Women's Access to Justice in the Middle East & North Africa: An Empirical Investigation
Economic Development and the Rise of Islamist Parties ERF 19th Annual Conference, March 3-5, 2013, AFESD, Kuwait
52 Pages Posted: 12 May 2018
Date Written: March 1, 2013
A key question in judicial reform concerns the extent to which male and female citizens have equal access to justice, and if they do not, where priority improvements should be targeted. For lack of hard data, most studies of women’s access to justice have used qualitative or anecdotal analyses. We test empirically gender differences in access to justice, using large sets of micro data obtained through comparative cross-country surveys covering roughly equal numbers of men and women. As a proxy for access to justice, we take citizens’ experience in contesting government misconduct. We measure the likelihood of filing a complaint regarding government misconduct, obtaining an unbiased outcome, and experiencing an effective process. We find that women do not file complaints as often as men do, i.e. they do not demand justice as often as men do. But when they do, few differences can be observed in the level and significance of results between men and women. As such, we cannot reject the null hypothesis that — at least on matters outside family laws — once in the system men and women are by and large treated equally. Differences in treatment can nonetheless be seen across groups of citizens defined on the basis of employment status, income, and education level. The paper concludes that if women are more encouraged to file complaints, this could (a) improve public accountability, as more frequent complaints improve government performance, and (b) establish a culture of accountability toward women that could spill over into other realms of justice such as family laws, which are a main source of gender-based discrimination in the Middle East and North Africa.
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