The Maputo Protocol is the African continent’s leading legal instrument relating to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of women’s rights. Its full title is “Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.” It came into force in 2005 after a long history which begins with the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) now known as the Africa Union, established in 1963, whose initial work was centralised on decolonisation of the continent and eradication of apartheid.
It was criticised for concentrating all its efforts on political and economic independence meanwhile ignoring individual liberties. Additionally disapproval was expressed over the OAU condemning external violators of African people’s human dignity and neglecting the many human rights violations by its member states.
It was therefore recommended that there be established human rights protection mechanism on the continent to cater to violations by member states. On 21 October 1986, over two decades later, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights was born.
Thereafter Human Rights Commission was established and officially inaugurated on the 2nd of November 1987. Their function was to provide technical support of this Charter by promotion of human and people’s rights, protection of human and people’s rights, interpretation of the provisions of the Charter and any other tasks as assigned by the OAU.
It was later realised that this Charter was still deficient when it came to the rights of African women. African women continued to be marginalised in the context of human rights so in March 1995 in Togo under the leadership of Women in Law Development in Africa (WiLDAF), dialogue on developing a specific protocol addressing women’s rights was officially commenced.
After eight years, the long journey of lobbying by different women groups led to the adoption of the Maputo Protocol by the Africa Union on the 11th of July 2003. This adoption was done at its second summit in Maputo, Mozambique.
On the 25th of November 2005 it came into force after fulfilling the requirement that it should be ratified by 15 member states to be functional. Out of the AU’s 55 member states, 40 have ratified it including Zimbabwe which ratified the Protocol in 1986.
Functions of the Maputo Protocol
When a ‘member state’ meaning a country ratifies a regional or international instrument such as the Maputo Protocol, the country needs to make domestic laws which are aligned to that specific instrument.
In addition to enacting laws, the member state must take necessary institutional and administrative measures for its implementation and functionality.
The main aim of the Maputo Protocol is to provide a comprehensive framework for the promotion, realisation and protection of the human rights of African women through the elimination of discrimination and gender based violence against women.
It was acknowledged that despite the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights making provisions for gender equality, African women continue to be victims of discrimination and harmful practices.
Some of the rights enshrined in the Protocol include; the right to life, integrity and security of persons; the right to participation in political and decision making processes; economic and social welfare rights; environmental rights and health and reproductive rights among others.
Role of the Commission on Human and People’s Rights
In terms of Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, “each State Party shall undertake to submit every two years, from the date the Charter comes into force (for that State), a report on the legislative or other measures taken with a view to giving effect to the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed by the present Charter.”
This report is known as the ‘State Report’ which is submitted to the Commission for examination. This reporting system is not unique to the Maputo Protocol, almost all human rights monitoring bodies use this to evaluate the progress made by its members in implementing its objectives.
According to the Africa Union, “one of the primary objectives of Commission’s state reporting system is to establish a framework for constructive dialogue between the Commission and the State.” The dialogue should be used by member States to enhance its protection of women’s rights.
The advantages and benefits of the State Reporting system are;
Monitoring of implementation of the Protocol,
Offers a platform to evaluate difficulties in implementing women’s rights and strategies to overcome same,
Provides best practices for member States as the Commission can take common experiences between parties and share information so that States may learn from one another.
When the State submits its report, it is published on the African Commission website to allow civil society, non-governmental organisations and other non-state players to draft a shadow report which responds to the information provided by the State. This is an added tier by the Commission to have a widened and diversified view of the implementation of the Maputo Protocol.
This is also to ensure that the State is not the only narrator of the functions of women’s rights but that citizens also get an opportunity to analyse the implementation of the Protocol.
Once the Commission examines State Party Reports and engages in dialogue with the representatives of the State, it adopts ‘concluding observations’ which recognises areas of development, areas of concern and makes recommendations.
Zimbabwe is schedule for review on the Maputo Protocol in the Next Ordinary Session to be held from October 21 to November 10 2019.
The State report has already been submitted and is available on the African Commission website.
For feedback, questions and comments please feel free to email – firstname.lastname@example.org. Look out for the next article in this column next week and the Kwayedza every Thursday. For a 24 hour response to Gender Based Violence issues, call our toll free number 08080131: hotlines 0776736873/0782900900