Legal pluralism: working with different justice systems to ensure children’s rights
Legal pluralism refers to contexts where several legal systems coexist. This is the case in Lebanon, where Terre des hommes (Tdh) is particularly interested in children’s access to justice concerning civil matters like family law.
In the Middle East, formal justice systems are governed by secular norms as well as religious norms and values. In Lebanon, family law cases such as marriage, divorce, pensions, visitation and custody are exclusively managed by religiously-based state standards.
Meeting the needs of children involved in family law cases
Tdh launched a collaboration with religious courts in Lebanon in 2017. The purpose of our research in religious courts is to highlight the particularly vulnerable position of children involved in parental disputes and the low consideration and protection given to their rights in family litigation processes, including their right to be heard. To this end, we consult with the judges on cases affecting minors. We identify cases of children involved in family law and provide training for judges to help make sure the best interest of the child is taken into account.
Tdh organises national and regional workshops that enable civil and religious judges, international family law judges and child justice experts to share best practices for protecting children's rights during these processes. In 2018, Tdh, along with a strong network of religious judges from seven different denominations, organised a workshop called "Strengthening child-friendly justice in family law proceedings," which promoted a child-friendly approach to justice in Lebanese personal status courts.
Our pilot project in Lebanon, which is a unique collaboration between the two justice systems, will be expanded on a regional scale.