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A two-day meeting convened to evaluate the status of the ratification, domestication and implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, commonly referred to as the Maputo Protocol on Women’s Rights, has concluded with strong recommendations on how to accelerate actions on the commitment to African women. Described as a vanguard document at the time of its adoption in 2003, the Maputo Protocol remains one of the most progressive legal instruments providing a comprehensive set of human rights for African women. It translates Africa’s commitment to invest in the development and empowerment of women and girls, who constitute the majority constituent of the population.
Convened by the African Union Commission Women, Gender and Development Directorate in collaboration with and the Gender, Peace and Security Programme of the AUC Peace and Security Department and the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights the meetings held on the 17-18 November 2020 brought together African Union Experts responsible for Gender Equality and Women’s Affairs; the Pan-African Parliament; Civil Society Organizations, women’s rights organizations, women’s movements and youth organizations to evaluate the progress achieved especially at the national level, in protecting and promoting the rights of women as encapsulated in the Protocol.
In deliberating on the advancement of women’s rights, the meeting noted that across the continent, a number of countries have enacted laws against sexual and gender based violence as well as harmful cultural practices while others have established dedicated national machineries to promote and protect the rights of women.
However, the deficits in the ratification and implementation of the Protocol have had grave consequences on the lives of women and girls on the continent, moreso with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has aggravated the exposure of women to more perilous situations. The deficits have also been more acute in countries affected by conflict and/or in transitional processes where the lack of implementation of the Maputo Protocol has created conditions for violence, abuses and sufferings for women and girls. This is more pronounced in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa Republic, the Lake Chad Basin, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, where women are used as weapons of war in full violation of their right to peace and protection in times of conflict, as stipulated in Articles 10 and 11 of the Protocol that women have the right to peace and call for the protection of women and girls in armed conflicts.
The two-day meetings were particularly timely following the commitment by AU Member States in 2018, designating 2020 as the year for the universal ratification of the Maputo Protocol. Adopted by the African Union in 2003, the Protocol as of November 2020, has been ratified by forty two (42) Member States of the African Union. Of the remaining thirteen (13) States, ten (10) States have only signed the Protocol, while three (3) have neither signed nor ratified. Further, Member States that have ratified the Protocol, rarely submit reports on the progress of the domestication and implementation of the Protocol thereby presenting difficulties in tracking the progress on commitments. The meetings were therefore critical to document and understand the challenges faced by Member States in timely reporting and map out the technical support necessary to enable the States address the gaps or challenges they encounter in State reporting.
During the two-day event, Member States exchanged on the challenges that have hindered the ratification, domestication, implementation and reporting on the Maputo Protocol. Some of the challenges highlighted were issues of conservative governments and populations; pluralistic legal systems; resistance from strong faith-based groups; absence of, or lack of clarity on ratification procedures; the prioritization of peace and reconciliation in countries in active or emerging from civil strife; concerns with reproductive rights provisions and the provisions on rights related to marriage- age of marriage; separation, divorce, matrimonial property, among other challenges highlighted.
In exploring areas of support and sharing best practices and experiences on the processes of ratification, domestication, implementation and reporting on the Maputo Protocol, opportunities to advance the gender agenda were identified and recommended on among others;
The alignment of provisions in the Maputo Protocol as a number of Member States have adopted national laws and policies that resonate with the Protocol. To support to Member States on the sensitization to facilitate a better understanding on the value, particularly on articles deemed contentious. Encouraging regular engagement with and among Member States to share experiences on how they have dealt with challenges on ratification and domestication processes moreso on the contentious articles. Emphasis on the need to adopt “women’s right to peace” as envisioned in the Maputo Protocol as a good leveraging point to really for the ratification of the Protocol as part of a gender-conscious approach to post-conflict reconstruction and development. Member states were encouraged to ratify the Protocol even with reservations and proceed to take measures to address the areas related to the reservation and eventually lift the reservations. Employing the support of the African Union Pan-African Parliament to work with the national Parliaments to ratify the Maputo Protocol.
The Member States and relevant stakeholders committed to making considerations to integrate the recommendations into the gender agenda.
Fifteen (15) years since the Maputo Protocol entered into force, only 15 out of 42 State Parties have reported on the Maputo Protocol signalling poor compliance with state reporting mandate with many States not reporting or not following the guidelines on reporting. Article 26 of the Maputo Protocol obligates Member States to report every two years to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on the legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures undertaken towards the full realization of the rights enshrined in the Protocol, in accordance with Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Additionally, the ACHPR has adopted Guidelines for state reporting under the Maputo Protocol.
With majority of Member States only submitting reports on the African Charter without “Part B” on the Maputo Protocol, the meetings stressed that the absence of these reports, poses a grave challenge to track the progress made in implementation of the Maputo Protocol and to hold Member States accountable on their obligations under their human rights commitments. To promote compliance and accountability for implementation of women’s rights continental instruments, the African Union Women, Gender and Development Directorate with the support of the Africa Leadership Forum and Plan International, developed the Maputo Protocol Scorecard and Index (MPSI). The Scorecard and Index is an innovative contribution to the body of tools that seek to enhance accountability and serves as a monitoring and evaluation tool to protect women’s rights during the COVID-19 emergency crises and also a recovery tool to ensure that women’s rights are protected in the long run. The meetings called on Member States to fulfil their reporting obligations and observed the need to popularize the ACHPR Guidelines for state reporting under the Maputo Protocol and with the AU Maputo Protocol Scorecard and Index.
To continue the advocacy, the AUC-WGDD together with its partners will launch a media campaign “Time Is Up!” to encourage Member States to fulfil their commitments and ensure the full protection of women’s rights especially in this period of health and social crises, through the universal ratification of the Maputo Protocol and the immediate domestication and implementation of the provisions in favor of the rights of women and girls by Member States.
Learn more about Maputo Protocol and the States that have signed and ratified here.
Watch this message by the Women, Gender and Development Directorate on the ratification of the Maputo Protocol. Click here.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Union (AU).