In early 2021, Kenya became only the 17th country out of the 42 state parties to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the Maputo Protocol, to submit a report on its implementation of the treaty.
In our statement at the 69th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) commending the Kenyan government’s step to submit a report on how it is implementing the Maputo Protocol, we urged the African Commission to work with AU member states to encourage the submission of these reports.
What are state reports?
State reports provide an opportunity for governments to give an account of the steps they are taking to implement promises they made when they acceded to a particular treaty, in this case, the Maputo Protocol.
The Maputo Protocol (also known as the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa) is a landmark women’s rights treaty that provides for tailor-made solutions to the problems facing African women. By Africa, for African women, the treaty goes beyond existing women’s rights treaties to explicitly ban female genital mutilation, explicitly provide for women’s sexual and reproductive rights, urge states to redirect military spending in favor of more investments in women’s empowerment, and provides for the rights of vulnerable groups such as refugee and displaced women, elderly women, and women with disabilities.
By encouraging states to provide their own narrative on their efforts to protect the rights of women, state reports create opportunities for civil society organizations, regional and international rights bodies such as the African Commission, and even members of the public to hold states to their own word. In addition, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (also known as the Banjul Charter, which established the African Commission) allows for civil society organizations such as Equality Now to submit shadow reports providing their own observations and analysis on the steps governments have taken to promote women’s rights. The ACHPR’s Guidelines on State Reporting also encourages states to work closely with civil society organizations in developing the state report, creating an opportunity for these organizations to influence the direction and final version of the state report.
During the development of the Kenya shadow report, Equality Now teamed up with 17 civil society organizations based in Kenya to document a wide range of women’s rights issues that the Kenyan government needs to urgently address, to conform to the promises and commitments it made when it acceded to the Maputo Protocol.
These topics include equality and non-discrimination, the right of women to participate in the political and decision-making process, protection of women from sexual and gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, child marriage, technology-assisted violence against women, women’s rights relating to marriage, health, and reproductive rights, maternal healthcare, rights of women in need of special protection, women with disabilities, and indigenous women. Additionally, Equality Now and the 17 partner organizations made recommendations that the African Commission can make to the Kenyan government, as a way of improving its implementation of the Maputo Protocol.
Presenting the reports at the African Commission
Although it is an encouraging sign that the Kenyan government submitted a state report to the African Commission on how it is implementing the Maputo Protocol, some challenges persist when it comes to how effective this mechanism is when it comes to promoting the rights of women in Africa. Although the report was scheduled for consideration during the 69th Ordinary Session of the African Commission taking place in November 2021, this did not happen.
For the stakeholders who jointly submitted the reports, some of the observations made in the report are urgent, especially those related to the need to enhance the protection of the rights of women, including women political candidates, in the upcoming 2022 General Election. Additionally, some of our recommendations point out the need for government to implement key women’s rights decisions, including a recent case won by the Government with support from Equality Now and others in which the Kenyan High Court urged the government to expand its prohibition of FGM.
How treaty body engagement can make a change
The state reporting mechanism is a great opportunity to hold governments accountable for the commitments they’ve made, for government and civil society to work together to protect and promote human rights. Governments receive expert recommendations from the African Commission on how to improve the human rights situation in their jurisdictions, moving states closer to achieving gender equality.
Equality Now, and our partners across Africa, look forward to continuing to engage in the reporting mechanisms at the African Commission, and encourage all countries to participate fully in the mechanism going forwards. Together we will make gender equality a reality.