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Why are legal aspects of gender equality important A clear and well-enforced legal system provides the rules that coordinate economic and social interactions Laws provide the basis for the recognition protection and enforcement of rights and are the means to transfer property to limit corruption and discrimination and to provide an impartial system for dispute resolution Important gender equality issues exist in the legal systems of all countries In many parts of the world laws discriminate against women by constraining the conditions of their employment restricting their ownership of productive resources or limiting their rights to travel or to political participation In other cases the laws are equitable but women do not know their rights and the laws are not enforced Mixed legal traditions In many of the Banks borrower countries the legal environment is complicated by the existence of multiple legal systems In the past it was assumed that social and economic activities fell neatly into the domain of one or another system with commercial activities most often under the jurisdiction of statutory law and issues relating to property rights land tenure inheritance and family relations covered by customary law Today these categories are no longer so clearly defined For example where women are constrained by customary law in their rights to inherit and own land they are unable to use this important resource as collateral to gain credit or as an input into production even if the laws governing markets are equitable Statutory legal systems too may be highly discriminatory In many cases the decentralization informality and focus on resolution rather than punishment associated with customary law make it more favorable and accessible to women Some countries such as Ethiopia are drawing lessons from allowing a mutually agreed upon choice of legal system for dispute resolution Thematic Group on Gender and Law The World Bank continuously assesses the extent to which womens economic opportunities are limited by laws policies practices and institutions To
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