Whose justice, whose alternative?

Publication Subtitle

Locating women’s voice and agency in alternative dispute resolution responses to intimate partner violence

Publication year


Publication Author

Brian Heilman, Nastasia Paul-Gera, Tina Musuya and Sara Siebert

Intimate partner violence against women is a complex, enormously prevalent crime with devastating effects on women’s safety, health, and well being. With one out of three women worldwide experiencing this violence, its magnitude presents complex challenges to justice systems when survivors of violence seek to formally prosecute perpetrators. Further exacerbating this challenge are the varying individual, family, and community ideas about whether and how such violence – considered a private family matter in many cultural and social contexts – should be made public at all, let alone prosecuted.

Feminist activists insist on a core ethical standard that women survivors of intimate partner violence determine their own course of action in response to violence. But significant obstacles exist in every direction survivors of intimate partner violence may turn.

Both anecdotal and empirical evidence suggests that, in the face of these obstacles, a significant proportion of women survivors of intimate partner violence choose community-based alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms to help address the violence they are facing. Research finds that as many as 80 percent of disputes made public in the Global South are addressed through the informal justice system.

This report examines how well ADR mechanisms have addressed violence for women around the world by examining the following:

  • What do ADR responses to intimate partner violence look like, particularly in the Global South?
  • To what extent do these approaches prioritize the voice and agency of women survivors of intimate partner violence?
  •  What examples exist of ADR approaches that better prioritize the voice and agency of women survivors of intimate partner violence?