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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

High-level Thematic Panel Discussion organised by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa

Sunday, 23 October 2016 (14:30-16:00)

Theme:             Has the Maputo Protocol made any difference? A look at some critical areas of women’s rights!          


  1. Women in Africa have since time immemorial had to bear the multiple brunt of poverty, exclusion, civil unrest, inadequate allocation of resources, harmful cultural practices, economic exclusion, discrimination in all sectors, low levels of education, and limited participation in public spheres, amongst other things.
  2. As the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (the Commission) commemorates the “African human rights year, with a particular focus on the rights of women”, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa will hold a Thematic Panel during the 59th Ordinary Session, on the rights of women in Africa to reflect on the strides made on the continent over the years particularly as this year marks the 11th Anniversary of the entry into force of the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol).                                            


  1. The Panel will trace developments in the realisation of women’s rights in Africa and highlight the challenges faced in the promotion and protection of women’s rights. In light of the challenges, the Panel discussions will reiterate  the call to respect, promote, protect and fulfil women’s rights, with a view to accelerate the implementation and adoption of legislation, policies and other measures geared towards gender equality and women empowerment.
  2. Specifically, the Panel aims:

-To encourage ratification of the Maputo Protocol as the key instrument which enshrines women’s rights.

-To popularize General Comment 2 on Article 14 of the Maputo Protocol which gives a comprehensive and elaborate understanding of the issue of sexual and reproductive health rights in Africa and how they should be interpreted and implemented.

-To highlight women’s role in peace and security.

-To highlight specific challenges faced by women in Africa for example child marriage, sexual violence and challenges relating to political participation.

Introductory Session

The Maputo Protocol and how far we have come:

  1. Regarding the ratification of the Maputo Protocol, only two thirds (37 out of 54) of the AU Member States have ratified the Maputo Protocol, and very few have domesticated it. 4 States neither signed nor ratified the Protocol and only 6 States have included the Protocol in their State Reports. Therefore, this theme is meant to encourage AU Member States to ratify the Protocol as it provides the basis upon which reforms on women‘s rights can be made and to enable citizens hold governments to account on the rights of women. Again, this will encourage State Reporting on the legislative and other measures taken with a view to giving effect to the rights in the Maputo Protocol, as required under Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter) and Article 26 of the Protocol.


Child Marriage:

  1. The vulnerability of the girl-child is seen in the area of marriage where girls are forced into marriage before they reach the age of 18. While child marriage is a global problem, Africa has the highest rates. During the Panel, the Panelist will highlight the dangers associated with child marriage and the impact it has on the girls.


Sexual Violence against Women in Africa:

  1. Most countries in Africa do not have the legislative framework that criminalises violence against women yet its prevalence is appalling and is the most persistent human rights violation that affects women and girls. The Panelist will discuss the various forms of sexual violence, the causes and consequences. The draft Guidelines on Combating Sexual Violence and its consequences will also be presented.

Sexual and Reproductive Rights:

  1. There are many challenges that women in Africa face in the area of their sexual and reproductive rights. These include lack of education on sexuality, contraception, access to safe abortions, HIV exposure and transmission. The Commission has developed the General Comment 2 that articulates the nature and content of sexual and reproductive rights as espoused in Article 14 of the Maputo Protocol. The Panel will be an opportunity to popularize General Comment 2 and discuss ways of addressing challenges women face and measures that States can take in addressing the issues. Additionally, it will highlight the Commission’s ongoing campaign to decriminalize abortion in Africa. The Panel will address the prevalence and consequences of inadequate access to sexual and reproductive health information and services for women and adolescent girls in Africa and highlight current efforts to address them, as well as existing challenges and opportunities. 

Women, Peace and Security:

  1. Women participation in Peace and Security remains low in most African countries. Yet they are the primary victims in conflicts. This Panel will be discussing on issues around women’s role in peace and security issue and the challenges they face in that regard with particular reference to the UN SC Resolution 1325 and relevant provisions of the Maputo Protocol.

Political Participation:

  1. Women have been marginalized from political participation in many African countries. Some of the reasons include: type of electoral system, education, party ideology, religion and culture. Notwithstanding these factors, in recent years, Africa has witnessed rapid escalation in female political representation. The Panel will therefore elaborate on the challenges in women’s political participation in Africa and emerging trends in general.


i.              Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor: Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa;

ii.            Mrs. Mahawa Kaba Wheeler, Director, AU Gender Directorate;

iii.           Ambassador. Benita Diop, AU Envoy on Women, Peace and Security;

iv.           Center for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (CHR);

v.             Center for Reproductive Rights (on behalf of the Center, Amnesty International and Dullah Omar Institute);

vi.           IPAS Africa Alliance;

vii.          FIDH.


Total time: 1h 30min

Panelists and presentations:

1)     Setting the Pace: The Maputo Protocol and how far we have come (10 Minutes presentation by Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor);

2)     Political Participation- ( 8 Mins Presentation by Director, AU Gender Directorate )

3)     Women, Peace and Security- (8 Mins Presentation by the AU Envoy on Women, Peace and Security);

4)     Sexual  and Reproductive Rights ( 5 Minutes Presentation by Ms. Onyema Afulukwe)

Sub-theme-Abortion: (5 mins Presentation by IPAS Alliance and 5 mins documentary);

5)     Child Marriage- (5 Mins Presentation and 5 mins sketch or documentary by the CHR);

6)     Violence Against Women in Africa ( 5 mins Presentation from FIDH);

Victim(s) testimonies (4 mins);

7)     Discussions: (30 mins)


  • Each Panellist will be responsible for its TOR, content management and format of its Presentation.