Between the Dock and a Hard Place: Hazards and Opportunities of Legal Pluralism for Indigenous Women in Ecuador



This article examines the challenges and opportunities of indigenous justice for women in Ecuador. The legal recognition of indigenous justice is a major component of democratization in the region. Yet it also raises the risk of institutionalizing detrimental gender biases within indigenous forms of law. Taking the Remache case as a point of departure, this article identifies some of the fault lines in legal pluralism and women's conflicted relationship with it. Rather than rejecting customary law, however, women advocate for their rights within it—lobbying for gender parity within indigenous justice in the 2008 Constitutional Assembly. As women's support for indigenous justice relocates legal authority, it also challenges conventional practices of state sovereignty. To understand the attractiveness of legal pluralism for women and its impact on the state, this study explores the confines of feminist alliances, the accessibility of indigenous justice, and its implications for state sovereignty.