Angela Melo

Activities as Special Rapporteur on Rights of Women


     Intersession Activity Report Commissioner Angela Melo
    Special Rapporteur of the Rights of Women in Africa

    40th Ordinary Session 
    African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
    Banjul, The Gambia, 15 to 29 November 2006

    PLAN OF THE REPORT:


    FIRST PART: State of ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

    SECOND PART: Activities carried out as Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa

    A) ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT DURING THE 39th ORDINARY SESSION

    B) ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT DURING THE AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT

    C) ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT DURING THE INTERSESSION

    • ACTIVITIES DURING THE NGO FORUM PRECEDING THE 40TH ORDINARY SESSION OF THE ACHPR
    • ACTIVITIES AT THE UNITED NATIONS
    • PROMOTIONAL ACTIVITIES IN VARIOUS MEMBER COUNTRIES OF THE AFRICAN UNION

    D) CURRENT ACTIVITIES

    • CURRENT STUDIES
    • PROJECTS FOR THE DISSEMINATION AND THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN

    E) COLLABORATION WITH OTHER INSTITUTIONS AND PARTNERS

    F) FACT FINDING AND PROMOTIONAL MISSIONS

    1.    The present Report sets forth the state of ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. It also describes the overall promotional activities on the Rights of Women which I carried out in my capacity as Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa between the 39th and 40th Ordinary Sessions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. It outlines the studies, the projects for the dissemination and implementation of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, as well as the relations of collaboration with the various partners, including South Africa.

     

    FIRST PART: State of ratifications of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, on the Rights of Women in Africa

     

    2.    The countries which have ratified the Protocol are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, the Comoro Islands, Djibouti, The Gambia, Libya, Lesotho, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal, Seychelles, Togo and Zambia. 20 countries party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights out of 53 have therefore ratified it.

    3.    The countries which have signed but not ratified are: Algeria, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Niger, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. 23 countries party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights out of 53 are therefore still at the signature stage.

    4.    The countries which have not signed are: Sudan, Sao Tome and Principe, Eritrea, Egypt, the Central African Republic, Botswana and Angola. 7 countries party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights out of 53 have therefore not yet signed the Protocol.

    5.      The Gambia had expressed reservations[1] during the ratification of the Protocol, but the Government recently lifted all the reservations.

    6.      Mauritius had expressed reservations with respect to Articles 6 b) and 6 c) on marriage. The country feels that it is not in a position to take the measures for moving the marriage age to 18 years, nor for monogamy to be encouraged as a privileged form of marriage, as that would conflict with the laws already in force. Mauritius also expressed reservations on Articles 10 (2) d) and 11 on the right to peace, asserting that this Article is not applicable to the country, specifically with regard to the refugee camps. Finally, Mauritius expressed reservations on Article 14 (2) c) on the choice of contraception methods, as currently a review of the legislation on abortion is underway.

    7.    South Africa has expressed reservations with respect to Article 4 j) on the death penalty which is justified by its non-application in South Africa, as the death penalty has been abolished. Another reservation was expressed with regard to Article 6 (d) on the registration of marriages. South Africa indicates that marriage should already be registered in conformity with the national laws in order for it to be recognized. Another reservation had been expressed with regard to Article 6 h) which confers equality between the man and the wife where the nationality of their children is concerned. South Africa considers that its national laws on citizenship are more advantageous for the children than this provision of the Protocol.

    8.      South Africa also formulated interpretative declarations. It clarified that the definition of violence against women in Article 1 f) of the Protocol has the same meaning and impact as that which is provided and interpreted by the Constitution of South Africa. Article 31, which explains that the Protocol can in no way violate the national laws which are most favorable for women, was also interpreted in a manner that would preclude the violation by the national laws of the rights guaranteed in the Protocol.  

     

    SECOND PART: Activities carried out as Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa.


    A) ACTIVITIES ENGAGED IN DURING THE 39TH ORDINARY SESSION

    Banjul, The Gambia, 11 to 25 May 2006

     

    9.    Presentation on the Protocol and the African Commission during a Seminar of Women Jurists of West Africa organized in parallel with the NGO Forum.

    10. Meeting with the representatives of the American Institute Brandeis to discuss a project on the translation of the Protocol into African languages.

    11. Meeting with a representative of Amnesty International[2] about studies on violence.

    12. Meeting with the Chairperson of the Association of Women Jurists of Chad[3] on the Hissen Habré affair and in particular on the participation of victims in the judicial process.

    13. Meeting with a representative of the International Francophone Organization to discuss a project for the dissemination of the Protocol in the francophone countries of the African Union.  

     

    B) ACTIVITIES ENGAGED IN DURING THE 7TH AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT

    Banjul, The Gambia, 22nd June to 2nd July 2006

     

    14. On the 22nd and 23rd June, participation in the Women’s Forum in preparation for the 7th Summit of the African Union.

    15. On the 23rd June 2006, participation in a meeting on the creation of a Steering Committee on Women, Governance and Development, set up by the Division of Gender and Development of the African Union.

    16. On the 24th and 25th June, participation in a public Forum and in a Symposium on the effects of cultural and traditional practices in the implementation of the instruments protecting the rights of women.  

    17. On the 26th and 27th June, participation in the consultative meeting on Gender organized by Femme Afrique Solidarité (FAS).

    18. During the African Union Summit, lobbying with all the representatives of the Member States present, including the Foreign Ministers present.

    19. During the African Union Summit, lobbying with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Niger pertaining to the rejection of the ratification of the Protocol by the National Assembly in June 2006. The Minister undertook to pursue the sensitization effort with the Parliament.

    20. During the African Union Summit, meeting with a representative of the Women’s NGO of Niger involved in a campaign for the ratification of the Protocol and encouragement for it to pursue the lobby with the Government of Niger to realize ratification of the Protocol.

    21. During the African Union Summit, meeting with the Executive Secretary of SADC aimed at establishing relations of cooperation with the Special reporting mechanism of the African Commission on the Rights of Women. A letter requesting the establishment of formal relations of cooperation had been sent to the SADC. This future cooperation is mentioned in section E of this Report.

     

    C) ACTIVITIES ENGAGED IN DURING THE INTERSESSION

    25th May to 15th November 2006


    • ACTIVITIES DURING THE NGO FORUM PRECEDING THE 40TH ORDINARY SESSION OF THE ACHPR

    22.  On the 13th November 2006, I was supposed to present an update of the Protocol as well as moderate at a group discussion on the Rights of Women. I had problems relating to my air ticket and I was unfortunately unable to arrive in time. A staff member of the Secretariat who assisted me represented me during the two occasions.

    • ACTIVITIES WITH THE UNITED NATIONS

    23. On the 11th and 12th May 2006, participation in the final phase of the preparation of the Study of the Secretary General of the United Nations on violence against women in New York, as a member of the Committee of Experts[4].

    • PROMOTIONAL ACTIVITIES IN DIFFERENT MEMBER COUNTRIES OF THE AFRICAN UNION

    24. On the 12th September 2006, in Nairobi, Kenya, presentation on the Protocol during a meeting on the review and planning of the Agenda of the SOAWR[5] Coalition.  Formulation of recommendations on the action to be taken for the continuation of the ratification of the Protocol by Member States of the African Union and for the implementation of the Protocol. A follow-up meeting of the Jurists is scheduled for early December 2006. Litigation will be studied as a strategy for the implementation of the Protocol.

    25. On the 13th September 2006, in Nairobi, Kenya, presentation of a Paper on the Act on sexual offences in Kenya which entered into force on the 21st July 2006. Underscoring the importance of recognition of sexual crimes by the Government of Kenya and urging the Jurists to provide special assistance to women victims to enable them assert their rights. During this meeting, a formal agreement was arrived at between the Members of SOAWR and a representative of the IPAS based in Nairobi, Kenya, with regard to collaboration on the dissemination and the implementation of the Protocol.

    26. On the 19th September 2006, in Cape Town, South Africa, I moderated a session in the context of a seminar on the experiences of national human rights institutions relative to the management of conflicts[6]. Presentation of the Commission to the representatives of the National Human Rights Institutions and I observed the need to sensitize them on the work of the Commission and to establish relations of collaboration. Discussions with the representative of the Custodian of the Citizen of South Africa on the subject of establishing relations between the offices of the Ombudsman and the Commission in the area of human rights. The consequences of these discussions could allow the Commission to reformulate its relations with the NGOs and the National Human Rights Institutions and to review its criteria for the granting of Observer and Affiliate Status.

    27. On the 22nd September 2006, in Maputo, Mozambique, participation in a Ministerial Conference of the African Union on sexual and reproductive rights, organized by Bénice Vawanas, Commissioner of the African Union. This Conference provided me with an opportunity to sensitize the Ministers of the African Union on the application of Article 14 of the Protocol on reproductive rights and to urge those States which had not already done so, to ratify the Protocol.

    28. During the intersession, review of a project submitted following a meeting which had been held in April 2006 in Maputo, Mozambique, which brought together members of the civil society and the Ministry for Women’s Affairs. The NGOs active in the field of Women’s Affairs introduced activities to be carried out according to their respective areas of competence. The review of the project should culminate in a second meeting during which I will give a report to allow follow-up on the integrated Plan of Action for the dissemination and implementation of the Protocol[7].

    29. On the 3rd October 2006, in Maputo, Mozambique: meeting with the Mozambican Minister of Employment. Discussions on:

    • The implementation of the Protocol by the Government, particularly with respect to Article 13 on economic and social rights;
    • The follow-up of the African Union’s Plan of Action on the promotion of employment for women and poor individuals;
    • The solemn Declaration by the African Union on Gender Equality[8];
    • The two new laws tabled for adoption in the National Assembly: One on employment which focuses on the current socio-economic stakes for the safeguarding of the rights of women recognised in the Constitution and in the ILO[9] Conventions. Another which aims at protecting the destitute social classes, like those who hold domestic10 jobs, and which aims at providing social protection to the women who work in the informal sector. Proposals made to the Minister to translate these laws into English and French for use by all the Members of the African Union.
    • The quest for funds for the creation of a business centre for women, which would notably take care of the professional training of rural women.

     30. On the 11th October 2006, in Maputo, Mozambique: meeting with the Minister of Fisheries of Mozambique to urge him to recognize the norms of Article 13 of the Protocol and to institutionalize a Division on Gender. An agreement was realized in this respect and I spoke about the lobby which I had undertaken with the Mozambican Government for the institutionalization of the Gender Units existing under some Ministries. Also, a pilot project is underway for the setting up of micro-credit organizations which deal with women.

    31. On the 12th October 2006, in Maputo, Mozambique: participation in a Seminar organized by the Mozambican Women’s NGO Forum pertaining to the new law on inheritance. Presentation of the Protocol, in particular about the rights of widows and observation that the contents of the Protocol had not been adequately taken into account during the drafting of the new law on inheritance. After my intervention, the right of the widow to stay in the family home provided for in Article 21 of the Protocol was incorporated in the draft law.

    32. On the 17th October 2006, in Maputo, Mozambique: meeting with the Mozambican Deputy Minister of Health. Presentation of the Protocol and encouragement for its implementation while requesting that special attention be paid to Articles 13 and 14. Also discussed was the creation of Departments responsible for Gender issues within the Health Institutions. A position of Adviser on Gender Issues exists within the Ministry of Health. A review of the law on abortion is in process. Regional meetings have been held and public opinion on the issue of abortion will soon be communicated to the Council of Ministers. A project on sexual and reproductive health will also be submitted to the Council of Ministers.  

    33. During the intersession and up to now in Mozambique, work is being done on a review of the public sector. The project is in its second phase, which involves the introduction of activities, results and indicators on Gender. A proposal will be sent to the Government during this Session.

     

    D) CURRENT ACTIVITIES


    • CURRENT STUDIES

    34. Comparative study on Gender issues: A study of the Constitutions of the Member countries of the African Union has been started. A questionnaire for distribution to the States is currently being prepared.           

    • PROJECTS FOR THE DISSEMINATION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN

    35. A structure for monitoring[11] the implementation of the Protocol[12] is being drafted. Requests for financial support were submitted to the donors[13]. A meeting for the nomination of representatives of Civil Society held during the NGO Forum which preceded the 40th Session in Banjul in November 2006. 

    36. A project for the dissemination of the Protocol in the Member Countries of the OIF[14] had been submitted to one of its representatives[15] at the 39th Session. A follow-up letter accompanied by a request for support had been sent in September 2006. A response is being awaited from the OIF.

    37. A project for the dissemination of the Protocol in Mozambique is being prepared and should obtain support from OXFAM, with the perspective of extending it to the regional level. The intention is to submit a request for financial support to UNIFEM.

    38. A project on female genital mutilation is being drafted.  

    39. Web pages on the special mechanism relating to the Rights of Women in Africa are ready to be added to the African Commission’s website. This project had been realised with the help of financial and human resources provided by the Centre for Human Rights Studies of the University of Pretoria. I wish to express my gratitude for this support.

    40. A project for the dissemination of the Protocol and the strengthening of relations between Women’s Organizations in The Gambia is being drafted in collaboration with the Dean of the University of The Gambia. There are plans to organize a two-day workshop for the dissemination of the Protocol and to improve the relations of collaboration and coordination of the activities being carried out by all the organizations working for the promotion of women’s rights in The Gambia.

    E) COLLABORATION WITH OTHER INSTITUTIONS


    41. Formal letters of request for collaboration had been sent to the SADC. The Secretariat of the Commission is following up on this to finalize the agreement. 

    42. Relations of collaboration with the IPAS, based in Nairobi, Kenya, had been established pertaining to the implementation of the provision No. 14 of the Protocol on health and reproductive rights.

    43.
    For several years now a partnership has been maintained with the Canadian Organization, Rights and Democracy, which provides considerable financial and technical support to the special reporting mechanism on the Rights of Women in Africa. I wish to express my thanks for the support thus provided.

    44. Other important links of collaboration have for years been maintained with the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria, I would like to thank this Organization for its financial and technical support.

    45.
    For the first time, the special reporting mechanism of the African Commission on the Rights of Women obtained technical assistance from one of the Member States of the African Union. The Government of South Africa will send a new Assistant for the Special Rapporteur, who will work in the Secretariat in Banjul as from January 2007.

    F) FACT FINDING AND PROMOTIONAL MISSIONS

    46. The Mauritanian Government approved the carrying out of a promotional mission for the month of September 2006. However, given the situation existing between Mauritania and the African Union, the Commission decided to postpone this mission to a later date.   

    47.  A Note Verbale had been sent to the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo requesting that I be received as Special Rapporteur for a promotional mission, but no response has been obtained, in spite of the follow up letters sent. 

    48. A Note Verbale had been sent to the Government of Algeria requesting that I be received as Special Rapporteur for a promotional mission, but no response had been obtained.

    49.       A Note Verbale had been sent to the Government of Ethiopia requesting that I be received as Special Rapporteur for a promotional mission, but no formal response has been received in spite of the explanations of the Government representatives who attended the 39th Ordinary Session.

    50.       A Note Verbale had been sent to the Government of Equatorial Guinea requesting that I be received as Special Rapporteur for a promotional mission, but no reaction has been received in spite of all the letters sent following up the request.

    51.       Notes Verbale had been sent several times to the Government of Tunisia since 2004 requesting it to receive me as Special Rapporteur for a promotional mission, but a response is yet to be received.

    52.       Apart from the promotional missions mentioned above, a mission of promotion is scheduled for Lesotho.

    53.       I wish to invite all the representatives of the States concerned who are present at this Session to react to the proposals of promotional missions which had been submitted to them.

     



    [1] The reservations concerned Article 5 on the elimination of harmful practices, Article 6 on marriage, Article 7 on separation, divorce and the annulment of marriage, and finally Article 14 on health and reproductive rights.

    [2] Mr. Tomalso Falcheta

    [3] Mrs. Jacqueline Moudeina

    [4] The study is available on line on the United Nations website since September 2006

    [5] Coalition of Women’s NGOs for the ratification and implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights relative to the Rights of Women in Africa.

    [6] In English the title of the Seminar was: “Implementing Conflict Management through Human Rights Frameworks: Experiences of National Human Rights Institutions”.

    [7] On the 18th April 2006, I met the Members of the Civil Society of Mozambique in Maputo to draft a Plan for the dissemination of the Protocol. A second meeting had been proposed for a follow up on this project.

    [8] Assembly/AU/Decl 12 (III), July 2004

    [9] In particular on the four principal Conventions on Equality: the Convention on Discrimination (employment and occupation), 1958, the Convention on Equal Pay, 1951, the Convention on Workers with family responsibilities, 1981, and the Convention on the protection of motherhood, 2000.

    [10] Several women have domestic jobs which are not economically valued or recognized as employment.

    [11] The objective of the monitoring structure is to encourage the ratification and implementation of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. It will be directed by a Committee comprising influential individuals such as the Men and Women Directors of African Institutions, of Ministers responsible for Gender Issues, Representatives of Civil Society for the five sub-regions of Africa. The Committee will meet to determine the measures for achieving Women’s Rights.  

    [12] The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights relative to the Rights of Women in Africa.

    [13] The Donors approached are the Canadian International Development Agency, Rights and Democracy, Open Society Initiatives for West Africa, International Francophonie Organisation, Danish Human Rights Institute, Swedish International Development Agency, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Commonwealth Secretariat, Human Rights Unit – Department of Foreign Affairs of Ireland.

    [14] International Francophonie Organisation

    [15] M. Camara

     

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