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Article

Access_open A Turn to Legal Pluralism in Rule of Law Promotion?

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 3/4 2013
Keywords legal pluralism, rule of law promotion, legal reform, customary law, non-state legal systems, donor policy
Authors Dr.mr Ronald Janse
AbstractAuthor's information

    Over the past 25 years, international organizations, NGOs and (mostly Western) states have spent considerable energy and resources on strengthening and reforming legal systems in developing countries. The results of these efforts have generally been disappointing, despite occasional successes. Among donors, one of most popular explanations of this failure in recent years is that rule of law promotion has wrongly focused almost exclusively on strengthening the formal legal system. Donors have therefore decided to 'engage' with informal justice systems. The turn to legal plu‍ra‍lism is to be welcomed for various reasons. But it is also surprising and worrisome. It is surprising because legal pluralism in developing countries was a fact of life before rule of law promotion began. What made donors pursuing legal reform blind to this reality for so long? It is worrisome because it is not self-evident that the factors which have contributed to such cognitive blindness have disappeared overnight. Are donors really ready to refocus their efforts on legal pluralism and 'engage' with informal justice systems? This paper, which is based on a review of the literature on donor engamenet with legal pluralism in so-called conflict affected and fragile states, is about these questions. It argues that 7 factors have been responsible for donor blindness regarding legal pluralism. It questions whether these factors have been addressed.


Dr.mr Ronald Janse
Ronald Janse is Associate Professor of Law, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Article

Access_open Unity in Multiplicity: Shared Cultural Understandings on Marital Life in a Damascus Catholic and Muslim Court

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 3/4 2013
Keywords Syria, personal status law, Eastern Catholic law, patriarchal family, marital obligations
Authors Esther Van Eijk Ph.D.
AbstractAuthor's information

    Family relations in Syria are governed by a plurality of personal status laws and courts. This plurality manifests itself on a variety of levels, including statutory, communal and individual. In this article, the author argues that, albeit this plurality, Syrian personal status law is also characterised by the prevalence of shared, gendered norms and views on marital life. Based on fieldwork conducted in a Catholic and a shar’iyya personal status courts in Damascus in 2009, the author examines the shared cultural understandings on marital relationships that were found in these courts, and as laid down – most importantly – in the respective Catholic and Muslim family laws. The article maintains that the patriarchal family model is preserved and reinforced by the various personal status laws and by the various actors which operated in the field of personal status law. Finally, two Catholic case studies are presented and analysed to demonstrate the importance and attachment to patriarchal gender norms in the Catholic first instance court of Damascus.


Esther Van Eijk Ph.D.
Esther Van Eijk is a postdoc researcher at Maastricht University, The Netherlands. She recently defended (September 2013) her Ph.D. thesis entitled ‘Family Law in Syria: A Plurality of Laws, Norms, and Legal Practices’ at Leiden University, the Netherlands. This study is based on her PhD fieldwork (including interviews and participant observation) conducted in March-April 2008, and October 2008-July 2009 in Syria.
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