. Although there are state’s laws to protect women’s rights, there are mostly men in the implementing level. Administrative and other concerned authorities are overwhelmingly male-dominated, and the voices of women are rarely listened to in such places. Similarly, in local communities, public officers are reluctant to side with the woman against her husband or other male members of the community. Whereas in the case study conducted among the selected women, awareness of the equality between men and women is found critically absent from many societies with almost no divorce rate. But societal change also means changing relationships, and many men and women who are not able to get divorce due to various circumstances look outside their marriages for fulfillment.
Despite people being educated and legally aware through several kinds of mass as well as social media, injustice to women is deeply-rooted in society. Because of this injustice, they are deprived of their rights on the basis of their class, caste and gender. Women are already facing tremendous challenges. One can imagine the daily life condition and difficulties faced by women who belong to marginalized communities like the studied cases. It also shows that justice reinforces traditional hierarchies and discriminatory practices and exclude women from the decision making process.
From the cases studied, it was found that the women were used only on reproductive sector rather than on productive sectors. The women skill would have been used on production forces that can add value and transform capital into products for sale. Forces of production include instruments of production and raw materials, as well as the productive faculties of producing agents manifested by strength, skill, and knowledge. G. A. Cohen (2000, p. 37) argues that instruments of production and raw materials have productive forces, whereas labor power is a productive force that can easily be fulfilled with the active participation of the women.
The case study regarding justice to women explores some of the challenges and solutions for women’s access to justice in diverse legal systems. It shows that women face structural and cultural barriers to access justice – insufficient knowledge of rights and remedies, illiteracy or poor literacy, and lack of resources or time to participate in justice processes. Even where women can access the formal justice, they are not found to be involved on the process particularly with regards to property rights, inheritance, divorce and child custody, and spousal abuse.
Speaking on legal empowerment as a means to improve both justice and quality of justice for women, the study has found out about the need of easy and quick access on both formal and informal justice systems especially for the women. Legal empowerment approaches share one core concept: using the law to enable disadvantaged groups to access justice and realize basic rights. They include legal education; legal aid services; and rights awareness. These highlight a variety of lessons for development practitioners, both in terms of engagement with the informal legal sector and more generally, for the use of legal empowerment and top-down / bottom-up strategies. From the case study, it also reveals that the daughter’s parents decide for all her activities and even for marital life. This has created the days of the women after marital life with almost no autonomy but filled of inferiority.
From this study, it was found that the studied women have practically no control over their lives. The women at no stage of their lives are independent: when they are born, they are controlled by their father, after marriage by their husbands, and after widowhood by their sons. This process goes on in a cyclical way, with their daughters experiencing the same. Their lack of access to decision making in the home or society and their limited control over economic access is a key obstacle to their empowerment. Lack of economic power and financial independence leaves women to be vulnerable. They neither have effective rights to property, nor any access to capacity building task. Strict traditional customs as well as domestic violence ensure that women are mostly restricted to home, which is an obstacle for government and NGO run programs focusing on women and their empowerment.
Now, the question arises as why the women despite of suffering from their husband have not taken any steps for divorce? Divorce states the process of completely breaking down of marriage either in social or legal context. But in the case of the women, it was not found as they do not tend to get remarry. Divorce let freedom to remarry whereas separation may not allow it. Occupational mobility and the situation of agreement to the opposite sex, low age at marriage and immaturity, adjustment problems of new wives, traditional and modern expectations between the mother-in-law and sister-in-law are found as causal factors in the present study. Similarly, legal provisions for divorce support such kind of spouses who are felt very uneasy to stay together in the family (Acharya, 2005).
One of the key problems for the achievement of equality among the women lies in creating inability of many women to use existing legal standards to realize their rights. The evidence generated from the study also suggests that legal empowerment approaches to enhance women’s access to justice may work well in making the life of women fair and improved condition. When women are informed of their rights and encouraged to discuss or challenge informal laws and practices, they can put pressure on customary justice systems to better protect basic rights. There are several barriers for the women such as legal, political, social, cultural, economic and psychological. Besides, taking support of legal procedures, there are families’ financial condition as well as socio cultural practices that perpetuate inequality in the community and the society (IDLO, 2013). From the studied women, it was found that they were more likely to draw on informal traditional values and belief such as socio-cultural systems that affirm their roles in relation to land, family members and the distribution of financial benefits, rather than human rights law. Efforts could therefore focus on increasing women’s capability approach and their understanding of these systems of knowledge that has been limiting their basic rights. Due to lack of understanding of the local cultural and historical context of the societal structure within which they live in, sustainable changes for women’s legal empowerment becomes always incapable to achieve their legal goals.
Some empirical evidences show that where equality between men and women exists in the society, the economies grow faster, poverty reduction strategies work effectively, and it becomes easier to achieve sustainable development (World Bank, 2012). It also enhances the possibilities of achieving the targets of Millennium Development Goals 11 (MDGs). Thus, it is a dire need to address the gender issues properly and effectively.
The study also confirms about the need of program designed to address women’s rights in informal justice systems that remained a highly sensitive issue. Such program requires thorough knowledge of the existing social structure, economic, cultural and political context in which the informal system operates. Moreover, legal empowerment approaches in both the formal and informal justice sectors are likely to be more sustainable when a) they are locally owned; and b) when they are coupled with top-down reforms to ensure domestic laws and regulations are in line with international legal standards on gender equality.
Women cannot find justice. They are denied the essence of the rule of law that we are all equal and equally protected by the existing law. The law and justice fails to protect them from gender based violence as it clearly depict from the cases studied. In many settings, women still suffer from gender discrimination as well as violence which are hidden to the state’s boundary. Even when the women have rights in several cases, the women do not know about their rights. In addition, economic, socio-cultural barriers, poverty, poor access to available resources, lack of confidence due to illiteracy, social stigma, family matters as well as social pressure, fear of violence among the women clearly shows us the reason behind the women failure to turns to courts and legal system for justice.
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 a woman who has come to feel helpless and passive in the face of misfortune or ill-treatment by husband and in-laws family.