Angela Melo

Activities as Special Rapporteur on Rights of Women


     Intersession Activity Report
    Commissioner Angela Melo
     

    Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa

      

    41st Ordinary Session 
    African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
    Accra Ghana, 16 to 30 May 2007


    PLAN of the REPORT:


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


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

     

    A) ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT DURING THE 40th ORDINARY SESSION

    B) ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT DURING THE INTERSESSION

    • CORRESPONDENCE RELATING TO THE RATIFICATION OF THE PROTOCOL
    • PROMOTIONAL ACTIVITIES IN THE VARIOUS MEMBER COUNTRIES OF THE AFRICAN UNION
    C) CURRENT WORK
    • CURRENT STUDIES
    • PROJECTS FOR THE DISSEMINATION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN

    D) COLLABORATION WITH OTHER INSTITUTIONS 

    E) FACT FINDING AND PROMOTIONAL MISSIONS

     

    PART THREE: Assessment of the situation on the Rights of Women in Africa


    1.    The present Report is divided into three parts. Firstly it sets out the state of ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, relative to the Rights of Women in Africa. Secondly, it 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 40th and 41st Ordinary Sessions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Thirdly, it outlines the assessment made of the situation on the Rights of Women in Africa.

     

    PART ONE: State of ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, relative to the Rights of Women in Africa

     

    2.    Twenty (20) countries have ratified the Protocol: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, the Comoros, Djibouti, The Gambia, Libya, Lesotho, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal, Seychelles, Togo and Zambia.

    3.    Twenty five (25) countries have signed but have not ratified: Algeria, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Niger, the Sharawi Arab Democratic Republic, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

    4.    Eight (8) countries have not signed: Botswana, Sudan, Sao Tome and Principe, Eritrea, Egypt, the Central African Republic and Angola.

    5.    South Africa expressed three reservations. A reservation had been expressed with regard to Article 4 j) as the death penalty had been abolished. Another reservation had been expressed relative to Article 6 (d) on the registration of marriage, since a marriage has to 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) on Gender Equality pertaining to the nationality of their offspring, since the national laws relating to citizenship are more advantageous for the children than this provision of the Protocol.

    6.      South Africa also made positive interpretive 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 provided for and interpreted by the Constitution. Article 31, which explains that the Protocol can in no way undermine the national laws which are most favorable to women, had also been interpreted in a manner to preclude the undermining of the rights guaranteed in the Protocol. That is to say that the Government of South Africa indicated that the Rights of Women should always be given the most favorable interpretation whether in application of the Protocol or of the national laws.

    7.      According to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties: “the expression “reservation” signifies a unilateral declaration whatever its wording or designation, made by a State when it signs, ratifies, accepts or approves a Treaty or accedes to it, through which it aims at rejecting or modifying the legal effect of certain provisions of the Treaty as they apply to this State”[1]. According to the doctrine, an interpretative declaration “is a unilateral declaration, whatever its wording or designation, made by a State, through which it aims at specifying or clarifying the meaning or scope of the international treaty or of some of its provisions”[2].

    8.    It should be noted that the reservations expressed by the Government of South Africa, although they are aimed at modifying the legal effect of the Protocol, are of a positive nature because they have the effect of granting more rights than the Protocol.

    9.    Furthermore, the reservations expressed are in conformity with Article 31 of the Protocol, for which reason no provision of the Protocol can affect the provisions which are more favorable to the Rights of Women contained in the national legislation of States or in all other regional, continental or international Conventions, Treaties or Agreements, which are applicable in these States.

    10. For these reasons, the three reservations expressed by South Africa and which are mentioned in paragraph 5 of this Report, should be lifted or converted to interpretative declarations.

    11. In Niger, the National Assembly had rejected the draft ratification of the Protocol in June 2006, but the Government is currently taking the necessary measures for depositing the instruments of ratification and maybe even now the deposit has already been done.

    12.  According to the discussions which I have had with the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson and members of the National Women’s Council, the Government of Egypt is to effect ratification in the very near future. There is a likelihood that it will express reservations and interpretative declarations.

    13. With regard to Tanzania, the ratification procedure is likely to be implemented very soon according to the discussions which I had with the State’s delegation during the African Union Summit of July 2006.

    14. Liberia is also at an advanced stage with the procedure for ratification of the Protocol.

    15. In Angola, according to the information which I received in March 2007, the process of ratification of the Protocol is at the National Assembly stage.

    16.  In Kenya, the ratification procedure is said to have been initiated long ago. Following my participation at a workshop on the regional campaign on the ratification of the Protocol carried out by the coalition SOAWR which took place in Nairobi in December 2006, the Association of Women Lawyers of Kenya explained to me that the process had been initiated and that the Protocol would be ratified in the very near future. The Minister responsible for Gender Issues also gave me the same information recently.

    17.  Tunisia has already submitted a draft ratification of the Protocol to the National Assembly.

    18.  In Ethiopia, the draft ratification document had been submitted to the Cabinet which had sent it to the Ministry responsible for Gender Issues for vetting. A firm commitment had been made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with regard to the submission of the draft ratification document.

    19.  The Government of Ghana has, during the present Session, publicly expressed its commitment towards carrying out the ratification of the Protocol.

     

    PART TWO:       Activities carried out in my capacity as Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa

     

    A)        ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT DURING THE 4Oth ORDINARY SESSION

    Banjul, The Gambia, 15 to 29 November 2006

     

    20. Participation at a Press Conference on the occasion of the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa on the 25th November 2006.

    21. Lobbying of the State delegations from those countries which have not yet ratified nor signed the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. Notes Verbale had been hand delivered to the delegations present at the 40th Session.

    22. Meeting with Mrs. Traore, Chairperson of the NGO Dimol of Niger, concerning mobilization activities relating to the ratification of the Protocol, following the rejection of the draft ratification document by the National Assembly in June 2006. The recommended mobilization strategies involved the explanation of the contents of the Protocol to the religious leaders and to the members of the Government.

    23. Meeting with the representatives of the various Civil Society Organizations as follow up and for the establishment of partnerships.  

     

    B)        ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT DURING THE INTERSESSION

    30th November to 15th May 2007

     

    • LETTERS ISSUED IN RELATION TO THE RATIFICATION AND THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROTOCOL

     

    24. In April 2007, letters had been sent to the Commissioners, nationals of Botswana, Algeria, Tanzania and Sudan to request their collaboration in sensitizing the Governments of these countries on the matter of the signature and ratification of the Protocol.

    25. In April 2007, letters of encouragement had been sent to the Civil Society partners conveying an update of the state of ratification of the Protocol and requesting that campaigns be launched to increase the number of ratifications.

    26. In April 2007 Notes Verbale had been sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to the Ministries responsible for Gender issues highlighting the state of signature and ratification of the Protocol and urging the States to sign, ratify and implement the Protocol.

    27.  In April 2007, letters urging them to ratify the Protocol had been sent to the Prime Minister of Sao Tomé and Principé and to the Minister of Justice of Angola.

    28. In April 2007, during a visit to Egypt an official from the Embassy of Ghana had been contacted and a follow-up letter had been sent to him urging him to push for the ratification of the Protocol.

    29.  In April 2007, a letter had been sent to the President of Guinea Bissau.

    30. During the intersession, letters to which a copy of the Protocol had been attached, had been sent:

    1. to the Prime Minister of Mozambique;
    2. to all the Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
    3. to the Permanent Secretaries, who in turn had conveyed it to the Directors of each Ministry;
    4. to all the Governors of the 11 Provinces, and to all the Permanent Secretaries of the Provinces;
    5. to the religious[3] leaders;
    6. to the District Administrators;
    7. to the Chairperson of the Judges’ Association;
    8. to the Secretary General of the Supreme Court;
    9. to the Public Prosecutor;
    10. to the Secretary of the Public Prosecutor, who in turn had disseminated the Protocol;
    11. to all the Provincial Prosecutors;
    12. to the Chairperson of the Constitutional Council;
    13. to the Commanders of the 15 Police cells and to the Heads of Units dealing with issues of violence against women and children.

    Some Permanent Secretaries and Provincial Prosecutors have acknowledged receipt of my letters.

    31.  Following the preparation of a draft law in The Gambia for the domestication of the Protocol on the Rights of Women, I sent letters of felicitation to the Vice-President of The Gambia and the Legal Counsel on the preparation of the draft law and congratulated them for this major initiative. The Secretariat of the African Commission had been called upon by the Women’s Bureau of the Republic of The Gambia to make comments with respect to the compatibility of the draft law with the contents of the Protocol, and these comments had been conveyed on the 28th March 2007.

     

    ·         PROMOTIONAL ACTIVITIES IN THE VARIOUS MEMBERS COUNTRIES OF THE AFRICAN UNION

     

    32. From 29th December 2006 to 2nd January 2007, I participated, in Nairobi, Kenya in a meeting organized by the SOAWR[4] coalition on the procedure of settlement of disputes as a strategy for the implementation of the Protocol.

    33.  In January 2007, I submitted a project for funding to IPAS to support the broadcasting of the Protocol in the Mozambican radio stations. We await a response.

    34.  From 20 to 25 January 2007, I participated in the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. I had been invited by the Netherlands Human Rights[5] Institute within the framework of their programme « Equalinrights » to present a paper on the Protocol relative to the Rights of Women in Africa. I also had discussions with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Shelter and we agreed that the observations of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women of the African Commission would be integrated into the current exercise. A memo on the outcome of these discussions is awaited.

    35.  On the 17th February 2007 in Maputo, Mozambique, I had a follow-up meeting with a forum of women’s organizations which brought together Civil Society groups and the Ministry for Women’s Affairs on the subject of the enforcement of this Protocol. The review of the draft submitted in April 2006 facilitated the follow-up of an integrated Action Plan for the dissemination and t he implementation of the Protocol.[6] Following this meeting a presentation is to be held on the controversial issues relative to the Rights of Women, destined to train the Magistrates, Judges and Prosecutors of the legal Centre of Mozambique. The notifications for this meeting have already been sent out but it had to be postponed as it coincided with another mission which I had to undertake to Johannesburg in South Africa.

    36. On the 21st February 2007, in Maputo, Mozambique, I engaged in lobbying with Minister of Defense on the matter of women’s participation in the Peace Keeping process of the African Union, during a meeting aimed at achieving the implementation of the Protocol. On the invitation of the Minister I had been invited to make a presentation of the Protocol and the background of the creation of the African Union before the Ministry’s Advisory Board.

    37. From the 13th to 19th March 2007, during a mission of the Working Group on Specific Issues in Washington D.C., United States:

    • I had a meeting with some members of the Office of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women of the Inter-American Commission and exchanged ideas relating to the control of abuse against women and the promotion of the Rights of Women. A formalization of the relations of cooperation is imminent with regard to the exchanges of information and strategies in the area of the combat against violence against women.
    • had a meeting with the representative of the World Bank for the integration of activities aimed at building the capacity of women. During this meeting I had made a presentation on the Protocol and discussion had been held on the matter of establishing relations of cooperation with the World Bank through the intermediary of the States.

    38. In March 2007, I had been invited to participate in a conference on the settlement of disputes as a strategy for the realization of the Rights of Women which was held from the 28th to 30th March, in Harare, Zimbabwe, and which had been organized by the Law Society of Zimbabwe (Law Society of Zimbabwe). My busy schedule did not allow me to participate but I sent an opening address which had been presented on my behalf. 

    39. On the 22nd March 2007, at Maputo in Mozambique, I participated in activities marking the International Day of Water on the theme: « Living with the scarcity of water ». The proposal of integrating the compulsory participation of women in water management related decisions had been accepted and a meeting is to be held with the Director of the Water Management Department.  

    40. In April 2007 I conveyed my observations on the draft Protocol on Gender for the SADC region, following a request from the Ministry for Women’s Affairs and Social Coordination of Mozambique.

    41. On the 3rd April 2007, I had a meeting with the Minister of Public Works and Housing of Mozambique. Two projects were the outcome of this meeting. Firstly, a recommendation had been made that an Article of the Manual for the implementation of the modalities for the management of water supplies be amended so that women would necessarily be involved in the water management committees in the communities, and I had a working session with the woman Director of the Legal Department to effect this amendment to the Manual. As a result of this project a meeting had been held with the Director of the Water Resources Department on the representation of women in the formulation of policies and strategies on water management in Mozambique. Secondly, I had been requested to give my comments on the Housing Policy during a meeting to be held with the Director of the Department and a follow-up meeting is to be held in this context.

    42. On the 3rd April 2007, in Maputo, Mozambique, I made a presentation of the Protocol to the pupils of the Secondary Schools of Maputo.

    43.  From the 14th to 20th April 2007, in Egypt, I had a meeting with the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, with the National Human Rights Council and the National Women’s Council including the members of Civil Society. Discussions were held on the strategies for the ratification of the Protocol and the difficulties to be surmounted had been identified. The matter of holding a meeting with the Islamic countries on the ratification of the Protocol had also been raised. The Egyptian Authorities made a commitment to submit the Protocol to the National Assembly. The National Women’s Council is currently studying the Protocol and it is possible that interpretative declarations and reservations will be expressed. The Protocol had also been presented to the Ambassadors of Angola, Nigeria and Gabon in Egypt, as well as to the Chairperson of the African Society, to the Director of the Centre for African Studies and to the students, members of civil society.

    44. On the 28th and 29th April 2007, I had been represented by Commissioner Sanji Monageng at the Forum on the Rights of Women in The Gambia, co-organized by the African Commission, the “Women’s Bureau” of The Gambia and the University of The Gambia. This Forum represented the concretization of a project which had been underway between the partners since May 2006. Its realization had been made possible thanks to the financial support provided by the Canadian Organization Rights and Democracy and the Canadian International Development Agency. The Women’s Organizations present had been urged to coordinate their activities and to participate in the new National Federation of Gambian Women. They also received some training on the Protocol.

    45. On the 30th April 2007, I submitted my observations on the integration of the activities relative to the implementation of the Protocol within the mandate of the new National Federation of Gambian Women, on the occasion of the validation of the Federation’s Constitution. This event had received the financial support of the Canadian Organization Rights and Democracy and the Canadian International Development Agency.

    46. In April 2007, the web pages on the special mechanism on the Rights of Women in Africa had been put online and are accessible from the African Commission’s website[7]. This project had been made possible thanks to the contribution of the Centre for Human Rights Studies of the University of Pretoria.

    47.  From 12th to 14th May 2007, in Accra, Ghana, I participated in the NGO Forum which preceded the 41st Session of the Commission. I moderated the discussions of the working group on the Rights of Women in Africa. I distributed a document which compiles strategies for the ratification and the implementation of the Protocol and sensitized the NGOs on the need to increase the campaigns in this regard. I spoke about the developments in the area of ratification and implementation of the Protocol in the various countries of the African Union and I also benefited from the information provided by the participants on the situation in their respective countries. I also circulated information on the recent adoption of the Nairobi Declaration on the issue of the right to compensation for victims of sexual abuse and invited the participants to take cognizance of it and to give it their support on-line.[8]

    48.  On the 14th May 2007 in Accra, Ghana, I participated in a direct TV3 televised panel debate during which I made a presentation of the Protocol with special focus on the reproductive Rights of Women.

    49.  On the 15th May 2007, during the activities marking a sensitization day on the reproductive Rights of Women organized by the Commission in partnership with 3 NGOs[9], I took part in a march which brought together more than 350 people, during which I delivered a speech on the Protocol. Following this I chaired a round table meeting which discussed reproductive rights in relation to other human Rights of Women, notably the right to land and shelter.

     

    D) CURRENT WORK

     

    • CURRENT STUDIES

     

    50.  Following a request made by the Special Rapporteur, a working group from the Centre for Human Rights Studies of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, has completed a study of the Constitutions of the Member countries of the African Union for the purpose of analyzing the provisions relative to principles of gender equality and of non-discrimination.  A matrix on the principles of gender equality and of non-discrimination emanated from this study and has just been submitted to me. The complete results and a corresponding analysis will be accessible on-line in the very near future on the African Commission’s website. For the moment, I would like to point out that 10 African countries[10] have spoken categorically in favour of gender equality. The Constitutions of most of the other countries of the African Union contain simple general provisions relative to the equality of each citizen and on the prohibition of discrimination, notably on the basis of sex. The Constitutions of Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo categorically stipulate the responsibility of the State to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. Some Constitutions, for instance, that of The Gambia, stipulate the principles of equality and of non-discrimination but diminish the scope of this principle where marriage and inheritance are concerned.

    51.  A working group from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, has accomplished a study of the legislation relative to sexual offenses for all the member countries of the African Union. In April 2007 the group submitted a matrix to me relative to the penalties for rape and to the legal pleas in cases of marital rape. The information provided indicate, among others, that at least 9 African countries[11] exclude the possibility of rape in the marriage context by making provision for an exemption in the law which clears the husband if a charge of rape is made against him by his wife. I call upon the actors of civil society for the launching of sensitization campaigns for the reform of the laws in the countries where this legal exemption still exists. I congratulate those countries which have already carried out this reform, notably by passing a law on domestic abuse[12].

     

    E) COLLABORATION WITH OTHER INSTITUTIONS

     

    52.  In March 2007, letters had been exchanged with Mrs. Elisa Slatery, of the Center for Reproductive Rights, based in New York, United States. The Centre volunteered to provide training on reproductive rights to the staff of the Secretariat of the African Commission. 

    53.  On the 16th April 2007 a new Assistant to the special mechanism on the Rights of Women started work in the Secretariat of the Commission in Banjul. This technical assistance is being provided by the Government of South Africa and has a fund attached to it to facilitate the work of the special mechanism on the Rights of Women.

    54.  Since 2005, an Assistant legal officer has been posted in the Secretariat of the Commission to support the activities of the special mechanism on the Rights of Women. This technical support has been provided by the Canadian International Development Agency through the assistance of the Canadian Organization, Rights and Democracy.

    55.  For several years now the Centre for Human Rights Studies of the University of Pretoria has been supporting the activities of the Special Rapporteur. I wish to thank the Centre for its precious collaboration.

    56.  A partnership agreement with IPAS on the subject of sexual and reproductive rights has been established. There are plans to organize a seminar on this topic in the near future.

    57.  Since the beginning of my mandate letters have been sent out to various regional organizations in an effort to establish formal agreements of cooperation with the Special Rapporteur of the Commission. Letters have been sent notably to:

    1. COMESA (Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa)
    2. SADC (Southern African Development Community)
    3. ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States)
    4. IGAD (International Authority on Development)
    5. African Union’s Department for Gender and Development
    6. NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development)

     

    As all these institutions have Divisions responsible specifically for Gender Issues, the coordination of their work with that of the Special Rapporteur is highly desirable. Links have been established with the Head of the Department of Gender and Development Issues of the African Union and there are signs that future collaboration with our Commission will be more effective. Discussions in this context in effect took place during a meeting of the COREP (Committee of Permanent Representatives) of the African Union which took place from 3rd to 5th May 2007 in Lesotho.

     

    F) FACT FINDING AND PROMOTIONAL MISSIONS

     

    58.  For more than a year now Notes Verbale have been sent to the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo requesting it to receive me in my capacity as Special Rapporteur for a mission of promotion, but no response has so far been obtained. I am planning to link up with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Causes and Consequences of Abuse against Women and to embark on a joint mission with her.

    59.  The Government of Algeria has offered to host a joint mission of the Chairperson of the Commission and the Special Rapporteurs on the rights of Human Rights Defenders and on the Rights of Women in March 2007, but it has not been possible to fix dates for the fielding of this mission. I wish to thank the Government of Algeria for this invitation and would like to fix new dates.

    60.  I wish to thank the Government of Ethiopia for having invited me to go there on a mission. The dates are to be confirmed.

    61.  I also wish to thank Mauritania for having invited me to carry out a mission to that country and since up to now I have not been able to embark on the said mission I would like to fix new dates.

    62.  Apart from the mission plans mentioned above, there are plans to field missions in the following countries: Lesotho, Equatorial Guinea and Tunisia.

    1. Lesotho has formally agreed to the fielding of a mission and all that remains is for the dates to be fixed.
    2. Equatorial Guinea had agreed to the fielding of a mission in 2003, but it has since been postponed.
    3. I have also sent requests, on several occasions during my mandate, to the Tunisian Authorities to carry out a mission there, but my letters have remained without response.

     

    I call on the latter Governments to invite the special mechanism on the Rights of Women to visit their countries.


    PART THREE: Assessment of the situation on the Rights of Women in Africa

     

    The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa is a new instrument of the African Union which was adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in July 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique, and which entered into force on the 25th November 2005. As was indicated in the beginning of this report, several State Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights have not yet ratified the Protocol.  

    Since the entry into force of the Protocol, only 5 new Member States to the African Charter have ratified the Protocol, bringing the total number of ratifications to 20 out of 53 States. All those countries which recognize the importance of the Rights of Women need to redouble their efforts in the dissemination of this important instrument so that all the Member States ratify and implement it. The campaigns for the realisation of the rights of women should be intensified. The members of African civil society play a primordial role in the sensitization of African communities to the rights of women. For these reasons, I wish to strongly suggest that the strategies for the signature, the ratification and the implementation of the Protocol should be integrated in the activities of all the organizations.  

    A document on the strategies for the rapid ratification of the Protocol had been presented at the 34th Ordinary Session of our Commission. This document had been prepared in collaboration with the Non-Governmental Organizations Equality Now, WILDAF and FEMNET. A new document on the ratification and implementation of the Protocol is now available. It has been distributed to the NGO Forum during this session and should soon be accessible on-line on the website of the Commission.

    The countries which have ratified should now focus on the effective realisation of the Rights of Women in their countries. Independently from the legal systems existing in the different countries, the implementation of the Protocol should call for the enactment of a national law. This represents the domestication stage. In all the countries, the harmonization of the national laws should be effected. It is only when the processes of domestication and harmonization are completed that African women can benefit from the legal guarantees for the protection of their rights. Concrete measures aimed at achieving the effective enjoyment of the rights thus guaranteed by the Protocol must be put in place.

    I would like to draw special attention to the following developments:

    • Uganda has repealed the law which punished adultery in a manner which was discriminatory against women.
    • Ethiopia has passed a law which punishes female genital mutilation
    • Egypt has amended Article 62 of its Constitution, which is to result in the promulgation of the law on quotas for the representation of women in the electoral process and in elections.
    • The Gambia is at a very advanced stage in the adoption of the « Women’s Bill » which harmonizes the Protocol with the national legislation and from there will continue to its domestication.  
    • In Mozambique, a draft law on the right to inheritance has incorporated the proposals from women’s organizations as well as that of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa relative to the protection of the rights of widows as stipulated in the Protocol.
    • Unfortunately, the Constitutional Council of Senegal has just declared the law promulgated in March 2007 on political equality between men and women as unconstitutional. Civil Society and the women wish to have political equality between men and women inscribed in the Constitution.

    I seek the contribution of all governmental and non-governmental actors in the intensification of the efforts for the signature, ratification and the effective implementation of the Protocol. I also wish to re-affirm the role of the African Commission for its support to the initiatives being made with regard to the promotion of human rights on the Continent and I urge all the organizations working for the protection of women’s rights to get into contact with me to inform me about the situation of the Rights of Women in their countries and to propose and establish relations of cooperation.

    I call on all the Member States of the African Union to ensure that the commitments made in relation to the respect for, protection and promotion of the fundamental rights of women on the Continent are translated into practice. The States have the power to change the current situation by putting in place consistent and continuous programmes aimed at improving the situation of women de jure and de facto:

    • by identifying and repealing all the laws which are suppressive and discriminatory towards women because they affect the dignity, the juristic personality and the economic and social capacity of women;
    • by introducing the principle of gender equality in their laws;
    • by carrying out a reform of the criminal laws so as to introduce therein sanctions aimed at eradicating all forms of violence against women, notably by addressing all sexual abuse such as incest, rape in general and rape in the marital context, sexual harassment in the work place and in school;
    • by introducing laws to eliminate the trafficking of women;
    • by involving the highly placed political leaders in the campaigns of the combat against violence against women;
    • by training the actors in the judicial system, notably the judges, the prosecutors, the Police officers and the members of the Armed Forces, so that violence against women can be dealt with in an enlightened manner.

    The combat against violence done to women should be seen as a combat similar to that already engaged in by several of us against different oppressors, that is to say, against those who try to appropriate the freedom, thought and conscience of another and in this case, that of women. The effects of this oppression, like for example the deprivation of property and the fact of considering women as inferior and subordinate beings, should cease.

    The violence against women includes marital, physical, verbal, sexual and psychological abuse, abuse intended to deprive women of their economic powers and to prevent them from benefiting from the products of their own efforts, in brief, deprive them of the freedom that all human beings should be able to enjoy. 

    The impunity on the acts of violence against women should also cease and the States should show their will in pursuing the perpetrators of this violence. In this context I wish to call on the States at two levels: Firstly, I call on them to accomplish the responsibility inspired by the requisite diligence based on four fundamental obligations: to prevent the abuse, to investigate the complaints, to punish the acts of violence and pay compensation for the damages suffered. Secondly, I call on the States to respect the rights and obligations prescribed in the national, regional and international instruments for the protection of human rights.  

    The Status should appreciate the responsibility which is also theirs concerning the abuses perpetrated in the private sector. The responsibility of States towards violations committed by non-state actors is indirect since it depends on the awareness that States may have of the existence of such violations. Nonetheless, when the Police Department receives a complaint, for instance a complaint relating to domestic violence, the responsibility of carrying out a complete investigation and of bringing the perpetrator to justice is clear. And so for prevention purposes, the States have the responsibility of sensitizing their populations to the problems linked to violence against women, and of intervening in the private sector in order to protect women against domestic violence.

    Finally, since I have arrived at the end of my mandate I would like to seize this opportunity to thank:

     

    • The State of South Africa for having recently granted human and financial resources to support the Commission’s special mechanism on the Rights of Women;
    • The States which have constantly supported the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, notably by participating in the sessions of the Commission and by establishing relations of collaboration with me, notably Mauritania, Egypt, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and The Gambia;
    • My colleagues the Commissioners, especially the Bureau, the Chairperson and the Vice-Chairperson who have always encouraged me;
    • The organization Rights and Democracy which has since 1998 been providing us with funds and an Assistant Legal Officer for the special mechanism;
    • The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies;
    • The Centre for Human Rights Studies of the University of Pretoria;
    • The coalition SOAWR[13], Wildaf[14], Equality Now[15], HURISA[16], the Women’s Forum in Mozambique, the Women NGOs in Dakar, in Angola and in Mauritania, INTERIGHTS[17], COHRE[18], CHRI[19], IPAS[20], the Centre for Reproductive Rights[21] and the FIDH[22];
    • The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees based in The Gambia;
    • I also wish to express heartfelt thanks to my Assistants: Valérie Couillard who is going to leave me and the Commission very soon, for her professionalism and the strong will with which she supported my activities; Isatou Harris, for her decisive contributions to my work and her goodness of heart which encouraged me to persevere in my mission in spite of the difficulties encountered in applying my work plan;
    • The Secretariat of the Commission, Mr. Robert Eno and all the legal officers and collaborators;
    • Thank you to all, not forgetting the Translators and Interpreters who do an indispensable job in enabling us to understand each other.

      

     



    [1] Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969, Art. 2

    [2] Pellet, Alain, in “Comments on the Vienna Convention relative to the Law of Treaties of 1969”; Comments put together by Erika Grossrieder (Reference Documents: Malanczuk, Peter, Akehurst’s modern introduction to international Law, 7th edition, 2002, Routtledge, London; Register of the Seminar on International Public Law, Prof. Distefano, University of Geneva, 2001-2002; Notes on the Seminar on International Public Law, Prof. Chetail, IUHEL, Geenva, 2003)

    [3] A limited number of religious leaders had been contacted as problems of distribution had been encountered.

    [4] Solidarity for African Women’s Rights: 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.

    [5] The Netherland Institute for Human Rigths, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

    [6] On the 18th April 2006 I had met with the members of Civil Society of Mozambique in Maputo for the purpose of drafting a plan for the dissemination of the Protocol. A second meeting was to have been held for the monitoring of this project.

    [7] www.achpr.org

    [8] The Nairobi Declaration had been published on the 15th March 2007 on the website: www.coalitionoftherightsofwomen.org. It had been drafted by the Coalition for the Rights of Women in situations of conflict (which brings together women jurists from Peru, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Sudan, India, Belgium and Canada), the Nairobi Declaration gives a meaning of the compensation for the victims of sexual abuse within the context of armed conflicts. It goes beyond the legal aspects and re-affirms that the compensation for women and girls is a question of social justice and the evolutionary process of the society.

    [9] CHRI (Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Accra, Ghana), COHRE (Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, Accra, Ghana) and CRR (Center for Reproductive Rights, New York, United States of America)

    [10] Benin, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea, Guinea Bissau.

    [11] According to the study, the 9 countries in which the exemption for marital rape still exists are: Seychelles, Congo, Senegal, Ghana, Sudan, Nigeria (in some regions of the country), Botswana, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia and Tanzania (In Tanzania, if there is separation the exemption cannot be invoked as defense against the charge of rape, but in the marital context and if the woman is more than 15 years old, the husband can still invoke the legal exemption to clear himself from the charges of sexual abuse committed against his wife).

    [12] Namibia notably, according to the study. Ghana has also enacted a law on domestic violence.

    [13] Solidarity for African Women’ s Rights

    [14] Women in Law and Developement in Africa

    [15] Nairobi, Kenya

    [16] Human Rights Institute of South Africa

    [17] London, UK

    [18] Centre on Housing and Evictions, Accra, Ghana

    [19] Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Accra, Ghana

    [20] Organization specialised in the security conscious practice of abortion and reproductive rights, whose headquarters is in North Carolina.

    [21] Center for Reproductive Rights, New York

    [22] International Human Rights Federation.

     

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