My doctoral research, through an in-depth analysis of access to justice, offers a critical analysis of the mainstream debate over the worldwide models. The thesis claims that existing Western models have excessively highlighted the need to strengthen state’s institutions to provide ‘access’ to mechanisms of ‘justice’. Access to justice as a complex phenomenon, however, incorporates various conceptions of ‘justice’ as an index for ‘access’ on one side and individuals as ‘users of justice’ on the other side. The thesis seeks to fill the gap in the literature by reviewing some of the research studies in the field of access to justice to highlight similarities and gaps between contextual framework of Islamic and Western correlated legal concepts including definitional analysis in support of and/ or against access to justice model worldwide. Consideration was also given to a comparative framework for conceptualizing access to justice from Islamic Law perspectives.
My work evaluates the historical development of access to justice in the Islamic Republic of Iran as a case study (issues such as performance of the justice sector, judicial independence, efficiency and accessibility, normative protection) together with an analysis of barrier from the users of justice’s perspective. The thesis also discusses access of women to justice in Iran with particular reference to legal empowerment. My doctoral thesis presents the findings of a survey study on women’ perceptions of access to justice (first study of its kind). This study is designed to focus on women basic legal knowledge; their knowledge of Islamic rights, their knowledge of legal action, their familiarity with the role of the courts, police, and other formal institutions, their familiarity with the legal procedure, their perceptions of cultural barriers, the issues that influence their preference for mechanisms of formal or alternative dispute solutions; and their level of satisfaction with chosen courses of action.