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How to Integrate Universal Human Rights into Customary and Religious Legal Systems?

Journal of Legal Pluralism, Vol. 60, pp.5-40, 2010

36 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2010 Last revised: 12 Mar 2011

Yuksel Sezgin

Syracuse University

Date Written: December 25, 2010


Customary religious legal systems have been utilized in various areas from fighting against crime to such mundane affairs as setting the price of goods and services in the market place or regulating personal and familial relations. Against this background, the present study will exclusively focus its lenses on so-called personal status systems as quintessential example of customary religious legal systems in the contemporary world. In this context the article will first address the question of why modern nation-states (e.g., Israel, Egypt, and India) still continue to employ pluralistic personal status systems and differentiate among their citizens despite the fact that they were originally founded on premises of non-discrimination and equal treatment. Secondly, the study will explain how pluralistic organization of law and justice affect the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals living under such systems; how they cope with limitations imposed upon their rights by communal/religious institutions; and what tactics and strategies they use to navigate through the maze of personal law. Lastly, after demonstrating what approaches have been successfully used to bring about changes in the context of Israeli, Egyptian, and Indian personal status laws, the paper will identify key lessons and recommendations for the purpose of helping human rights activists, donors and members of programmatic communities who design intervention mechanisms and tools to incorporate universal human rights standards into customary and religious systems around the world.

Keywords: Legal Pluralism, Human Rights, Religious Law, Women's Rights, Customary Law, Israel, Egypt, India

Suggested Citation

Sezgin, Yuksel, How to Integrate Universal Human Rights into Customary and Religious Legal Systems? (December 25, 2010). Journal of Legal Pluralism, Vol. 60, pp.5-40, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Yuksel Sezgin (Contact Author)

Syracuse University ( email )

Syracuse, NY 13244
United States

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