- Human rights groups hail the African Union for its adoption of the Protocol on the Rights of Women as a "positive step towards combating discrimination and violence against women." African governments are now obliged to amend their constitutions or laws to stop all discrimination.
Adopted on 11 July, at the second summit of the African Union (AU) in Maputo, Mozambique, the Protocol, among others, requires African governments to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women in Africa and to promote equality between women and men.
The human rights group Amnesty International today hailed this as "a significant step in the efforts to promote and ensure respect for the rights of African women."
The Protocol also commits African governments - if they have not already done so - to include in their national constitutions and other legislative instruments these fundamental principles and ensure their effective implementation.
In addition, it obligates them to integrate a gender perspective in their policy decisions, legislation, development plans, and activities, and to ensure the overall well-being of women. The Protocol will enter into force after fifteen states have ratified.
The Protocol is to complement the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights in ensuring the promotion and protection of the human rights of women in Africa.
Its provisions include the right to life, integrity and security of person, right to participation in the political and decision making process, right to inheritance, right to food security and adequate housing, protection of women against harmful traditional practices and protection of women in armed conflict. Others include access of women to justice and equal protection before the law.
When ratified, many African governments thus will be obliged to implement wide ranging reforms, for example when it comes to women's participation in governance. The right to protection against harmful traditional practices will also oblige those governments that still have not prohibited female genital mutilation (FGM) to do so.
The implementation of the Protocol is to be supervised by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, the body established to monitor compliance of states parties to the African Charter, pending the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.
Also, states parties to the Protocol commit themselves to indicate in their periodic reports to the African Commission the legislative and other measures undertaken to ensure the full realisation of the rights recognised in the Protocol.
- Now that the Protocol has been adopted, African governments should show their commitment to end discrimination and violence against women by ensuring a speedy and full ratification to pave the way for a prompt entry into force of the instrument, and its effective implementation, Amnesty said in its statement today.
If fully ratified and implemented, the Protocol could become an important framework for ending impunity for all attacks on human rights of women in Africa." We urge all the fifty-three member states of the African Union to pursue the process of ratification within the shortest possible time," the group added.
The first African Union Ministerial Conference in May 2003 in Kigali, Rwanda called upon member states of the AU to take all necessary measures for early adoption, ratification of the Protocol.
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