Sexual violence and justice in the context of legal pluralism: lessons from the Gamo cultural setting

  • Getaneh Mehari
  • Getent Tadele
Keywords: derecima, Gamo, justice institutions, legal pluralism, sexual violence


Although the pros and cons of legal pluralism have been widely debated in academic discourses its benefits and limitations in settling sexual violence cases have not been adequately explored. Focusing on the Gamo cultural context, this study explores the implications of legal pluralism for the rights of sexually abused women. Diverse methods, including in-depth-interview and informal conversation, were employed to gather data during the ethnographic fieldwork carried out in the Gamo highlands. The findings reveal that the justice institutions functioning in the study area are informed by customary laws, state laws and the human rights norms. The plural legal settings are characterized by dynamic, competitive, and confusing scenarios in which women’s quests for justice are not adequately addressed. State justice institutions and government-affiliated women’s rights advocates have provided abused women with alternative avenues to customary justice institutions. However, state institutions marginalize customary institutions from addressing criminal cases (including sexual violence cases) despite the fact that they lack the capacity to adequately address similar cases. As a result, abused women hardly get justice as they continuously move between the available options and eventually trapped in a grey area left by the competing justice institutions.

Keywords: derecima, Gamo, justice institutions, legal pluralism, sexual violence


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2520-582X
print ISSN: 1810-4487