A UN report [text, PDF] released on Wednesday concludes that informal justice systems must be used as part of broader initiatives to ensure that human rights of people in developing countries are protected. The report shows that many groups of people, including women, children and minorities, benefit from informal justice systems because they empower them to make claims on issues such as divorce, custody and property rights. According to the report, "[informal justice systems] may be more accessible than formal mechanisms and may have the potential to provide quick, relatively inexpensive and culturally relevant remedies." The report also states that, although both formal and informal justice systems can violate human rights, informal justice systems should be recognized as important components of the legal system in countries that use them because they tend to deal with issues that directly affect women and children, such as divorce and custody disputes.
The UN has been working to eliminate discrimination against women and minorities in justice systems throughout the world. Earlier this week UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on world leaders to increase efforts to allow women access to their justice systems [JURIST report]. The UN also urged [JURIST report] Tunisia's government last month to ensure that its laws protect women's rights in accordance with international standards. Last year the UN also called for an integration of a gender perspective [JURIST report] into criminal justice systems to allow equal access to protections for women.