INTERSESSION ACTIVITY REPORT
HON. COMMISSIONER JANET RAMATOULIE SALLAH-NJIE
SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN IN AFRICA
PRESENTED AT THE
77TH ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES' RIGHTS
19th October – 9th November 2023
1.In accordance with Rules 25(3) and 64 of the Rules of Procedure (2020) of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) and in line with its Resolution ACHPR/res.38 (XXV) 99 of 5 May 1999, I present this Report in my capacity as the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa (the SRRWA). The Report also covers my activities undertaken as a Member of the Commission during the period under review.
2.The Report is organized into five parts, each covering different aspects of the activities conducted during the intersession following the 75th Ordinary Session of the Commission held in Banjul, The Gambia, from May 3 to May 23, 2023.
3.The first part details my engagements as a Member of the Commission. In contrast, the second part delves into my activities as SRRWA, encompassing events such as celebrations of the 20th Anniversary of the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol)- “Maputo@20”; Commemorative Days, amongst others. The third part highlights Country Monitoring efforts, including Letters of Urgent Appeal to address human rights violations and Letters of Commendation in specific countries under my portfolio. The fourth part provides insights into the status of women and girls during the intersession period. Lastly, the fifth and final part of the Report encapsulates the conclusions drawn from the activities and observations and provides recommendations for consideration.
PART ONE: ACTIVITIES UNDERTAKEN AS A COMMISSIONER
A.The Meetings of the Policy Organs of the African Union and Side Events
4.I was part of the Delegation of the Commission, which participated in the meetings of the Policy Organs of the African Union (AU), which took place in Nairobi, Kenya, as follows:
i.43rd Ordinary Session of the Executive Council from 13-14 July 2023; and
ii.5th Mid-Year Coordination Meeting between the AU, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), and the Regional Mechanisms (RMs), on 16 July 2023.
5.The 5th Mid-Year Coordination Meeting aimed at assessing the advancements made in the continental integration agenda. It addressed challenges related to continental integration by exploring avenues to boost integration, such as advocating for free movement and the African passport, enhancing infrastructure connectivity, connecting African financial markets, and creating a common African market to expedite trade, agricultural initiatives, business establishment and transfer of skills within the continent.
Engagement and Collaboration Strategy between the Commission and other AU Organs
6.On 15 July 2023, on the margins of the Policy Organs Meetings, I attended the signing ceremony of the MOUs between the Commission and other AU Organs. The MOUs were based on an Engagement and Collaboration Strategy to foster an institutionalised and systematic engagement between the Commission, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), the Pan African Parliament (PAP), the African Union Economic, Cultural and Social Council (ECOSOCC) and the African Union Anti-Corruption Board (AUABC).
B.Virtual 76th Ordinary Session (Private)
7.From 19 July to 2 August 2023, I attended the Commission's 76th Ordinary Session (Private), convened virtually to consider Communications, outstanding Reports, and other matters.
PART TWO: ACTIVITIES AS SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN IN AFRICA
A.Conference on “The Role of National Courts of Member States and the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Upholding Human Rights, Rule of Law and Constitutional Democracy”
8.On 23 May 2023, I participated in the Conference mentioned above, organized by the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Banjul, The Gambia, where I presented on the theme "ECOWAS’ Zero Tolerance for Unconstitutional Change of Government."
9.In my presentation, I emphasized the vital role of various global, regional, and sub-regional human rights mechanisms in safeguarding human rights and promoting sound democratic governance by complementing the protective mandates of national courts. In this context, I highlighted the significant contributions of the Commission and the ECOWAS Court in upholding and protecting human rights, the rule of law, and good governance on the African continent. My presentation focused on several key aspects, including the sources of ECOWAS Law and their applicability in national courts, the importance of fostering judicial dialogue between the ECOWAS Court of Justice and national courts to uphold human rights and the rule of law, and ECOWAS's commitment to the protection of human rights, among other pertinent topics.
B.Webinar on Popularization of Soft Laws under the Mandate of the SRRWA of the African Commission
10.From 6 to 7 June 2023, I convened a two-day Webinar on the theme mentioned above, which brought together around 81 participants representing AU Organs, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), UN Agencies and State Parties. The Overall Objective of the Webinar was to sensitize and create awareness of soft laws of the Special Mechanism towards protecting the rights of women and girls in Africa, the status of domestication of the Maputo Protocol, and popularisation of the instruments that the commission has oversight over, to encourage their application at the national level.
11.Through active and engaged participation, enriched by informative presentations and insightful discussions, the event yielded an impactful Outcome Document that includes critical conclusions and recommendations. This document serves as a repository of the comprehensive findings drawn from the webinar and the recommendations from various stakeholders. It also has proposed activities, which are set to be carried out in close collaboration with partner stakeholders in the near future.
C.20th Anniversary of the Maputo Protocol on Women’s Rights
12.It is pertinent to highlight that the Maputo Protocol turned 20 years on 11 July 2023, since its adoption on 11 July 2003. In this regard, year-long activities have been earmarked to reflect on two decades of progress and challenges in advancing women's rights and gender equality across the continent. These activities will run until July 2024.
13.In collaboration with the Women, Gender, Development and Youth Directorate (WGDY) of the AU Commission (AUC), along with Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) and other Partners, we organized activities to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Maputo Protocol, from the 10 to 11 July, in Nairobi Kenya, on the theme, “Maputo Protocol on Women’s Rights: Raising the Bar on Policies and Partnerships for African People.”
14.Engaging in the celebratory events and their organisational stages in my capacity as the SRRWA was a particular honour, granting me the privilege of sharing the Commission's role in promoting women’s rights and my mandate in particular. Partner Organizations also convened other events in the margins of Maputo@20, in which I participated and delivered remarks. The subsequent subsections highlight the activities as part of Maputo@ 20 celebrations.
3rd African Girls and Young Women Festival
15.On 9 July 2023, I attended the mentioned event organised in the margin of Maputo@20 in Nairobi, Kenya, where I delivered remarks discussing the progress and challenges in realizing women's rights, particularly emphasizing the role of young African women. The event provided a unique opportunity to interact with young women all over the continent. I highlighted the significant milestones achieved in safeguarding and advancing women's rights, underscoring the vital role of the Maputo Protocol and its associated soft laws in addressing ongoing challenges faced by African women and girls.
16.Regarding the emerging trend of Digital Violence Against Women and its acute negative impact on young women and girls, I focused on the Commission's efforts to promote and protect women's digital rights. In this respect, I brought to their attention the Commission's Resolution ACHPR/Res.522 (LXXII) 2022, which sheds light on the persistent occurrence of technology-assisted human rights violations and the vulnerability of women and young girls to various forms of online violence.
Maputo Protocol on Women’s Rights: Raising the Bar on Policies and Partnerships for African People
17.From 10 to 11 July 2023, I participated in this high-level Meeting, which formally kick-started the Maputo@20 celebrations. The event was graced with the presence of Ministers and dignitaries from the Member States, including the Gender Minister of Kenya, the Vice Chairperson of the AUC, and other high-level officials of the AUC, including the Director of the WGDY, Senior Officials of the Government of Kenya, including the Deputy Chief Justice, The President and officers of the Pan African Women’s Organiser, CSO organisers from all over the Continent. The event afforded a unique opportunity to interact and showcase successes, challenges, and the vision of the women of the continent, for the realisation of the innovative provisions of the Maputo Protocol.
18. I delivered an Opening Statement emphasizing the significance of the Maputo Protocol's ratification by 44 Member States while appealing to the remaining 11 States to ratify the Protocol to ensure that all African women and girls benefit from its provisions. In my statement, I also highlighted the importance of implementation, domestication, and reporting of the Maputo Protocol to ensure women's rights are effectively protected. To demonstrate this, I showcased the best practices of some African countries that have successfully implemented the Protocol at the national level.
Dialogue on Ratify, Domesticate, Implement
19.As part of the high-level meeting, I facilitated a Dialogue with the representatives of four Member States of the AU, namely the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Republic of Uganda, and the Republic of Botswana. The focus was to discuss the status of the ratification, domestication, and implementation of the Maputo Protocol in their respective countries, impediments in ratifying, domesticating, and implementing the Protocol, and the relevancy of submitting Periodic Reports. I took the opportunity to remind the Republic of Botswana of my promotion mission to the country to encourage ratification of the Maputo Protocol, emphasizing its significance in advancing women's rights in the country.
20.As part of the dialogue, the meeting got a firm commitment from the Minister from Botswana that the Maputo Protocol would indeed be ratified before the end of the year. I fervently hope that Botswana will soon become the 45th Country to ratify the Protocol, followed by the others.
Maputo@20 Awards Gala Dinner “accelerating the promise for African Women and Girls”
18.On 11 July 2023, I participated in a Gala dinner and Award program organised by the SOAWR. The event provided a unique opportunity to take stock of the deliberation of the two-day high-level celebratory event and underscore the role of CSOs, especially the SOAWR, in the journey towards adopting, ratifying domestication, and implementation of the Protocol. As part of my Opening Statement, I reiterated my call to Member States to move beyond mere discussions and turn their words and commitments into concrete actions that would bring about tangible changes in the lives of African women. I emphasised that merely acknowledging the progressive provisions of the Protocol is insufficient; it is essential for all stakeholders to actively breathe life into these provisions through practical implementation to uplift African women and make a lasting impact on their well-being and rights. I, however, seized the opportunity to celebrate all giants and comrades in the struggle and all the women of the continent!
Panel on Advocating through the lens of Article 14 of the Maputo Protocol
19.On the margins of the celebration of the Maputo Protocol's 20th Anniversary, IPAS African Alliance organised the above panel on 11 July 2023. During the Panel, I contributed to the discussion on the progress made towards the realisation of Article 14 of the Maputo Protocol. I highlighted the Soft Laws developed by the Commission to clarify specific provisions of the Protocol that may have been seen as vague or ambiguous.
20.I specifically highlighted General Comment No. 2 on Article 14 (1) (a), (b), (c), and (f), as well as Article 14 (2) (a) and (c) of the Maputo Protocol. I emphasized the significance of this General Comment in providing interpretive guidance to States Parties, outlining their overall and specific obligations in effectively promoting the domestication and implementation of Article 14 of the Maputo Protocol.
Diplomatic Advocacy Dialogue Breakfast
21.On 15 July 2023, in collaboration with the WGYD, we hosted a breakfast meeting with the PRC. In my opening statement, I urged all the remaining 11 Member States, yet to ratify the Maputo Protocol, to do so with the purview of addressing the persistent gender inequalities prevailing in many African countries, particularly taking advantage of this period of celebration.
22.I also emphasised the importance of State Parties' commitment to ensuring the national implementation of the Maputo Protocol to eliminate the persistent gender inequality and empower women and girls in the region. Additionally, I took the opportunity to remind them about the importance of submitting their Periodic Reports to the Commission to enable the latter to effectively monitor and evaluate the implementation of the instruments and the status of women's rights protection in their respective countries.
D.Consolidating Efforts towards a Concerted and Inclusive Regional Response to the Crisis in Sudan
23.On 12 July 2023, I participated in the event organized by Africans for the Horn of Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, which served as a crucial platform for Sudanese individuals, human rights defenders, and NGOs to discuss the dire human rights situation faced by the Sudanese people due to the ongoing conflict. During the event, participants had the opportunity to ask questions about my mandate and how the Commission can engage with various stakeholders to address and mitigate human rights violations caused by the conflict in Sudan.
24.I shared the deep concerns of the Commission regarding the human rights situation in Sudan and expressed particular concerns about the violations of women's rights, including sexual assault and rape. I assured them that the Commission is committed to drawing the attention of relevant stakeholders to take necessary actions to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights in Sudan.
25.It was an essential and impactful discussion that shed light on the urgent need for action to protect the rights and well-being of the Sudanese people, especially women, who are particularly vulnerable in such challenging circumstances.
E.Human Rights challenges in AFCFTA implementation
26.On 15 July 2023, I moderated a Panel organised by the GIMAC Network in Nairobi, Kenya. The Panel's central theme revolved around addressing the multifaceted challenges and opportunities of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and delving into two critical topics: Violence Against Women (VAW) and the Protection of Women's Rights within the Context of Regional Trade. Additionally, the Panel aimed to foster a knowledge exchange on the invaluable experiences of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) under the AU's Theme of the Year, which focused on accelerating the implementation of AfCFTA. Lastly, the role of CSOs in effectively contributing to the implementation of AfCFTA was a vital aspect of the discussions.
F.Women Deliver 2023 Conference- Kigali, Rwanda.
Africa-Focused Session- Setting the scene: 20 years of the Maputo Protocol
27.On 18 July 2023, as part of Women Deliver 2023, I served as a Panelist in a Session organised by the AUC and Africa Development Bank. During my presentation, I highlighted the development of a wide range of regional and national legal and policy frameworks following the adoption of the Maputo Protocol. In recognizing the continent's challenges in effectively implementing the Protocol, I recommended various stakeholders, including Member States, AUC, UN Agencies, and CSOs, to play a role in their respective responsibilities.
Maputo@20 celebrations: Enhancing Reproductive Justice using the Maputo Protocol
28.On 18 July 2023, I was invited to give opening remarks at the abovementioned event organized by IPAS on the margins of the Women Deliver Conference. Highlighting the relevance of General Comment No. 2 of the Commission, I underscored that violating the right to reproductive and health rights results in many women's rights violations, including the rights to life and health.
G.Joint Statement on the Occasion of the “Pan-African Women’s Day”
29.On 31 July 2023, together with the WGYD and SOAWR Coalition, we issued a Press Statement commemorating the Pan-African Women’s Day, celebrated on 31 July every year. Considering that the day also marked the 61st Anniversary of the formation of the Pan-African Women’s Organization (PAWO) and also coincided with the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the Maputo Protocol, the Press Statement reflected on the significant strides made in safeguarding the rights of African women. It paid tribute to those who have paved the way for progress. The Statement further highlighted the significant progress witnessed in the advancement of women’s rights on the continent.
H.Regional Africa Human Rights Academic Network Conference
30. From 13 to 15 September 2013, I participated in the event above, jointly organized by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Stellenbosch University, and the Regional Africa Human Rights Academic Network. I was a Panelist on the "Reflections on the Maputo Protocol in adjudicating women's rights." Within this Panel, my contributions centered explicitly on various aspects of the advancement of women's rights over the past two decades, the challenges, and the pursuit of substantive equality.
I.2nd International Conference on Female Genital Mutilation
31.From 9 to 11 October 2023, I attended the conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, organised by the AUC in collaboration with UNFPA and UNICEF. I attended the Conference as a Keynote Speaker on “Change in a Generation.” The Conference was a significant platform that brought together Member States, Regional Organizations, CSOs, and the Media. The Conference served as an invaluable opportunity to address the pressing issue of FGM at a high-level event. During my keynote address, I emphasized the importance of shedding light on the ongoing challenges associated with FGM. I also underscored the urgency of our collective efforts in eradicating this harmful practice and highlighted the need for sustained action, collaboration, and advocacy in the fight against FGM.
J.Equality Now “Make Equality Reality” Gala Dinner
32.On 11 October 2023, I attended the above function held in New York, USA, to celebrate Maputo@20. I shared perspectives on the importance of the Maputo Protocol towards advancing the human rights of women and girls across the continent. I also highlighted the role of Civil Society in this process, especially the role played by the SOAWR Coalition and other relevant stakeholders in the negotiation, adoption, ratification, and implementation of the Protocol.
PART THREE: COUNTRY MONITORING
A.Promotion Mission to the Republic of Namibia
33.From 12 to 16 June 2023, I undertook a Promotion Mission to the Republic of Namibia in my dual capacities as Commissioner responsible for monitoring human rights in Namibia and SRRWA.
34.The mission's objectives were manifold, aiming to, amongst other things, assess the situation of human rights in the country and promote the African Charter by facilitating the exchange of perspectives with the Namibian Government and relevant stakeholders. Additionally, the mission sought to enhance awareness of the Commission’s double mandates of protection and promotion and increase the visibility of the Special Mechanisms and mandates of SRRWA while engaging with State Institutions and various relevant stakeholders.
35.The mission successfully fostered dialogue with State and non-State actors, including CSOs, concerning the state of human and peoples' rights in Namibia. This engagement enabled the delegation to identify several areas of concern, leading to proposed recommendations aimed at ensuring the effective promotion and safeguarding of human rights in the country.
36.I would like to take this opportunity to express gratitude to the Government of Namibia for authorizing this mission and for the courtesies extended to the Delegation of the Commission.
Joint Letter of Commendation for the ratification of the Maputo Protocol
37.On 19 June 2023, along with the Commissioner Rapporteur of the Republic of South Sudan, we sent a Letter of Commendation to H.E. Mr. Salva Kiir Mayardit for ratifying the Maputo Protocol on 24 February 2023 and subsequently depositing the ratification instrument with the AU Commission on 7 June 2023. In the letter, we expressed our appreciation to the Government of South Sudan for taking this decisive step towards promoting and protecting women's rights, which marks a significant stride towards building a more just and equal society.
38.Furthermore, we called upon His Excellency to submit an Initial Report to the Commission two years following the ratification of the Maputo Protocol and its Periodic Report as per Articles 62 and 26 of the African Charter and the Maputo Protocol, respectively. This will foster a constructive dialogue with the Commission on the progress and efforts made in upholding women's rights in South Sudan.
C.The Republic of Zambia
Joint Letter of Commendation for approving the publication and introduction in Parliament of the Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2023
39.On 2 August 2023, in my capacity as the SRRWA, together with Commissioner Rapporteur for the Human Rights Situation in the Republic of Zambia, we sent a Letter of Commendation to H.E. Mr. Hakainde Hichilema for considering amending the Marriage Act to raise the minimum marriageable age from 16 to 19 years. In the letter, we highlighted that raising the age for a void marriage is a significant move towards safeguarding young girls from early and forced marriages, ultimately fostering gender equality and women empowerment.
40. We further emphasized that this proposed amendment aligns with Article 18 of the African Charter and Articles 5 and 6 of the Maputo Protocol, which obligates States to prohibit harmful traditional practices and set the minimum age of marriage at 18, respectively.
D.The Republic of Ghana
Joint Letter of Commendation for abolishing the death penalty in the Criminal and Other Offences Act 1960 and the Armed Forces Act 1962
41.On 4 September 2023, in my capacity as Country Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Republic of Ghana, together with the Chairperson of the Working Group on Death Penalty, Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Africa, we sent a letter of commendation to His Excellency Mr. Nana Akufo-Addo for adopting a law that abolishes the death penalty. In the letter, we highlighted that the abolishment of the death penalty in the country is a significant step affirming the government’s dedication to enhancing human rights protection, as outlined in regional and international human rights instruments, notably Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, which upholds the right to life.
42.Furthermore, we encouraged the Government of Ghana to persist in these endeavors by ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights about the elimination of the death penalty and support for initiatives towards the adoption of the draft Protocol to the African Charter on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Africa.
E.Republic of Tunisia
Joint Letter of Urgent Appeal regarding the alleged attack on Black African Migrants in Tunisia
43.On 21 July 2023, in my capacities as the SRRWA and together with the Commissioner Rapporteur of the Human Rights Situation in the Republic of Tunisia, who also serves as the Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons, and Migrants in Africa, we sent a letter of urgent appeal to H.E. Mr. Kais Saied, the President of the Republic of Tunisia. The letter addressed alleged acts of violence, hate speech, and a mob attack against Black African Migrants, Refugees, and Asylum Seekers in Tunisia.
44.Based on the reported attacks to the Commission, we urged the Government of the Republic of Tunisia to take decisive action against racial discrimination and racist violence targeting Black Africans. Additionally, we called for the cessation of collective expulsions and ensuring the safety, protection, and dignity of Black African Migrants at the Tunisia-Libya borders; provision of Humanitarian access and essential healthcare services to those in need, with particular attention to providing access to food and water for expelled migrants, especially vulnerable women, and children and implement immediate measures to prevent further loss of life, injury, and property destruction, among other.
F.The Republic of Zimbabwe
Press Statement on Women's Political Participation in the run-up to the August 2023 Presidential Election in Zimbabwe
45.On 31 July 2023, in my capacity as the Country Rapporteur for the Republic of Zimbabwe and the SRRWA, I released a Press Statement expressing deep concern over reports of escalating political tension and incidents resulting in offline and online attacks targeting voters and members of political parties, with a particular focus on women.
46.In the Press Statement, I emphasized the growing concerns regarding women's treatment during the ongoing election process in Zimbabwe, which could potentially undermine the continent's unwavering commitment to promoting gender equality and safeguarding women's rights in the political sphere. Therefore, I urged the Government of Zimbabwe, political parties, and the electorate to refrain from spreading inciteful expressions that could lead to attacks or discrimination against individuals in general and women in particular. I reaffirmed the need to maintain a peaceful and inclusive environment that upholds the dignity and rights of all citizens, irrespective of gender, during the electoral process.
PART FOUR: BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE SITUATION OF WOMEN AND GIRLS IN AFRICA
47.During the intersession period, I noted the following developments and concerns on the situation of women on the continent:
48.In a move that indicates serious regression in the promotion of women’s rights and anti-discrimination, I note with concern the implementation of a policy by Libya which restricts all women and girls from travelling abroad without a male guardian.[ https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/07/libya-experts-troubled-….] This policy restricts women’s freedom of movement, which is discriminatory. There were also reports of intimidation of human rights defenders, especially women who spoke out against these policies.
49.I noted with concern that the effects of Cyclone Freddy in Malawi, which hit the country this year, were acutely felt by women and girls. Following the displacement of about 659000 people, camps were set up for those who had lost their homes. However, concerning reports were made of women and girls being sexually harassed and exploited within the camps, including being asked for sexual favours in exchange for aid.[ https://reliefweb.int/report/malawi/cyclone-freddy-has-put-women-girls-…] Even more disturbing is the reticence by women to report the matters out of fear of stigmatization and the lengthy justice process.
20.The protracted conflict and insurgency in the Cabo Delgado region of Mozambique has caused untold suffering for women. During the intersession, it was disturbing to note that five years later, women were still being tortured in the region, kidnapped, and forced to join the insurgency or watch their families being killed.[ https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/august-2023/mozambican-mother…] The Commission condemns the extremism in the region and calls for an end to the suffering of women and the respect of international humanitarian law during the conflict.
21.In May 2023, the President of Nigeria approved the appointment of Dr. Mrs. Oluwatoyin Sakirat Madein as the first-ever female Accountant General of the Federation (AGF). This notable decision carries commendable weight, aligning with the continent's call for greater women's representation in governmental offices. This appointment not only signifies a substantial stride towards gender inclusivity but also serves as a positive exemplar of recognizing and empowering women's leadership in pivotal roles.
22.In an affirmation of the newly enacted Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act in the country, it was heartening to see a surge in female politicians in the June general elections in Sierra Leone. The percentage of women parliamentarians went up from 14.5% to 30.4%, which is remarkable.[ https://www.ipu.org/news/news-in-brief/2023-07/record-number-women-mps-…] Sierra Leone is thus well on its way to fulfilling its obligations under Article 9 of the Maputo Protocol, which provides for the right to political participation and decision-making.
23.It is with great pleasure and encouragement that we witnessed South Sudan becoming the 44th country to ratify the Maputo Protocol in June 2023.[ https://au.int/en/pressreleases/20230607/south-sudan-becomes-44th-count…] We encourage the State to domesticate the instrument and begin programs towards implementation expediently.
24.The conflict in the Sudan has been a significant cause for concern. The Maputo Protocol calls for protecting women in armed conflicts in Article 11. It considers rape and other sexual exploitation as war crimes and crimes against humanity. Therefore, it is of utmost concern that there have been reports of widespread rape and sexual violence against women by the members of the Rapid Support Forces.[ https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/08/un-experts-alarmed-repo…- against#:~:text=GENEVA%20(17%20August%202023)%20%E2%80%93,end%20to%20the%20ongoing%20violence. ] Some of these rapes are reported to appear ethnically and racially motivated. In the strongest sense, we condemn the use of women as spoils of war and call upon the authorities to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators.
20.In August 2023, The Gambia achieved a significant milestone by prosecuting and convicting three women for being accomplices to the crime of FGM. The Kuntaur Magistrates’ Court in The Gambia found these women guilty of performing FGM, violating the Women’s Amendment Act of 2015. Each offender was fined 15,000 Dalasi or faces a one-year imprisonment if they cannot pay the fine. Although there is no explicit mention of the Maputo Protocol, this ruling gives effect to the principles outlined in Article 5(b) of the Maputo Protocol that obliges States to take punitive measures against all forms of FGM. This ruling also underscores the domestication of the Protocol into the national laws of the State and its effective implementation.
21.As indicated in the section on country monitoring, we are deeply concerned about the alleged expulsion of black African women, children, and pregnant and nursing women to the remote and militarized buffer zone at the Tunisia-Libya border. I have received reports of women's rights violations, including sexual assaults, both in the city and at the Tunisia-Libya border. These actions violate international commitments that the State is a party to. We hope that a response will be provided to the Commission regarding the Urgent Appeal as we continue to monitor the situation.
22.The Government of Zambia has approved the publication and introduction of the Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2023 in Parliament, aimed at increasing the legal marriageable age from 16 to 19. This decision comes in response to the realization that revising the Marriage Act is essential, as it currently conflicts with the provisions of Zambia's Constitution and the Children's Code Act of 2022. In addition to aligning national laws, Zambia's initiative to amend its marriage act aligns with international instruments of which Zambia is a State Party.
23.In the lead-up to Zimbabwe's 2023 Presidential Election, there were growing concerns about alleged offline and online attacks targeting women candidates, voters, and opposition party members. Despite a constitutional quota system, only one out of 11 presidential candidates was a woman, and other women faced registration issues due to high registration fees.[ European Union Election Observation Mission Zimbabwe ‘Preliminary Statement: Curtailed Rights and Lack of Level Playing Field Compounded by Intimidation, Election Day Largely Calm, but Disorderly” 25 August 2023 https://www.eeas.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/2023/250823-EU… ]
24.Moreover, the significant delays in opening certain polling stations, which extended late into the night,[ As above.] may have a detrimental impact on the exercise of women’s voting rights, especially pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly, and those with disabilities. The Southern African Development Community SADC Preliminary Statement also highlighted that these vulnerable groups were not given priority at 50% of Polling Stations.[ SADC Electoral Observation Mission Preliminary Statement to the Harmonised Election to the Republic of Zimbabwe “Preliminary Statement” https://www.sadc.int/sites/default/files/2023-08/ZIMBABWE%20SEOM%20-202… ]
25.I would like to underscore the essentiality of ensuring a fair and secure environment for women to exercise their rights and contribute to the democratic process without fear of intimidation or harm.
Ratification, Domestication, Implementation, and Reporting of the Maputo Protocol
20.Currently, the Maputo Protocol has been ratified by 44 Member States, with South Sudan being the most recent country to ratify in June 2023. While the ratification by 44 States is a significant achievement, the non-ratification of the Protocol by 11 Member States leaves women and girls in those countries at a disadvantage.
21.These States include Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Madagascar, Morocco, Niger, Somalia, and Sudan. In addition to this gap in ratification, it is noteworthy that the domestic implementation of the Protocol in the ratified countries is also minimal. Despite this, many States across the continent have recognized women's rights in their constitutions and have enacted national legislations that resonate with the principles and spirit of the Protocol.
22.Furthermore, it is worth noting that only a few ratifying States have fulfilled their obligation to include a section on the Maputo Protocol in their Periodic Reports to the Commission. Additionally, only a few States have complied with the State Reporting Guidelines on the Maputo Protocol. I, therefore, urge States Parties to the Protocol to promptly submit their Periodic Reports under the Maputo Protocol and utilize the State Reporting guidelines. Doing so will enable States to engage in a constructive dialogue with the Commission, identify areas of progress, and benefit from the Commission's Concluding Observations.
PART FIVE: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
To the Government of South Sudan
I applaud the commendable step taken by the Government to ratify the Maputo Protocol; and
I urge the State to immediately put plans to domesticate and implement the treaty and work towards aligning the domestic laws with the provisions of the Protocol.
To the Government of The Gambia
I applaud the Government of The Gambia for its significant strides in eliminating the practice of FGM within the country;
I urge the State to ensure that the penalties imposed for the crime of FGM are substantial enough to serve as a strong deterrent against its commission and
I recommend that the State engage with local communities, religious leaders, and traditional authorities to raise awareness about the dangers and consequences of FGM.
To the Governments of Sudan and Mozambique
23.I strongly urge the Governments of the Sudan and Mozambique to:
Recall its obligations under the Maputo Protocol and international humanitarian law and ensure that women’s rights are protected during the conflict; and
Fully investigate the reported cases and bring perpetrators to book in a manner that is a deterrent to other would-be perpetrators.
To the Government of Malawi
24.I urge the Government of Malawi
To observe its obligations under Article 10 of the Maputo Protocol, which calls for it to ensure that the rights of internally displaced women are protected;
Investigate and prosecute any cases of sexual violence against women and girls in camps and
Increase security in the camps and capacitate the local law enforcement to investigate the reports.
To the Government of Libya
25.I urge the Government of Libya to
Recall the discriminatory policy restricting women's movement without a male guardian.
The Republic of Tunisia
26.I recommend that the Republic of Tunisia to:
Take decisive action against any form of racial discrimination and racist violence targeting Black Africans;
Grant humanitarian access and essential healthcare services to those in need while ensuring access to food and water for expelled migrants, especially vulnerable women and children; and
Investigate and hold accountable those suspected of committing criminal acts, including sexual assault against Black African Migrants, Refugees, and Asylum Seekers.
The Republic of Zimbabwe
27.I recommend that the Government of Zimbabwe :
Prioritize the empowerment of women to enable them to be actively involved in the political sphere of the country;
Ensure that women politicians and activists can freely participate in the electoral process without the fear of facing violations both online and offline and
Take necessary measures to eliminate factors that could hinder the active participation of women in the electoral process.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria
28.I recommend that the Government of Nigeria :
Continue its journey of empowering women's representation in government offices and leadership roles and
Take the necessary steps to domesticate and implement the Maputo Protocol.
29.The relevance of ensuring gender equality and empowering women cannot be overstated, as a country’s progress is intrinsically tied to women's equitable participation and inclusion. Recognizing and empowering their rights fulfills moral imperatives and drives economic growth, social development, and stability. It is, therefore, essential to foster an environment where women's voices are heard, their rights are safeguarded, and their contributions are valued. As it can be understood from the Report, the status of women's rights in Africa presents both achievements and challenges.
30.The Maputo Protocol's ratification, domestication, implementation, and reporting symbolizes the continent's commitment to work towards gender equality and women empowerment. While offering a promising framework, the Maputo Protocol often faces challenges regarding domestication and implementation, particularly in judicial implementation. It's worth noting that the judiciary, as a cornerstone of justice and the rule of law, plays a vital role in shaping the path of women's rights. In this context, the Maputo Protocol holds immense significance as a tool effectively utilized by the judiciary to ensure the realization of women’s rights and hold perpetrators accountable.
31.Given that this year marks the 20th year of the Maputo Protocol, African States, Regional and Sub-Regional judicial and Quasi-Judicial bodies, NGOs, and various stakeholders should play a pivotal role in addressing the challenges in implementing the Maputo Protocol, advocate for its practical application within the judicial system, and recognise the indispensable part of women in the society. To bridge the gap between promise and reality, a collective effort is needed to strengthen the application and implementation of the Protocol at the grassroots level.
32.The SRRWA remains dedicated to realizing its mandates and bringing the core objectives of the Mechanism to realization. While actively championing the promotion and safeguarding of women's rights, the instrumental role of Partner Organizations must be balanced in facilitating these endeavors. Thus, I express my gratitude to these invaluable partners for their indispensable financial and technical contributions and support, which significantly contribute to the success of our initiatives.