Protocol on the rights of women in Africa
Source: Pambazuka

Entered into force on 25 November 2005:

Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa
African Commission on Human and People's Rights
On 26 October 2005, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa received its 15th ratification, meaning the Protocol entered into force on 25 November 2005. This marked a milestone in the protection and promotion of women’s rights in Africa, creating new rights for women in terms of international standards. This groundbreaking Protocol, for the first time in international law, explicitly sets forth the reproductive right of women to medical abortion when pregnancy results from rape or incest or when the continuation of pregnancy endangers the health or life of the mother. In another first, the Protocol explicitly calls for the legal prohibition of female genital mutilation.

Background

Pambazuka News offered an exhaustive information on the Protocol on the Rights of Women, several reports, documents and the call to African leaders to act now to ratify the Protocol and honor their commitments to women.

The Protocol for the Rights of Women in Africa as it stands now is a piece of paper without any force. By ratifying it, governments will be taking the first step towards recognizing the equal worth of women. Implementation will then be critical.
The Protocol makes many equality advances for women under international law, including affording special protection for vulnerable groups such as widows, the disabled and those from marginalised groups. It is only by protecting and promoting the rights of all its peoples that Africa will be able to access its full resources and lead the continent to prosperity.

The Beijing +10 review process offers African governments an opportunity to demonstrate their determination to lead their peoples' to the path to development. One concrete benchmark on this path to development is the seriousness that they give to the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. If they ratify it now they will have a concrete achievement to bring to the table later this year when the continent comes together for the Beijing +10 conference, as a gesture of recognition for the human rights of women as a priority agenda of the continent.

We call on African leaders to honor their commitments to women and ACT NOW to ratify the Protocol! (By Faiza Jama Mohamed)


Petition on the Ratification of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa
At the African Union meeting in Maputo in July 2003, the AU adopted the "Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa". The Protocol offers significant potential to guarantee the rights of women. But in order to come into force it needs to be ratified by at least 15 countries and by June 2, only one country (the Comoros) had ratified it. In the coming weeks leading up to the 2004 AU summit in July, an alliance of Fahamu, Credo for Freedom of Expression & Associated Rights, Equality Now, the African Women's Development and Communication Network (Femnet) and Oxfam will be collecting signatures for the following petition to be presented at the African Union Heads of State Summit in Addis Ababa in July 2004. Go to the Petition

Launch of Petition to the African Union
The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights recognizes the importance of women’s rights through three main provisions. However, these provisions are not adequate to address the rights of women. Mainstream international human rights standards are defined in relation to men's experience, and stated in terms of discrete violations of rights in the public realm whereas most violations of women’s human rights occur in private. The private/public dichotomy that is detrimental to women continues to exist. In most African countries, the same constitutional provisions that guarantee gender equality allow exceptions in the so-called “private law” areas of customary law, personal law and family law. Serious violations of women’s human rights such as violence against women and provisions that discriminate against them are found in that private sphere. By Mary Wandia, June 2004.
See report

Unfinished business - African leaders must act now to ratify the Protocol on the Rights of Women
The Protocol for the Rights of Women in Africa as it stands now is a piece of paper without any force, points out Faiza Jama Mohamed. Even though the campaign by activists for the text of The Protocol on the Rights of African Women represented a successful model of cooperation among national, regional and international women's NGOs the rights it represent remain hypothetical until it is ratified. See full text

A plea for ratification
Ratifying the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa the preservation of African values is placed with women, "the custodians of legends and traditions known in our time for their unending fight for peace, liberty, dignity, justice and solidarity". Zeinab Kamil Ali believes that this is argument enough to encourage the Heads of States to emulate the Republic of Comoros in ratifying the Protocol. See full text

The entry into force of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa: a challenge for Africa and women
The entry into force of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa will be an important step towards entrenching the human rights of women. But Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson says that it is important to note that it is a long way to the 15 ratifications necessary for the entry into force of the protocol. “Every human rights defender, man or woman, should feel concerned and lobby governmental and parliamentary authorities in order to convince them to ratify the protocol on women's rights and take steps for its effective implementation.” See full text

African states: equal to the task?
Hannah Forster looks at the background and scope of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, highlighting some of the landmark provisions and what states will commit themselves once they ratify the Protocol. She concludes by appealing to states to stand up and perform their duty. See full text

Time to take count of Africa's daughters
Good is no good where better can be attained, states Gichinga Ndirangu. Ratifying the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa is an important step, but domesticating its provisions into national law is the next crucial step. See full text

Making governments accountable
Political expediency and global image are the reasons why governments ratify international human rights instruments, says Dr. Sylvia Tamale. But by ratifying governments are pledging to adhere to all the provisions of any given instrument. In this context, it is the duty of citizens to make governments accountable. See full text

“It is not a gift to offer women, it is their right”
Women that are free from violence, educated and who fully participate in decision making at all levels: these are some of the results expected by the implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. And, asks Morissanda Kouyate, which country would not want that for its citizens? See full text

The reality… and the paperwork
War and violence, destitution, disease, poverty and discrimination - it is often African women who carry the burden of Africa's economic, social and political crisis. In July 2003 a piece of paper with a preamble and 29 articles was passed by the African Union that was hailed as major progress in the struggle for the rights of women on the continent. But what exactly is the reality facing African women? And how does the paperwork begin to address the realities? Pambazuka News looks at ten areas effecting women's rights and what the protocol says about them. See full text




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