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Wednesday 17 October 2012

DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights: Press statement on the landmark customary inheritance law decision

12 October 2012, Gaborone – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights notes with appreciation, today’s High Court decision in the case of Mmusi and Others v Ramantele and Another. Judge Key Dingake ruled that the Ngwaketse customary law inheritance rule, which hitherto has provided for male-only inheritance of the family home, is discriminatory.

Attorney Tshiamo Rantao, representing Mmusi and her sisters, had argued that this provision is discriminatory on a number of grounds. These included section 3 of the Constitution of Botswana which provides for the right to equality and reference to relevant regional and international law. In contrast, Attorney Thabiso Tafila representing the nephew, Ramantele, had argued that this customary law did not discriminate against women, but merely differentiated between men and women. The Court asked the Attorney-General for an opinion to assist it in its decision-making. The Attorney-General argued that Botswana society was not ready for equality even though the customary rule is discriminatory. The Attorney-General argued that the rule should remain.

This ruling is particularly timely as Botswana will be appearing before the Human Rights Council in February 2013 for its second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). In the first UPR review in 2008, the Human Rights Council (through Canada) had recommended that ‘Botswana increase efforts to raise awareness of the precedence of constitutional law over customary laws and practices to promote gender equality’. Botswana’s response was that ‘Botswana does not accept the recommendation. Customary law is not in conflict with constitutional law’. The Human Rights Council (through Mexico) had recommended that Botswana ‘adopt measures necessary for harmonising customary laws with international instruments’. Botswana had replied that it ‘does not consider its customary law to be in conflict with international instruments, and therefore does not accept the recommendation’.

Today’s ruling clearly indicates that the customary law inheritance rule which allows for male-only inheritance of the family home by the youngest-born son, is not in conformity with either the Constitution of Botswana or international instruments to which Botswana has committed herself.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Revolutions in the Arab World : what is at stake for women's rights?


"No democracy without equality" was the slogan of women participating in the Tunisian revolution. In the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, women participated massively in demonstrations, on blogs and social networks. Women are also demonstrating in Bahrain, Yemen and Jordan and are active in women's rights organisations across the region.

"We must now be vigilant in order to ensure that women participate fully in the new political landscapes", underlined Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. "We are deeply concerned that there is not a single woman on the new Egyptian Constitutional Committee. This is unacceptable".

What are women calling for? Do the transitions underway present new opportunities for women's rights? Will their voices be heard? Will legislation in these countries finally advance towards full equality between the sexes? Will the reservations these states have entered to the Convention on the elimination of discrimination against women finally be withdrawn ?

FIDH seeks to shed light on these questions in the dossier published today on the FIDH website, developed in partnership with Égalité (

While women participated massively in the struggle for de-colonisation in the region, for example in Algeria, they were largely forgotten following independence. They must not be forgotten in the aftermath of the current uprisings. Throughout the Arab world, the fight for equality led by women's rights organisations is more important than ever. There are unique opportunities to be seized to advance respect for their rights in the region.

FIDH relays the voices of those who have fought for years for women's rights in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria and Morocco.

Articles will be published throughout the month of March on the FIDH website, to ensure that the rights of those representing half the population of the Arab world are not forgotten. And because, as Sophie Bessis, FIDH Deputy Secretary General, says : " A democracy without equality of the sexes will be a truncated democracy."

Perspectives from Bahrain

Interview with Amal Basha, Chairperson of the Sisters' Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF), Yemen

Interview with Leila Hammarneh, Projects Director, Arab Women Organization, Jordan

Tunisia: Interview with Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President: "We must ensure that there are women in all the new political bodies"


How did Tunisian women participate in the revolution ?

Throughout the month of protests in Tunisia we saw a huge presence of women from all walks of life. It was not only those who had lost children, husbands, or other relatives killed during the uprising. We have seen that the torch of calls for democracy and equality has been passed down from our generation to the next. This is just as reassuring as it is moving. This generation has tremendous energy and creativity. They have shown it in the streets, as they have through social networks and blogs.

We must also recognize the role that women have played for many years in resistance to the dictatorship and repression. It is evident that women will play a full role in the construction of a democratic Tunisia.

It is also the “Tunisian exception” that brought about this revolution: Tunisia had the first constitution in the Arab world in the 19th century, the first trade union, the first Arab and African human rights organization and a Personal Status Code which, unfortunately, remains unique in the Arab world, which abolished repudiation and polygamy, access to the contraceptive pill and abortion, as well as to education.

With the recognition of Islamist political parties, is there a risk you think the Personal Status Code risks being challenged?

No, the rights protected by the Personal Status Code of 1956 are established. There is no going back. Now, we need to go beyond this and achieve full legal equality.

Women are fighting to preserve a modern society in Tunisia. We want the Personal Status Code to continue to evolve towards equality and freedom for both sexes. We want women to have equal rights to inheritance. Today, as in the sphere of education, women want equal participation in political life. This is why women are on centre stage. They know that the future of Tunisia depends on their struggle.

How can women’s rights be strengthened in Tunisia today?

First and foremost, we want to ensure that the new Tunisian democracy, which we hope to see emerge from this uprising, guarantees the full rights of women and gender equality. We must remain vigilent. We must remember that protecting human rights and democracy means protecting of the rights of women. We must recall the principle that there can be no genuine democracy without gender equality.

We must ensure that there are women in all the new political bodies. We must call for parity and, at the very least, quotas of women among those elected. Political parties calling themselves democratic will not be able to do less than the former RCD, the party of the ex-President, Ben Ali), which had established quotas of 30% on electoral lists.

We must also call for the reform of laws that remain discriminatory, starting with the provisions on inheritance.

We must support the work and struggle of women’s associations, like the Association tunisienne des femmes démocrates (ATFD), the Association des femmes tunisiennes pour la recherche et le développement (AFTURD) and the Collectif Maghreb Egalité 1995, partners of FIDH, who resisted during the dictatorship, and have always associated the three words: democracy, freedom and equality. These women’s movements are extremely active in the creation of a democratic Tunisia.

Currently they are putting together a dossier of claims that would ensure gender equality and the protection of women’s rights in a democratic Tunisia.

Are there risks that women will be excluded from the transitions in Tunisia and Egypt ?

It is a real fear. There are already some worrying signs that women are being pushed aside in the political transitions. It is deeply concerning that women that there is not a single woman on the new Egyptian Constitutional Committee. This is unacceptable.

We must remember history. In Algeria, for example, in the 1950s women participated in the struggle for independence. However, after independence they were largely excluded from political and public life. Today the Algerian Family Code still discriminates against women, polygamy still exists, men are considered “head of the family” etc.. Women have been forgotten in the “post revolution.”

Political transition first... women’s rights later. We should remember that nothing is guaranteed, in order to ensure that women are not excluded from reconstruction, since women’s rights are never considered a political “priority.” We should not forget that if women have protested and have sacrificed themselves in the name of these revolutions, they will not allow their rights to be forgotten and ignored during the transition.

FIDH will continue to work alongside its member organisations and partners in Tunisia, Egypt and throughout the region so that memory of women’s participation in the revoulations and uprisings is preserved and so that women can obtain equal rights.

Interview with Amal Abdel Hadi, New Woman Foundation, Egypt: "Previous claims that women's voices should not be heard, all of this has been smashed during the revolution"


In what ways were women involved in the protests in Egypt?

Women were involved in every aspect of this revolution: in confrontations on the front line, in confrontations with the security forces, organising, writing slogans, shouting, sleeping in Tahrir Square during the sit-ins... Some women were there throughout the 18 days of the protests.

Women are also among the martyrs of this movement. Women were killed by the security forces. Some women were also arrested and detained.

The majority of the women involved were young women, but there were women of all ages and all walks of life. For example housewives who had never been involved in this type of action before, came to protest with their children, activists from all the political movements, from the Muslim brotherhood to communists, participated in the demonstrations.

Members of our organisation were active in the protests, as individuals, we didn’t go to the demonstrations as the “New Woman Foundation”. But when we spoke with people, they knew we were from NWF. I was in Tahrir Square every day and I slept in the square for several nights.

Women and men were comrades in the protests. This was an incredible, incredible time in Egypt. Millions of people were gathered in the same place. And women were not afraid. We witnessed no instances of sexual harassment for example. There was a sense of complete respect, complete support, and complete solidarity towards the women. Women, particularly the younger ones, slept for days in the square.

Were there any chants or demands specifically relating to women’s rights during the protests?

No, there was nothing specific to any group, there were only the demands of the revolution. Everybody was supporting the same cause: an end to the regime, the overthrow of Mubarak and the establishment of a civil government. This is important. When someone shouted a slogan which was too political or too religious for example, everyone would chant “one hand, one hand”, and people returned to chanting the general slogans on which everyone agreed.

Was there media coverage of women’s participation in the protests?

The media showed women, but they interviewed men more often than women. The majority of those who were invited on talk shows were men.

How are women participating in the political transition?

Women are being ignored! For example, the Constitutional Committee, which was created to revise some of the articles of the Constitution, doesn’t have a single woman member.

But we are mobilising. Several groups issued a statement denouncing the absence of women on the Committee. A Coalition of 12-14 feminist organisations has been formed, which has stressed that women must be represented in every aspect of the process and in all the decision making bodies that are being established.

There has been a call on Facebook for a demonstration of a million women and men on 8 March (International Women’s Day). Some other, newer associations of women have the feeling that they are being left out of the process. We are working with them and I hope that they will use this event as an opportunity to have their voices heard.

What are your main demands for the transition government?

A new government! A democratic government, that has integrity and independence, not the current transition government which is a “patchwork government”. We are calling for a civil presidential council to be established immediately, which should form a civil government and a constitutional committee, responsible for drafting a new constitution. We need a new constitution!

The constitutional committee should be composed of people from a wide range of backgrounds. Women and young people must be represented on the committee. Women and young people were the driving force behind this revolution.

We are calling for equal and fair representation of women and young people in all representative bodies, from the local committees and councils to the national parliament.

We are calling for freedom of expression, starting with the freedom to form political parties, independent syndicates, unions, NGOs, and civil society organisations.

We are calling for those involved in the repression of demonstrations and the killings to be tried. We want those responsible for terrorizing our citizens, for opening the prisons, and for all the crimes conducted during the first 18 days of the revolution to be tried. We want a transparent trial for all those involved in corruption in Egypt. We want all the symbols of the regime, not just Mubarak or his assistants, but all of those who have been involved in the corruption to be tried.

We are calling for the freezing of the assets of Mubarak and all other symbols of the regime. We are pushing the government to take action in this respect.

We are calling for the liberation of all protesters who have been arbitrarily arrested. Arrests by the military police are still taking place today and that needs to end.

We are calling for all those responsible for cutting off the internet, telephone and media communications to stand trial. We call for those, in particular in Egyptian television, who tried to distort and conceal information from the Egyptian people, to be held to account.

The military council (currently running the country) is calling for parliamentary and presidential elections and for the Constitution to be amended within 6 months. This is a real problem because we fear that those responsible for organising elections and reforming the constitution will be from the main existing parties: the National Democratic Party, which is the party of the previous regime, and the Muslim Brotherhood. We don’t want this. We want long term change.

We want a deeper reflection on the new Constitution and what we want for a new Egypt, and this will take a while. It is not to be rushed. Under the current laws, we cannot even form new political parties. We don’t want a new government that is an extension of the previous regime!

Are there groups other than women’s associations supporting demands for the protection of women’s rights ?

Actually, no other groups raise the issues of women’s rights on their own, but when we discuss them they agree with us. When we met, for example, with the military council, no one raised these demands, but no one actually raised any demands relating to any particular political group. Until now, everything has been focused on the transition, because we feel that nothing is moving.

Could you tell us what you think these recent developments will mean for women’s rights? What are your hopes and fears in this regard?

My hopes are that if we really work, if we can really use this opportunity, the situation of women in Egypt will generally get a better. I think there are possibilities, real possibilities, that we can achieve a modern civil government and a parliamentary democracy.

If we move towards this and we move towards greater respect for freedom of association, including for professional and workers unions and NGOs, then this should allow women to participate more effectively in all areas of public life and will provide them with the opportunity to give their perspectives on health, the economy, the environment, working conditions, etc. We feel this change of atmosphere will provide us with better forums for advocating our for our rights.

Previous claims that women’s voices should not be heard, all of this has been smashed during the revolution, smashed! Because women were there, with their beautiful voices, shouting against the regime. Women were there, sleeping on the ground in the streets, and this was appreciated by everyone.

But I think the desire to speed the process along and to rush things may be to the detriment of women. There is a risk we could end up with political parties or parliamentarians who are not really concerned about women and who might even be against women’s rights. That is why we are calling for the process to take time.

Finally, could you give us your perspective on the ongoing events in the rest of the region and their potential implications for women’s rights?

The Tunisians did a marvelous thing in starting this movement and Egyptians had in important impact in proving that it can happen. Most Arab countries are very autocratic and very oppressive. I think that this is a real beginning of a process of deconstruction and of rebuilding, particularly with the youth using the internet. It’s incredible, it is incredible! It is an era of change.

Nothing is going to go back... It is a marvelous feeling, that you are actually witnessing the making of history. And I am glad that I lived to experience that feeling.

And the young people are really determined, they are really mature! They are resisting their own “iconisation”, and they are trying to act, they may lack some experience but they will learn! They are fast learners and I am glad that they have learned actually out of the usual circles, outside of political parties. They have their creativity and their resilience and that is very important. I think that young people are generally more in favour of real democracy, more willing to change and have greater respect for women.

International Women's Day 2011 : Ratify and respect !


8 March 2011 – On the occasion of the 100th International Women's Day, the Coalition of the campaign "Africa for women's rights : ratify and respect !" calls on States to ratifiy the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Adopted in 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique, the Protocol entered into force in 2005 and has now been ratified by the majority of African states which have thereby committed themselves to “ensur(ing) that the rights of women are promoted, realised and protected”. While we welcome the ratifications in 2010 by Uganda and Kenya, we deplore the fact that 24 States have so far failed to ratify this instrument (1).

This Protocol, like the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Convention) which has been ratified by almost all African States, provides a legal framework of reference for ensuring respect for women's human rights: elimination of discrimination and harmful practices; right to life and to physical integrity; equality in the domain of the family and civil rights; access to justice; right to participate in the political process; protection in armed conflicts; economic rights and social protection; right to health and food security, etc.

Initiated on 8 March 2009 by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in cooperation with five African regional organisations (2), the Campaign « Africa for women's rights » has the support of patrons including the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Literature Prize Laureates Wole Soyinka and Nadine Gordimer, the artists Angélique Kidjo, Tiken Jah Fakoly and Youssou N'Dour, as well as Ms. Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

All the organisations involved in the campaign, and the campaign's patrons, call on the Heads of state of the 24 states that have not yet done so, to seize the occasion of the 100th International Women's Day to take steps towards the ratification of the Protocol and affirm their commitments to respecting the rights of women in their countries. We call on them in particular to implement the recommendations expressed in the Campaign's Dossier of Claims.

Finally, we call on States that have already ratified the Protocol to ensure its effective implementation, including by abolishing remaining discriminatory laws.

(1) Algeria, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Madagascar, Mauritius, Niger, Saharawi Arabic Democratic Republic, Sao Tome et Principe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tunisia

(2) Femmes Africa Solidarités (FAS), Women in Law in South Africa (WLSA), African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) et Women's aid Collective (WACOL)


Police in Bulawayo on Tuesday 8 March 2011 quizzed two employees of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) for organising commemorations to mark International Women’s Day.

Police from Luveve Police Station in the high density suburb of Luveve first quizzed Prisca Dube, the programmes assistant for ZLHR’s Matabeleland Satellite Office before summoning Lizwe Jamela, the senior projects lawyer to the police station.

At the police station, the police quizzed the two about the commemorations.

The police told Jamela and Dube that the “obtaining environment” doesn’t allow for them to hold such commemorations as they could be hijacked by some unruly elements who could turn them into violent protests.

The police told the ZLHR employees to reschedule their commemorations to a later date when the environment permits.

About 27 anti-riot police who were in two truckloads dispersed participants, who had gathered at Luveve Baptist Church for the International Women’s Day festivities.

ZLHR had organised commemorations at Luveve Baptists Church in the high density suburb to mark International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day is celebrated each year on 8 March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.

The ZLHR employees were advised that Zimbabwe was liberated as a result of the shedding of blood and that this country is not a “property” of the human rights organisation.

Meanwhile, police on Tuesday 8 March 2011 arrested 16 women at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Bulawayo offices and briefly detained them at the Bulawayo Central Police Station.

The women were later released after the intervention of the ZCTU Paralegal Officer. The women were arrested despite furnishing the police with a court order obtained by ZLHR lawyers on Monday 7 March 2011, allowing the ZCTU to stage a peaceful march in the city to commemorate International Women’s Day.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

MISA PRESS RELEASE - Zimbabwe statement on International Women's Day

Objectification and denigration of women in the media must stop

MISA-Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day (IWD) today.

The 2011 United Nations (UN) theme for 2011 is, Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.

Guided by the SADC Gender protocols notably Articles 29-31 which relate to the media, information and communications, MISA-Zimbabwe takes opportunity of this day to challenge the continued ‘objectification’ of women by the media and certain sections of Zimbabwe’s advertising industry.

To objectify someone, is to reduce someone exclusively to the level of an object. In Zimbabwe it is women that are mostly objectified in the media. The images that appear in several adverts tend to portray women as physical objects that should simply be admired if not savoured. Such images negatively project women as having no other substantive attributes outside their physical and bodily make-up.

This portrayal of women totally ignores and seems oblivious to the fact that women are also equal subjective beings with independent thoughts, consciences and emotions.

A classical example of the objectification of women is Delta Beverages’ Redds cider advertisement placed in The Standard weekly edition of 6-12 March 2011.

The advert shows the posteriors of four women (they are definitely women as evidenced by their physique and manicured fingers) clad in tight fitting jeans. They are each holding a bottle of Redds smacked on their posteriors. The advert reads: Have great fun.

MISA-Zimbabwe condemns such portrayal of women in the media as reinforcing medieval stereotypes that objectify women. The Redds advert is denigrating as it equates women’s posteriors to objects of ‘great fun’ to be enjoyed with a Redds drink!

MISA-Zimbabwe urges Delta Beverages to drop the advert and apologise to readers and the generality of Zimbabwean women. Ironically, the advert in question is flighted in a supplement to commemorate International Women’s Day!

Although MISA-Zimbabwe cites Delta Beverages’ Redds advert, this negative portrayal of women is not unique to Zimbabwe, but is prevalent throughout the global advertising industry.

MISA-Zimbabwe also notes with great concern the violation of the right to privacy and human dignity in some of the stories carried by the two Zimpapers tabloids H-Metro and B-Metro, especially where it concerns women who are by and large the subjects and sources of the stories.

MISA-Zimbabwe therefore urges the two tabloids to mainstream gender balance in an accurate, fair and balanced manner in their reportage of socio-economic issues.

WOMEN AND MEN OF ZIMBABWE ARISE (WOZA) PRESS RELEASE - Victory for courage in Bulawayo and 4 released 3 arrested

At 10am today, Monday 7 March, Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) sprang an early International Women’s Day protest. As well as issues related to this special day, members wanted to protest the ongoing arrest and torture of members this last week. As protestors marched they issued a newsletter calling on SA president Jacob Zuma and SADC leaders to help us end the violence.

The five protests began from locations surrounding the High Court. Two of the protests managed to reach the 8th Avenue Court but three protests were dispersed by riot police and army. Three women have been arrested but have not been located at the police station by human rights lawyers. WOZA is concerned for their safety as police are hiding them. The three are Eneles Dube, Janet Dube and Selina Dube.

As Bulawayo awoke to heavy police and army presence in the city, WOZA leaders decided to reduce the protest to the bravest of the brave numbering 500 female and male members. Another strategy adopted was to conduct flash protests, (appear and disappear as soon as police arrive). Additionally, headlines from the daily newspapers revealed an unofficial ban of rally and protests.

Higher numbers of riot police were deployed at the previous target of WOZA protests - The Chronicle. However they quickly heard the loud singing and ran up several city blocks to respond. The song that carried a strong message - Kubi kubi siyaya - noma kunjani - besitshaya; besibopha; besidubula, siyaya. Roughly translated “the situation is bad but we will still get where we are going, even if the beats us, arrest us, or shoot to kill us, we will get there”. One police officer ordering one of the protests to disperse said - what rights are you talking about? - you are lying, you want to start a revolution!

After they dispersed the protests, about 40 uniformed and plain clothed police officers picked up every single placard and newsletter, exposing two of their colleagues who had tortured members. One police officer came across a man holding the placard. He asked the man to show him it and asked why he was writing on it. The man said he needs scrap paper to write something down. The officer took it and proceeded to carefully fold this A2 size placard into the smallest piece imaginable and put it in his pocket telling the man, holding such a thing is not allowed.

The protests taking place around International Women’s Day provide an opportunity to demand respect for Women’s rights and for peace in Zimbabwe. The theme adopted as part of the Constitutional reform process is ‘the rising of the women means the rising of the nation - No more poverty and starvation, many sweating for a few to benefit”.

After the dispersal of members, they did not go home but went straight to Tredgold court to await the appearance of their colleagues. Forcing a further deployment of Riot Police and plain clothed detectives to the remand court where the stalemate seemed to endure.

Over the last week, members have been arrested and tortured by police officers in Bulawayo. Seven members on Monday 28th February and 4 on Saturday 5th March 2011. The four currently in custody all have swollen faces and Nomsa Sibanda could not use her hands to hold her baby. At 10am they were due to attend court but for unknown reasons they had still not attended court by mid afternoon. At 4:30pm, the state refused to prosecute and released the four without them appearing in court to be officially charged.

WOZA and MOZA wish to send a stern message to the police force - there is no basis for a state of emergency in Zimbabwe be it official or unofficial. According to the current constitution we have the right to protest and assembly peacefully. If they are wanting to declare a state of emergency they will have to justify it in law but the only people we see disturbing the peace are units of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, namely Riot squad, Police Internal Security Intelligence (PISI) like Mdawini, Law and Order detectives based at Bulawayo Central like George Levison Ngwenya. If they continue to arbitrarily arrest our members we will respond with more protests and expose those who commit torture.

WOZA leaders pay tribute to the courage of members who seeing the police and army all over could so easily have stayed at home but because of the pressure they brought to bear, their colleagues have walked away without charge when earlier in the week, their seven colleagues were being threatened with prison and had to pay for their freedom.

GALZ PRESS RELEASE - International Women’s Day Statement : Equal Access to Education, Training and Science and Technology : Pathway to decent work for women

As Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, we note that continued homophobic language, patriarchy, discrimination and stigmatisation that lead to Gender Based Violence or Violence Against Women, have negative impacts on the girl child, women, lesbian, bisexual and transgender peoples’ access to education and decent work.

Recent statements by education officials in Bulawayo ‘condemning acts of homosexuality in schools, as unacceptable’ are irresponsible and fuel victimisation. Such statements serve as confirmation of institutionalised homophobia practiced by public officials going against the principles of articles 23 and 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

1. Everyone has the right to education, without discrimination on the basis of, and taking into account, their sexual orientation and gender identity.

2. Everyone has the right to decent and productive work, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment, without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

GALZ calls on families, parents, political, religious, cultural and traditional leaders and society at large to:

1. Renounce discrimination and language that incites violence against girls, women, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people

2. Encourage self-determination that will realize the full utilization of citizens’ capacities to build the nation

Ensure that education is directed to the development of respect, the upholding of dignity for people’s rights, peace, tolerance, and equality.

NATIONAL CONSTITUTIONNAL ASSEMBLY (NCA) PRESS RELEASE - Statement on the international women's day 2011

The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) joins the rest of the world in commemorating this years’ edition of the International Women’s Day. This year the day is being commemorated under the theme, Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.

International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8 to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.

As we commemorate this day, we take time to reflect the importance and the role played by women in different aspects of our daily lives. In the whole world women contribute the greatest percentage population but sadly they remain a disadvantaged group in society economically, socially and politically. They have continued to bear the brunt at the work places and in households.

For the NCA, the commemorations are coming at a time when we have embarked on a campaign dubbed ‘Act Now Against Political Violence targeting women.’ The campaign seeks to address the scourge of political violence as the country approaches yet another referendum by raising awareness, building support structures, name and shame perpetrators as well as capacitating women and communities at large to deal with the scourge at two levels: prevention and support for victims.

We embarked on this campaign fully cognisant from experience that women have been the most affected victims during election period.

In this light the NCA will continue fighting for the enshrinement of the rights of women in a new people driven constitution.

We therefore wish to reaffirm Section 6 of the Zimbabwe’s People’s Charter on Gender which states that ;

6. We hold that all human beings are created equal, must live and be respected equally with equitable access to resources that our society offers regardless of their gender. Gender equality is the responsibility of both women and men equally. We also hold and recognise the role that our mothers and sisters in the liberation of our country from colonialism and their subsequent leading role in all our struggles for democracy and social justice. And that this fundamental principle must be observed and withheld at all levels of the People’s Charter both on paper and in practise where decisions are made over and about the following ;

1. Our national budget and economy.

11. Our legislative and government processes in order to allow representative quota systems.

111. Provision by the state of all health care and all sanitary requirements of women.

1V. An understanding that women bear the brunt of any decline in social welfare security, economic and political system

Lastly we wish our mothers and sisters fruitful commemorations world over.

For and on behalf of the NCA,

Madock Chivasa

Tuesday 26 October 2010

10th anniversary of the adoption of UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security



25 October 2010, Paris, New York - As we mark the 10th anniversary of UN resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, and the UN Security Council meets to discuss its implementation, FIDH calls upon states to intensify efforts to ensure that women are protected from grave abuses in times of conflict and can fully participate in preventing and resolving conflict and building lasting peace. FIDH calls for the creation of an international mechanism to monitor and evaluate implementation of this key instrument.

Resolution 1325 was unanimously adopted by United Nations Security Council on 31 October 2000. Its adoption represented an important milestone in the recognition by states of the impact of armed conflict on women and the importance of their roles in conflict prevention and resolution. Resolutions 1820 and 1888, adopted in 2008 and 2009 respectively, built upon these foundations, for the first time explicitly recognising sexual violence as a tactic of war, requiring specific political and security responses.

Yet progress in implementation has been slow, intolerably slow. While a handful of states has adopted National Action Plans (approximately 20 of 192 states), many states have failed to take any measures to promote implementation. Annual reports on Resolution 1325 have been submitted to the Security Council, but no focus has been determined and no specific targets have been fixed. No single mechanism exists to hold states and UN bodies accountable for results.

Meanwhile, women continue to suffer the most horrific abuses in times of conflict. The last year has seen the persistence of brutal rapes on a massive scale in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) of which recent events in the Walikale region, where armed groups terrorized the population over four days, raping over three hundred people, were yet another appalling reminder. From Afghanistan to Sudan, Iraq, Chechnya and Colombia, sexual violence continues to be used as a weapon of war.

And women are still not at the negotiating tables for peace agreements. There are no women mediators and very few signatures for peace treaties are done by women.

Whilst FIDH has welcomed some recent steps, including the establishment of the post of Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, FIDH considers that states and the UN itself must do much more. FIDH considers that in order to accelerate the implementation of Resolution 1325, the Security Council must establish an effective monitoring, accountability, and evaluation system.

FIDH calls on the Security Council to adopt the set of indicators, prepared in accordance with Resolution 1889, which will serve to objectively analyse progress and to identify persisting obstacles. FIDH further calls upon the Security Council to establish time-bound goals for implementation of specific UNSCR 1325 provisions and a mechanism to monitor whether targets are being met. Finally, FIDH urges all states that have not yet done so to adopt National Action Plans to guide implementation.

“The establishment of a monitoring mechanism should transform the resolution from a paper declaration into a tool for action to make real change to protect women in conflict and achieve lasting peace for all”, declared Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. “States meeting at the UN Security Council have an opportunity to demonstrate whether they are really serious about ending sexual violence in war and empowering women to prevent conflict and contribute to peace”.

Other recent developments

Several recent developments in the fight against violence and discrimination against women have given some cause for encouragement. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is increasingly investigating and prosecuting crimes of sexual violence including rape. FIDH welcomed the recent arrest in October 2010, in France, of Callixte Mbarushimana, a leader of the Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR), in execution of an ICC warrant. Mbarushimana is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape, committed by members of the FDLR in the Kivu provinces in eastern DRC 1. FIDH hopes that the ICC's activities will contribute towards prevention of these crimes and calls on the ICC Prosecutor to integrate crimes of sexual violence systematically into his prosecution strategy.

FIDH also welcomed the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council in October 2010 of a new mechanism to monitor laws that discriminate against women, in the face of resistance from several states that maintain discriminatory laws. The first step in ending discrimination against women is to establish laws that guarantee gender equality and women's rights. The creation of this new mechanism represents an important step in the fight against discrimination and a further link in the accountability chain 2.

1 See further FIDH Press Statement Première arrestation d'un présumé responsable de crimes commis aux Kivus (in French), 12 October 2010,
2 See further FIDH Press Statement, FIDH welcomes establishment of new mechanism on laws that discriminate against women by United Nations Human Rights Council, 7 October 2010, ; and FIDH Position Paper on the creation of a new UN Mechanism on laws that discriminate against women, October 2010,

Friday 15 October 2010

Launch of African Women's Decade: Women's rights must top decade's agenda

Link to the op-ed published in The Standard, Nairobi, Kenya


Discrimination against women remains firmly established in law and in practice in the majority of African countries.

Women are denied equal rights to inheritance, land and custody of children; they have limited access to education, health care and politics; they suffer sexual and domestic violence, are subjected to harmful traditional practices and struggle to obtain access to justice.

The situation is alarming and intolerable. It calls for action.

"African Women’s Decade", launched by the African Union in Nairobi from October 10 to 15, will only truly have an impact if it can translate undertakings repeated over the last 15 years, from Dakar to Beijing, into action.

We would like to rename it the "Decade of Action for Women’s Rights in Africa". "Action" and "rights", key words for a programme leading to concrete change. States’ commitments lack substance until they are implemented through effective laws protecting women’s rights.

Whilst we welcome that such issues are being placed firmly on the political agenda, we underline that the success of this initiative can only be measured in tangible results. Governments — starting with the host government of this initiative — must abolish all discriminatory legislation, ban all forms of violence against women and ensure that the word "equality" becomes a reality.

These demands have been voiced by women across Africa and civil society organisations for years.

The Campaign "Africa for women’s rights", alongside numerous other initiatives, highlights the need for concrete legislative reforms to improve access to justice, education, health care, employment, land and inheritance.

Law reforms are needed to allow women to participate fully in public and political life. They are required to ensure the prosecution and sanction of perpetrators of sexual violence.

They are necessary to protect women in periods of conflict, in accordance with UN Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which this year marks its 10th anniversary. These reforms are vital and urgent.

All the more urgent in view of real risks of regression. The example of Mali, where proposed amendments to the draft Family Code go against the very principle of gender equality, does not give us cause for optimism.

As host of this initiative, the Kenyan government must lead by example, by adopting two key instruments for the protection of women’s rights in Africa: the Maputo Protocol — which was recently approved by the Kenya Parliament — and Optional Protocol to the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women.

The Kenyan government must also take urgent measures to abolish discriminatory family and property laws, and fight domestic violence. It must ensure women’s access to education and health care, promote their political representation, and guarantee their equal rights to land.

This initiative must encourage the active participation of civil society organisations and must make respect for women’s rights the priority.

Governments must have ambitions on a scale commensurate with the expectations of millions of African women. It is time for action.

The writers are: Souhayr Belhassen, President of International Federation for Human rights; Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur on Women’s Rights; Muthoni Wanyeki, Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission; Moussa Diop, Femmes Africa SolidaritÈ; Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson, Women in Law and Development in Africa.

Monday 11 October 2010

Kenya - Launch of African Women's Decade - Concrete steps required to demonstrate government's will to respect women's rights

Campaign "Africa for women's rights: ratify and respect!"
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHCR)


Nairobi, Paris, 11 October 2010 - As Kenya hosts the launch of the “African Women's Decade” by the African Union this week in Nairobi, the Coalition of the Campaign "Africa for women's rights: ratify and respect !" calls on the Kenyan authorities to ratify two key women's rights protection instruments and to adopt pending bills to protect women's rights, in conformity with the new Constitution.

The Coalition of the Campaign welcomes the recent decision of the Kenyan parliament authorising ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). The Coalition calls on the Kenyan government urgently to deposit the formal instrument with the Commission of the African Union, in order for ratification to take effect. Furthermore, although Kenya ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1984, it has not yet ratified its Optional Protocol.

Meanwhile, violations of women's rights persist in the country, including discriminatory laws, violence, obstacles to education, property and health services and under-representation in political life. The ratification of these two key instruments would be an important sign of the government's political will to put and end to such violations.

Whilst the new Constitution, adopted in August 2010, contains provisions prohibiting discrimination against women (eg. Articles 21, 27 and 45), the Coalition of the Campaign is also concerned about delays in adoption of legislation that eliminates discrimination and protects women’s human rights. Bills pending before the Kenyan parliament include: the Family Protection Bill 2007, the Marriage Bill 2008, the Domestic Violence Bill 1999, the Matrimonial Property Bill 2008, the Equal Opportunities Bill 2008 and the Affirmative Action Bill 2000. The Coalition of the Campaign calls for the examination of these bills to be urgently accelerated.


Adopted in 2003 the Maputo Protocol entered into force in 2005 and has now been ratified by the majority of African states which have thus committed themselves to “ensuring that the rights of women are promoted, realised and protected”. The Protocol provides a legal framework of reference for ensuring respect for women's human rights: elimination of discrimination and harmful practices; right to life and to physical integrity; equality in the domain of the family and civil rights; access to justice; right to participate in the political process; protection in armed conflicts; economic rights and social protection; right to health and food security, etc.

The Optional Protocol to CEDAW enables victims of violations, who are unable to obtain justice at the national level, to seek redress before an international body.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Amadou & Mariam lend their support to the campaign "Africa for Women's Rights"

We are honored to include Amadou & Mariam amongst the patrons who support our campaign. Amadou & Mariam

Amadou Bagayoko & Mariam Doumbia are a musical duo from Mali. The pair met at Mali's Institute for the Young Blind in 1977 and found they shared an interest in music. To this day, Amadou & Mariam play an annual benefit concert for the Institute. In 2009, they became the Zeitz Foundation Ambassadors for Culture. In June 2010, Amadou & Mariam appeared in FIFA's World Cup's Kickoff Celebration in South Africa.

In August 2010, Amadou & Mariam added their voices to the cause to combat discrimination and violence against women in Africa by joining the campaign "Africa for Women's Rights: ratify and respect!".

Friday 23 July 2010

Uganda becomes the 28th State Party to the Maputo Protocol!


The Coalition of the Campaign welcomes the ratification by Uganda of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), on July 22, 2010. In acceding to this instrument, the Ugandan authorities have formally committed to promote and protect the rights of women guaranteed by this Protocol. In accordance with the provisions of this Protocol, the Ugandan authorities committed to take all necessary measures, including by adopting an adequate legislative framework, to fight against all forms of discrimination against women, ensure their rights to dignity, life, safety, health, access to justice, education, participate in political processes or their social and economic rights.

The Coalition of the campaign recalls that although several laws have been recently enacted by the Ugandan authorities to improve the situation of women, their implementation continues to be hindered by the persistence of deeply entenched traditions and patriarchal attitudes, especially in rural areas. The Coalition calls on Uganda to organize as soon as possible raise-awareness campaigns on the provisions of the Maputo Protocol, also directed to those responsible for law enforcement.

The Coalition of the Campaign Africa for Women's Rights: Ratify and Respect struggle for African states to ratify, without reservations, the international and regional instruments for the protection of women's rights and for them to respect their commitments. Since the launch of the campaign in 2009, 3 States have ratified the Maputo Protocol - the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cameroon and Uganda, bringing to 28 the number of African Union (AU) member states parties to the Protocol - and 2 States have ratified the Protocol to the CEDAW - Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea - bringing to 19 the number of AU member States Parties to this Protocol.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Mali: Call for urgent adoption of the new Family Code without weakening of its provisions

The NGOs gathered during the NGO Forum preceding the 47th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples in Banjul in May 2010, express their concerns


We, NGOs gathered during the NGO Forum of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) and actors of the campaign "Africa for the rights of women: ratify and respect," express our deep concerns regarding the non-enactment of the new Malian Family Code, following the decision of the President, on August 26, 2009 to send the law back to Parliament for a second reading. We strongly regret that nearly one year after this decision, the second reading has yet to take place and that insufficient action has been taken to facilitate its understanding of and acceptance by some groups of the Malian population.

The new Family Code, as adopted by the National Assembly on August 3, 2009, reflects many years of consultation and debate between a range of actors within Malian society. The adoption of this text, which provides some crucial guarantees for Malian women's universal rights, would constitute a fundamental first step towards bringing Malian laws into compliance with international and regional standards, in accordance with Mali's obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, ratified by Mali in 1985, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, ratified in 2005, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified in 1990.

We are thus deeply concerned that the enactment of this legislation, which is fundamental for the protection of the rights of Malian women, is in suspense. Violations of Malian women's human rights are favored by this legislative gap. We stress the urgent need to adopt such a code in Mali and call upon the Republic of Mali to address this legislative gap, by ensuring that the second reading takes place without further delay and that the Family Code is enacted in its present form, without weakening of any of its provisions.

We hope that the Malian authorities will, thus, demonstrate their commitment to promote women's rights in Mali.

Monday 14 June 2010

ACHPR: Resolution on the Prevention of Women and Child Trafficking in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup Tournament

Link to the the resolution on the ACHPR website

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, meeting at its 47th Ordinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia, from 12 to 26 May 2010

Recalling that the right of women and children to be protected from trafficking has been explicitly recognized in Section 4 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, Section 29 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Section 6 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and Section 35 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child;

Recalling that the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime was adopted in 2000 and entered into force in 2003 to promote cooperation, as well as prevent and combat transnational organized crime more effectively, and that the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, was adopted in 2000 and entered into force in 2003 to address all aspects of trafficking in women and children specifically;

Recognizing that human trafficking is a global challenge that necessitates a global response and that the right to be protected from trafficking is also protected by other international and regional Conventions and Covenants which protect the rights to life, integrity and security of the person, and offer protection against slavery and forced labour;

Concerned that the 2010 World Cup in South Africa may increase the trafficking in women and children for sexual purposes and other forms of human rights abuses in South Africa and the neighboring countries;

Recalling that South Africa ratified the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children in 2004;

Welcoming the introduction of the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill before the South African Parliament to combat trafficking in persons by prosecuting those involved in trafficking, providing appropriate sentences and measures for the prevention of trafficking and assistance of its victims;

Noting that the South African law could be relied upon to prosecute trafficking in persons, including the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act of 2007, the Children’s Act of 2005, the Immigration Act of 2002, the Domestic Violence Act of 1998, the Prevention of Organized Crime Act of 1998, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997, the Intimidation Act of 1982, and common law prohibitions against rape, kidnapping, indecent assault, abduction, murder, assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, common assault, and extortion:

Urges the Parliament of South Africa to expedite the enactment of the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill and implement its provisions, in accordance with the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children;

Urges the Government of South Africa to increase awareness among all levels of government of their obligations under the provisions under domestic and international law;

Calls on the Government of South Africa to put into place mechanisms and prevention strategies to address commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking of women and children;

Calls on the Government of South Africa to put into place and support initiatives aimed at assisting victims of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation;

Urges the Government of South Africa to intensify cross-border cooperation with the neighboring countries and to ensure an integrated and efficient approach to prosecute traffickers.

Done in Banjul, The Gambia, 26 May 2010.

Saturday 12 June 2010

Call for Signatures - Petition for Peace & Implementation of SC Res 1325

Link to Sign Petition Online.

Women and girls hardly ever fight the world's wars, but they often suffer the most. Increasingly, they are the direct targets of fighting, when sexual violence is deliberately used as a tactic of warfare.

And yet fewer than 10 percent of the people who negotiate peace deals are women, and only about three dozen individuals have been convicted and jailed by international war crimes tribunals for committing or commanding widespread sexual violence.

Sexual violence in conflict is NOT inevitable. It can be stopped.

Ten years ago, in its landmark resolution 1325, the United Nations Security Council called for women's full and equal participation in all elements of peacemaking, and for prevention of this kind of violence. But implementation of this historic resolution has been too slow. Make Women Count for Peace

Add your name to this petition and ask your government to support three steps to implement Security Council resolution 1325:

  • Prosecute those who command and/or commit sexual violence and exclude them from armies and police forces after conflict.
  • Ensure that women participate in peace negotiations and all post-conflict decision-making institutions.
  • Increase the number of women in troops, police forces and civilians within international peacekeeping efforts.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Study reveals human trafficking as a serious problem in South Africa

Source: Human Sciences Research Council

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Friday 19 March 2010

Landmark case secures victory for Swaziland women's land rights

For the first time in the history of Swaziland, women married under community of property will now be able to have “immovable property, bonds, and other real rights” registered in their name.

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