Since its adoption in 2003, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, known as the Maputo Protocol, has contributed in shifting the trajectory on the promotion and protection of woman’s rights in Africa.
Despite its progressive protections, to date, only 42 countries have signed and ratified the Maputo Protocol. Of those 42, fewer still have taken the necessary steps to align their legal frameworks, policies, and budgetary commitments to the Articles of the Protocol.
The Maputo Protocol guarantees comprehensive rights to woman, including the right to take part in the political process, improved autonomy in the exercise and realization of their sexual and reproductive health rights, and an end to female genital mutilation (FGM).
In spite of these progressive commitments, the reality of woman’s lives on the continent is divorced from the legislative framework as evidenced by the lack of political will of Member States to live up to their commitments to ratify, domesticate and implement the Maputo Protocol.
The slow progress in the ratification and implementation of the Protocol has had negative consequences on woman and girls, which have also been exacerbated by the outbreak of the novel COVID-19 pandemic.
The reality on the African continent is that woman continue to be disproportionately infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. In Sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 60% of those infected are women. Of the 2.3 million refugees and internally displaced people on the continent the majority are woman and children. Woman and children across the continent have also been subject to increased levels of poverty, gender-based violence, harmful social and cultural practices, hunger and unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccine inequality is set to further exacerbate the precarious conditions that women are forced to live in across the continent.
We note with concern the lack of appropriate and meaningful administrative and policy mechanisms that address the increased and continued vulnerability of marginalised woman on the Continent especially those living in conflict zones, rural areas, in urban poverty, with disabilities and affected and infected by HIV.
We further note, institutionalisation of patriarchy within political decision-making structures, traditional and cultural bodies and religious institutions exacerbate woman’s vulnerability.
We call upon the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel member states that are still to ratify the Protocol to do so and, for the member states that have ratified the Maputo Protocol, to domesticate and implement the protocol as a matter of urgency.
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