Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2011

Publication Citation

18 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 65 (2011)


Customary law often includes gender discriminatory rules that violate women's rights under constitutional equality guarantees. Dialogic democracy theory offers valuable tools that can help a legal system both to protect customary law and to protect the equality of its women citizens. By focusing on the need for challenge and on the dialogue within the cultural community, the legal system can create incentives and conditions to support the capacity of women to shape the customary law of their own communities. This approach is necessary because legal rights for women, when imposed by the larger society, often result in backlash within minority communities. In the long run, the structural inequality of women cannot be addressed by legal rights alone, but must be addressed by programs that seek to give women the power within their communities to achieve their own equality.

Human Rights and Legal Systems Across the Global South, Symposium, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Bloomington, Indiana. 9-10 April 2010.