Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa’ Rights
The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa is one of the special mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Established in 1998, the Special Rapporteur is selected from one of the Commission’s members to serve a two-year term (with the possibility of renewal) as the focal point for the promotion and protection of the rights of women in Africa. Regional human rights instruments related to women form the normative framework for the Special Rapporteur. In particular:
- Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa
- SADC Declaration on Gender and Development
- Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women and Children (Addendum to the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development)
- ECOWAS Declaration on the Fight against Trafficking in Persons
Guided by these instruments, the Special Rapporteur is responsible for (ACHPR/res. 38 (XXV) 99):
- Assisting African governments in the development and implementation of their policies of promotion and protection of the rights of women in Africa, particularly in line with the domestication of the newly entered into force Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights, relative to the Rights of Women in Africa and the general harmonization of national legislation to the rights guaranteed in the Protocol
- Undertaking promotional and fact finding missions in African countries Members of the African Union, in order to disseminate the human rights instruments of the African Union and to investigate on the situation of women’s rights in the countries visited
- Following up on the implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its Protocol relative to the Rights of Women in Africa by state parties, notably by preparing reports on the situation of women rights in Africa and propose recommendations to be adopted by the Commission
- When appropriate, drafting Resolutions on the situation of women in the various African countries and propose them to the Members of the Commission for adoption
- Carrying a comparative study on the situation of the rights of women in various countries of Africa
- Defining guidelines for state reporting in order to bring member states to address adequately women’s rights issues in their periodic and/or initial reports submitted to the African Commission
- Collaborating with relevant actors responsible for the promotion and protection of the rights of women internationally, regionally and nationally, such as:
- National governmental departments responsible for gender issues is each African Union Member State
- Intergovernmental organizations acting at regional and national levels in Africa;
- Non governmental organizations (NGOs) and National Human Rights Institutions;
- Other Special Rapporteurs from the United Nations and from other regional human rights systems
How does it help tackle violence against women?
“Indeed, an empowered woman is a nation empowered. However, empowering a woman without guaranteeing the right to equality may be quite challenging, if not impossible. We have opportunities to this effect: One of the guiding principles of the AU Constitutive Act is Gender equality; The establishment of the Special Mechanism that deals with the rights of women in Africa by the Commission also signifies the importance that the Commission attaches to issues that concern and affect women in Africa; Additionally, we have the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter), which contains progressive provisions on the right to equality and respect for women’s rights; and last, but not least, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol) which embodies all issues regarding women in the African context. As a matter of fact, the Maputo Protocol states that every woman has the right “to the recognition and protection of her human and legal rights.”
As the AU’s focal point for women’s rights, the Special Rapporteur may bring the Commission’s attention to the various VAW-related issues that occur throughout the region. She also serves as a resource person for and disseminates information on the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (the “Maputo Protocol”) – which contains provisions that require states to eliminate violence against women.
Within the region, the Special Rapporteur may undertake country missions on the rights of women. During these missions, she meets with government officials, NGOs and other civil society actors to gain first-hand information on the status of women’s rights within the state. The mission may also include visits to specific sites of interest, such as detention centres. These missions provide an opportunity for civil society to communicate information to the Special Rapporteur on violence against women. This information may then be used to inform the final report of the mission and recommendations to the state. For example, in 2002 at the end of her country mission to Angola, the Special Rapporteur included in her recommendations: “Implement specific strategies accompanied by legislative and other measures to combat violence against Women.”
The Special Rapporteur has also taken part in various projects organised by other international and national organisations. At the national level, the Special Rapporteur can work with governments to ensure national legislation complies with the provisions of the Maputo Protocol and has taken part in conferences held by NGOs. Internationally, she has collaborated with the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences and other regional experts to call on states to eliminate discrimination and violence against women.