Gender Equality or Legal Pluralism? A Possible Puzzle in Rojava’s Legal System

Davide Grasso


Following the 2011 events, a government led by the PYD controls areas of the Northeast of Syria, lands inhabited by Kurds, Arabs and Syriacs. New institutions have been created and a new legal system is partly implemented since then. Linguistic and religious pluralism are crucial for the PYD’s ideology, contributing to an institutional system organized under the principle of roughly equal representation of the various communities in executive and legislative organs. Moreover, since 2014 the PYD-related Kongra Star (the women’s movement) developed a radical reform of Personal Status Law, aimed at pursuing another ideological pillar of the PYD, i.e. gender equality. The new law was followed by relevant amendments to the Syrian criminal code in 2016. This contribution aims at analyzing some implications of such reforms, arguing that they consciously contradict, to a certain extent, the praxis of legal pluralism. The Syrian state maintains a pluralistic legal/court system for at least some of Syria’s religious communities regarding Personal Status. The impulse on gender equality by the PYD and Kongra Star proved detrimental to the understanding of legal autonomy, as far as Family Law is concerned. This ostensible paradox may entail historical and political consequences.

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