The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child was adopted by the Organization of African Unity, the predecessor to the AU, on 1 July 1990, and entered into force on 29 November 1999. The African Committee of Experts on the rights and Welfare of the Child, a group of eleven independent experts, monitors the implementation of the treaty through a process of periodic reporting by States Parties. Communications may also be sent by “any person, group, or non-governmental organization” relating to any matter covered by the Charter (Article 44).
The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child provides a normative framework to the rights of children, who are defined as “every human being below the age of 18 years” (Article 2) and covers economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights.
How does it help tackle violence against women?
Article 3 of the treaty requires that all children “shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in this Charter, irrespective of the child’s or his/her parents’ or legal guardians’ […] sex, […] or other status.” This requires that girls and the children of single mothers be guaranteed their human rights in law and practice. These rights include the right to life (Article 5) the right not to be subjected to “torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and especially physical or mental injury or abuse, neglect or maltreatment including sexual abuse” (Article 16). This general principle is supplemented by a specific article on “harmful social and cultural practices” with a clear emphasis on “customs and practice discriminatory to the chil on the grounds of sex or other status” (Article 21(1)(b)). Article 21(2) requires the effective prohibition of child marriage and betrothal of girls and boys, and requires (in conformity with Article 2 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child) that the minimum age for marriage be set at 18 years.
Article 27 makes detailed requirements to protect children from sexual exploitation, including:
“(a) the inducement, coercion or encouragement of a child to engage in any sexual activity;
(b) the use of children in prostitution or other sexual practices;
(c) the use of children in pornographic activities, performances and materials.”
While the main focus of the treaty is the human rights of children, it also contains an article requiring that States Parties ensure that pregnant women and girls, or mothers of young children, are diverted from custodial punishment (Article 30).