19 years ago, African States adopted the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women (Maputo Protocol), heralding a new era in the women’s rights movement in Africa.
The Maputo Protocol builds on international human rights treaties and lays out progressive provisions designed to holistically address violence against women and girls and beyond that, addresses the unique challenges faced by women and girls in Africa. To date, 43 out of the 55 countries in Africa have ratified it with 12 African countries yet to ratify it. This undermines the spirit of the Protocol and locks out thousands of girls and women from the benefits of its aspirations.
Here are 19 reasons why the Protocol is important and how it can transform the lived realities of women and girls in Africa if it is ratified, domesticated, and implemented.
The Maputo Protocol…
- Addresses discrimination by obligating State Parties to take appropriate legislative, institutional, and other measures in addressing gender biases that promote inequality against women and girls just like the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.
- Promotes women’s and girls’ rights to dignity by recognizing their human and legal rights. It calls on State Parties to protect them from violence and prohibit any acts that exploit or degrade them.
- Guarantees girls’ and women’s rights to life, integrity, and security of the person, and calls on States to prohibit all forms of exploitation, cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment and treatment.
- Prohibits harmful practices including all forms of female genital mutilation and advocates for the protection of women at risk of being subjected to harmful practices or other forms of violence.
- Sets the minimum age of marriage for girls at 18, and ensures that all marriages take place with the full consent of both parties, among other provisions related to marriage.
- Provides for equality within the context of marriage – at the time of entry, during, and at dissolution. In case of separation, divorce, or annulment of marriage, it provides reciprocal responsibilities towards the children and equitable sharing of joint property deriving from the marriage.
- Is instrumental in promoting women’s access to justice and equal protection before the law. It urges State Parties to take all appropriate measures in ensuring effective access to judicial and legal services.
- Advocates for women’s participation in political and decision-making processes which promote affirmative action and their increased representation in these spaces.
- Provides for women’s right to peaceful existence and their right to take part in the promotion and maintenance of peace.
- Promotes women’s right to protection in armed conflict.
- Champions girls’ and women’s access to education by promoting equality and eliminating discrimination within educational institutions.
- Aspires for an Africa where women and men enjoy equal access to social welfare and economic opportunities. This includes equal remuneration for jobs of equal value for men and women and access to employment.
- Promotes the right to health and reproductive rights which is integral to the attainment of many other fundamental human rights for women and girls and underscores access to adequate and affordable health services.
- Provides for the right to food security and obligates State Parties to establish adequate food supplies, and provide access to clean drinking water, among other things.
- Requires State Parties to ensure that women have equal access to adequate housing, acceptable living conditions, and the right to a positive cultural context through Articles 16 and 17.
- Lays out provisions that would ensure that the right to sustainable development and the right to a healthy and sustainable environment is realized across Africa.
- Seeks to advance and uphold the rights of vulnerable groups of women including widows, elderly women, women with disabilities, and women in distress.
- Safeguards the right of widows to inherit property and also provides for an equitable share in parents’ properties for both men and women.
- Apart from comprehensively laying down fundamental rights for women and girls, it demands that State Parties provide remedies to women and girls whose rights have been infringed.
While we are excited about the milestones that we have made over the last 19 years, we continue to call on Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Egypt, Madagascar, Morocco, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan to urgently sign, ratify, domesticate, and implement the Protocol.
We also commend the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic for becoming the 43rd country to accede to the Maputo Protocol, bringing us closer to the universal ratification of the Protocol that we are seeking.
Learn more about the Maputo Protocol and the movement to ensure it’s ratified, domesticated and implemented across the continent from the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition