National Law and Indigenous Customary Law: The struggle for justice of indigenous women in Chiapas, Mexico
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During the course of the past two decades official projections of national identity in Mexico have undergone important changes. By the early 1990s a state discourse characteristic of post-revolutionary nationalism focused on the existence of a mestizo nation was superseded as legislation was approved which recognized Mexico as a multicultural nation. This was considered by many as a victory for the Mexican Indian movement and was also claimed as a triumph by the Zapatista guerrillas. However, this supposed shift to official acceptance of multiculturalism is far from free of contradictions. In some cases, ‘pro-indigenous’ legislation – provisions recognizing the right of indigenous people to their own norms and practices (usos y costumbres) – has, in practice, worked to the disadvantage of weak and marginalized groups within indigenous communities. In particular, indigenous women now face the dual task of defending their rights to their own culture vis-à-vis the Mexican state, while at the same time questioning essentialist and static perceptions of ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’ within the Indian movement that have negative implications for the full realization of women’s rights. This paper analyzes some of the dilemmas facing indigenous women in Chiapas in their struggle for rights within the new macro-political context of multiculturalism. Linked to this, it examines the ways in which certain academic paradigms used to analyze indigenous normative systems can impede the development of proposals for reform to ensure greater access to justice for indigenous women.