This research project seeks to explore the relationship between legal pluralism – the multiple norms, institutions, practices and beliefs that characterise post-colonial societies (including indigenous customary law, national law and international law), and indigenous women´s access to justice and security in Latin America.

Through a combination of desk-based study and qualitative, collaborative research in a number of countries in Latin America, this project will analyze the strategies adopted by indigenous social movements, and particularly by organized indigenous women to secure greater gender justice within contexts of complex legal pluralism. Through a range of specific, grounded studies focused on particular social movements, it will explore how contemporary legal pluralism affects gender justice and specifically women’s access to justice and security. The research will build on well established collaborative relationships between the named researchers and indigenous social movements in Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia. It aims, therefore, not only to generate new comparative knowledge on these processes, but also to build on, strengthen and enhance indigenous peoples´ efforts to secure rights, justice and security in direct research collaboration with indigenous social movements.


The project will address a number of specific questions:

  • How do different legal forums – and the dynamics between them – affect women´s access to justice and security?
  • Does complex legal plurality and legal decentralisation support or prejudice greater gender justice?
  • How do different actors respond to human rights mechanisms and discourses for securing gender rights?
  • How do the strategies of social movements support –or mitigate against- greater access to justice and security for indigenous women?
  • How can a reduction of intra-familial violence and an increase in women´s security and access to justice be secured in contexts of complex legal pluralism?
  • What national and international norms and institutions prove critical for improving indigenous women´s access to justice and security?
  • What state policies promote or impede improved access to justice and security with greater gender justice?


The core research aims of the project are:

1)      To analyze the efficacy of organized social movements´ strategies for securing greater gender justice in the context of the struggle for recognition of indigenous peoples´ collective rights.

2)      To examine indigenous social movements´ strategies for increasing access to justice and security, with a particular focus on the gendered dimensions of these processes.

3)      To consider the extent to which situations of complex legal plurality can favour or disadvantage possibilities for greater gender justice, and specifically for women´s access to justice and security.