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  • Justine Appleton

Frames of Justice: What Shapes Our Understanding of Fairness and Discrimination?

In today's world, fairness and discrimination are two of the most pressing issues that shape our understanding of justice. To ensure fairness and put an end to discrimination, we need to take a closer look at frames of justice and how they inform our perception of these concepts. Below we’ll explore our ideas about fairness and discrimination, and how we can use them to create a more equitable society. 



A judge's gavel
Human rights ensure that individuals are treated with dignity and respect.


Understanding Justice


Justice is a nuanced concept with a vital role in shaping our society. It goes beyond simply following the law. It covers the principles of fairness and equality. We must consider the intersection of justice with human rights and civil rights. 


Human rights ensure that individuals are treated with dignity and respect. They guarantee our fundamental freedoms and protect us from discrimination. Civil rights safeguard our rights as citizens and promote equality under the law. Thus, they are required to uphold justice. 


Understanding justice means exploring how these principles are applied in various settings. It helps us to shape our perception of fairness and discrimination. This aids in addressing and reducing the inequalities in our society.



A statue of a blindfolded lady holding the scales of justice
Cultural biases and stereotypes can seep into legal decision-making processes.


The Influence of Culture on Justice


Culture plays a significant role in shaping our understanding of justice. Different cultural values, beliefs, and traditions can influence how we perceive fairness and discrimination. For example, in indigenous cultures, justice often emphasizes the restoration of harmony and balance within the community rather than punitive measures. 


This approach focuses on healing and reconciliation rather than punishment. Understanding the influence of culture on justice allows us to recognise the diverse perspectives and approaches to justice that exist within our society. Cultural norms and practices also shape how individuals from different backgrounds engage with the justice system. 


For instance, cultural differences in communication styles or views on authority may impact interactions with law enforcement or court proceedings. It is therefore essential to be mindful of these cultural nuances to ensure that the justice system is fair and accessible to all individuals, regardless of their cultural background.


Moreover, cultural biases and stereotypes can seep into legal decision-making processes, leading to systemic discrimination. It is crucial to address these biases and work towards a justice system that is inclusive and equitable for everyone. By recognising the influence of culture on justice, we can create a more culturally responsive and fair legal system that respects and values the diversity of our society.



A judge in the court room
Individuals from marginalised communities may face systemic bias and discrimination.


The Role of Social Identity in Justice


Our social identities, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status, influence how we experience the world and how society perceives us. This affects how we are treated within the justice system.


Individuals from marginalised communities may face systemic bias and discrimination. This means unequal treatment in the legal system. Individuals from privileged backgrounds, on the other hand, have access to better legal representation. Understanding the role of social identity in justice helps us to recognise and challenge the biases within the justice system. This way, we can ensure equity for all, sensitive to their social identities.


Justice and Intersectionality


Power and privilege shape our understanding of justice. Injustice stems from the unequal distribution of power. Those with more privilege gain advantages within the justice system. Power dynamics within society can influence legal outcomes. 


Marginalised communities are often at a disadvantage, lacking the power and resources to challenge systemic biases. We can reshape narratives of justice by bringing the voices of marginalised groups together. Those who advocate for equal representation and dismantling structures that increase privilege are champions of ensuring justice.


Intersectionality is a critical lens through which we can understand justice deeply. Individuals embody multiple social identities simultaneously. These identities intersect and interact to shape their experiences of discrimination and privilege. 


For example, a woman of colour may face discrimination based on both her race and gender, experiencing a unique form of injustice that cannot be fully understood by solely examining race or gender separately. By including an intersectional understanding of justice, we can address how oppression and privilege intersect. 



Woman of colour speaking with the judge
A woman of colour may face discrimination based on both her race and gender...


Final thoughts


To summarise, these different frames of justice help us gain an elaborate understanding of the factors that shape our perception of fairness and discrimination. This knowledge helps us work towards creating a more equitable and just society for all. 


One important frame of justice is cultural influences. Culture plays a significant role in shaping our understanding of fairness and discrimination. Different cultural values, beliefs, and traditions can influence our perception of justice and what we consider to be fair or unfair. By recognising the influence of culture on justice, we can better understand and appreciate the diverse perspectives that exist within our society.


Our social identities can also shape how we are treated within the justice system. Understanding the role of social identity in justice helps us to recognise and challenge the biases and inequalities that exist within the system.


Most importantly, the lens of intersectionality acknowledges that individuals embody multiple social identities that intersect and interact to shape their experiences of discrimination and privilege. By considering intersectionality, we can better address how different forms of oppression and privilege intersect and influence our understanding of fairness and discrimination.

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