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African Union: Rights of Women Protocol Adopted

African Union: Adoption of the Protocol on the Rights of Women - positive step towards combating discrimination and violence against women

The African Union's (AU) adoption of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa is a significant step in the efforts to promote and ensure respect for the rights of African women.

Adopted on 11 July 2003, at the second summit of the African Union 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 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.

In March 2003, Amnesty International urged the African Union ministerial meeting convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to agree on the measures to be included in the Protocol to include provisions that would ensure greater accountability of states to eliminate prejudices and practices that impede African women's rights to equality and freedom from discrimination. The organization also reiterated the need for African governments to send a clear message that the human rights of women are inalienable, integral and indivisible part of internationally human rights.

"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 International said.

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," Amnesty International said.

Background

The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa was adopted on 11 July 2003 by the Assembly of the African Union second summit in Maputo Mozambique.

The Protocol will enter into force thirty (30) days after the deposit of the fifteenth (15) instrument of ratification. The Protocol will complement the African Charter 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.

The implementation of the Protocol will 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 realization of the rights recognized in the Protocol. The first African Union Ministerial Conference in May 2003 in Kigali, Rwanda calls upon member states of the AU to take all necessary measures for early adoption, ratification of the Protocol.


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