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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 48851 Find in a Library
Title: JUSTICE - A WOMAN BLINDFOLDED? (FROM WOMEN IN THE COURTS, 1978, BY WINIFRED L HEPPERLE AND LAURA CRITES - SEE NCJ-48844)
Author(s): L NADER; J COLLIER
Corporate Author: National Ctr for State Courts
Publications Dept
United States of America
Date Published: 1978
Page Count: 20
Sponsoring Agency: National Ctr for State Courts
Williamsburg, VA 23185
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: SEVERAL SOCIETIES ARE USED AS MODELS TO EXAMINE THE POWER OF COURTS TO AMELIORATE OR IMPROVE WOMEN'S CONDITION AND THE ABILITY OF SOCIAL CONDITIONS TO LIMIT THE EFFECTIVENESS OF LAW AND CONSEQUENCE OF LEGAL CHANGE.
Abstract: TWO MEXICAN INDIAN SOCIETIES, THE MAYA AND THE ZAPOTEC, ARE DESCRIBED IN ORDER TO ILLUSTRATE WOMEN'S USE OF COURTS FOR PROMOTING THEIR WELFARE. IN BOTH SOCIETIES, WOMEN WERE THE MOST FREQUENT COMPLAINANTS IN COURT EVEN THOUGH JUDGES WERE MALE. IN MAYA COMMUNITIES, WOMEN USUALLY APPEAR AT COURT IN ORDER TO DIVORCE THEIR HUSBANDS. THIS ACTION IS PRECIPITATED BY A BEATING IN MOST CASES. A DESCRIPTION OF MARRIED LIFE FOR MAYAN YOUTH EXPLAINS THE FREQUENCY OF THESE SAME INCIDENTS. ALTHOUGH A DIVORCE IS SELDOM GRANTED THE WIFE, SHE IS ALLOWED TO AIR HER GRIEVANCES AND THEN THE FAMILY ELDERS OF THE WIFE AND THE HUSBAND MEDIATE A SETTLEMENT. THE WIFE USUALLY GAINS SOME KIND OF CONCESSION. THE WOMEN'S USE OF THE COURT, THEREFORE, LEADS TO AN INDIVIDUAL CONCESSION, BUT NO BASIC STRUCTURAL CHANGE IN THE TREATMENT OF WIVES IS REALIZED. IN FACT, INDIVIDUAL ACTION DISSIPATES THE ANGER OF ABUSED WIVES AND REDUCES CHANCES FOR SOCIAL CHANGE. THE COURT PROVIDES AN EFFECTIVE FORUM FOR DISPUTE SETTLEMENT IN THE ZAPOTEC COMMUNITY. MARITAL PROBLEMS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE TAKEN TO COURT BY THE WIFE, WHO IS MAKING UP FOR HER LACK OF POWER, THAN BY THE HUSBAND, WHO IS RELUCTANT TO ADMIT TO INABILITY TO CONTROL HIS WIFE. WOMEN WIN MOST OF THEIR CASES; AGAIN INDIVIDUAL SOLUTIONS ARE PROVIDED, AND PROMOTION OF STRUCTURAL CHANGE IS IGNORED. AMONG THE KANURI IN NIGERIA, MALES HAVE LEGAL SUPERIORITY IN THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT. IN REALITY, THIS AUTHORITY IS UNDERCUT IN SITUATIONS WHERE THE HUSBAND IS ECONOMICALLY DEPENDENT ON HIS WIFE. THE RISE IN LIVING STANDARDS AND SALARIES BEING EARNED BY MEN NOW WILL REDUCE THEIR DEPENDENCY ON THEIR WIVES. WOMEN'S STATUS WILL CONFORM MORE CLOSELY TO THE JURAL RULES OF SOCIETY IN THIS INSTANCE. THE ACTUAL LAW HAS REMAINED CONSTANT, ALTHOUGH COMPLIANCE TO THE RULE WAS INFLUENCED BY SOCIOECONOMIC FACTORS. IN EAST AFRICA, GENUINE ATTEMPTS AT RAISING THE STATUS OF WOMEN RESULTED IN A WORSENING OF THE FEMALE CONDITION. BEFORE THE LEGAL REFORM, WOMEN RAISED ALL THE FOOD NEEDED TO SUPPORT THEMSELVES AND THEIR CHILDREN, ALTHOUGH THE LAND WAS LEGALLY POSSESSED BY THE HUSBAND. WHEN THEY GAINED THE RIGHT TO OWN LAND, CHOOSE THEIR OWN HUSBANDS, AND SUE FOR SUPPORT, THEY LOST ACCESS TO THE LAND WHICH THEY HAD FARMED. WOMEN IN THE SOGA COMMUNITY IN UGANDA WERE A DESIRABLE PRODUCT FOR POLYGYNOUS HUSBANDS. THEY LIVED INDEPENDENTLY FROM THEIR MATE AND FARMED THE LAND HE WAS BOUND TO GIVE THEM. A MAN'S WEALTH DEPENDED ON THE NUMBER OF WIVES HE WAS ABLE TO ATTAIN. THE RESULTING COMPETITION AMONG MEN GAVE WOMEN POWER OVER THEIR HUSBANDS. THE EFFECTS OF MISSIONARIES' ATTEMPTS AT ABOLISHING POLYGYNY, THE INTRODUCTION OF CASH CROPS FOR EXPORT TO EUROPEAN MARKETS, AND THE INTRODUCTION OF WESTERN LAWS DESIGNED TO RAISE THE STATUS OF WOMEN OFTEN RESULTED IN CHANGE DETRIMENTAL TO FEMALE STATUS IN AFRICA. DATA GLEANED FROM THESE STUDIES OF WOMEN IN SMALL FOREIGN SOCIETIES ARE DISCUSSED IN RELATION TO WOMEN'S STRUGGLE FOR EQUAL STATUS WITH MEN IN THE UNITED STATES. NOTES AND A BIBLIOGRAPHY ARE INCLUDED. (DAG)
Index Term(s): Africa; Battered wives; Family courts; Females; Law reform; Mexico; Socioculture; United States of America
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http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=48851

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