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Wednesday 9 March 2011

International Women's Day 2011 : Ratify and respect !

VERSION FRANCAISE

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 QUIZZ ZIMBABWE LAWYERS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (ZLHR) EMPLOYEES, DISRUPT IWD COMMEMORATIONS

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

Monday 8 March 2010

International Women's Day 2010: Launch of the Dossier of Claims

“We demand respect for women's rights in Africa”

VERSION FRANÇAISE

8 March 2010 - On the occasion of International Women's Day and the first anniversary of the Campaign “Africa for Women's Rights: Ratify and Respect!”, over one hundred organisations publish their “Dossier of Claims”, addressed to the governments of the continent.

For the past year, the Campaign partner organisations, present in more than 40 countries, have been mobilising to call upon their governments to end the serious discrimination that continues to target women in Africa.

The Campaign, « Africa for women's rights », launched on 8 March 2009, is already resonating across the continent and some progress has been achieved, including the adoption of a law to increase the representation of women in political life in Burkina Faso, the prohibition on female genital mutilation in Uganda and the nomination of a Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on sexual violence in armed conflict.

“But we cannot forget that women continue to suffer daily violations of their fundamental rights,” stated Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. “Inequality before the law in relation to familial authority or access to inheritance, acts of sexual violence committed with complete impunity, obstacles to access to education...the persistence of such discrimination is evidence of the long road that we need to travel before women in Africa obtain equal rights”.

The Dossier of Claims is the outcome of investigations conducted by the Campaign partner organisations in their respective countries and reflects the situation of women’s rights in over thirty African countries. It contains key demands to eliminate discrimination and violence against women, including: the abolition of laws consecrating inferior status to women within the family or preventing them from having access to property; the criminalisation of sexual violence and the prosecution of perpetrators; as well as the ratification of international and regional women's rights protection instruments.

These “claims” are directed towards national governments, since strengthening respect of women’s rights is primarily a question of political will.

« With this Dossier of Claims, all the actors of the Campaign call upon African governments to take concrete and immediate measures to respect women's rights. We call upon them to RATIFY women’s rights protection instruments and to RESPECT them in law and practice », concluded the Campaign Steering Committee.

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Friday 5 March 2010

Dossier of Claims: Uganda

RATIFY! Although Uganda ratified the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1985, it is yet to ratify its Optional Protocol and has not ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).

RESPECT! The Coalition of the Campaign is particularly concerned about the following continued violations of women’s human rights in Uganda: persistent discriminatory laws and customs; physical violence; unequal access to property; and limited access to justice.

Some positive developments…

The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the recent adoption of several laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights, including:

• The adoption of the Female Genital Mutilation Act in December 2009, which criminalises female circumcision. The Act is expected to come into force in 2010.

• The adoption of the Domestic Violence Act in November 2009, criminalizing domestic violence.

• The adoption of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in 2008, which prescribes penalties from 15-years to life imprisonment.

• The launch by the government in November 2009 of a Road Map aimed at reducing maternal mortality, however, this campaign is silent on unsafe abortions.

DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST

In Law

In Uganda statutory law is applied alongside customary and religious laws. While the Constitution of 1995 provides for equal rights between men and women (article33) and holds laws and customs that violate the constitutional guarantees on equality to be void (Article 33(6)); discriminatory statutory, customary and religious laws remain in force.

Discriminatory statutory laws include:

Property: According to the Succession Act, property is apportioned among the deceased’s family members according to fixed proportions and widows stand to inherit 15%. If there is more than one wife, the property is shared. Under Section 27 of the Succession Act, girls cannot inherit their father’s property. FIDA-U and other women’s rights organisations successfully petitioned the Constitutional Court to declare this provision unconstitutional, however, the Attorney General has yet to reform the Succession Act to address this issue.

Most areas of family law are currently regulated by discriminatory customary and religious laws, for example:

Marriage and divorce: Although under statutory law, the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years for both men and women, according to customary law marriages are frequently arranged for minors, especially in rural areas. In 2004, it was estimated that 32% of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed. Polygamy is authorised under customary and Islamic law and women in polygamous relationships have no protection in the event of dissolution of the union. In some ethnic groups, custom also provides for men to “inherit” the widows of their deceased brothers (levirat).

Custody of children: Although the Status of Children Act 1996 provides that both parents are responsible for supporting children, under customary law men have sole parental authority. A draft marriage and divorce law was presented to Parliament at the end of 2009. The draft law grants women the right to divorce spouses for cruelty, the right to choose their spouse and prohibits the practice of levirat. It also provides for equal division of property and finances in the event of divorce. However, the draft does not prohibit polygamy nor does it prohibit the “bride price” but only provides for it to be non-refundable. The proposed law would govern Christian, Hindu, and traditional marriages but not Muslim marriages. Thus many women in Uganda - where an estimated 12% of the population are Muslims - would be excluded from its application. Property: According to customary law, women do not have the right to own or inherit property.

In Practice

Although several laws have recently been enacted to improve the situation of women, their implementation is hindered by traditions and deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes, especially in rural areas. Years of armed conflict in the northern parts of the country have also contributed to massive violations of women’s human rights.

Violence

There is widespread violence against women in Uganda and perpetrators benefit from generalised impunity, in part due to widespread social attitudes condoning such violence. Law enforcement officials rarely intervene in cases of domestic violence and wife beating is viewed as a husband’s prerogative. Rape is a serious problem in Uganda. Indeed, most rape cases are unreported and most recorded complaints are not investigated. In 2008, of the 477 rapes that police recorded, 115 were taken to court; there were no convictions. Rape was widely used as a weapon of war during the civil war since 1986. An undetermined number of women and girls were victims of abduction, rape and sexual slavery, perpetrated by rebel forces and the Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF). Female genital mutilation (FGM) remains a common practice within the Sabiny Tribe, in the Kapchorwa district in the East and the Pokot ethnic group along the northeastern border.

Obstacles to access to education

Girls and boys have equal access to education in law, and they are represented almost equally in lower grades; however, the proportion of girls in higher school grades remains low, partly due to the fact that families traditionally favor boys when financially supporting their education. Parents’ inability to afford schooling correlates highly with the occurrence of child labor in rural areas. According to estimates in 2007, only 66 percent of females are literate compared with 82 percent of males. The drop-out rate of girls is higher due to other factors e.g. access to sanitary facilities, school-feeding, etc.

Obstacles to access to property

Although there are no laws preventing women from owning land in Uganda, the custom of male inheritance has resulted in the vast majority of women being excluded from land ownership. Whilst women do most of the agricultural work, it is estimated that they own only 7 percent of agricultural land. To counter this trend and curb the widespread dispossession of wives and widows, activists have campaigned for reforms to Uganda’s property laws to provide for spouses to be deemed co-owners of “family land,” ie. Land on which the married couple lives and depends. __ Obstacles to access to justice__ Ugandan women do not have adequate access to justice to claim, in particular as a result of inadequate information on their rights and laws protecting them, social pressure, cost of procedure and lack of training of law enforcement personnel trained on women’s rights.

THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF UGANDA TO:

• Reform or abolish all discriminatory laws, in conformity with CEDAW.

• Take all necessary measures to enforce constitutional provisions rendering void discriminatory laws and customs, including implementation of campaigns to raise awareness of community and religious leaders on women’s rights.

• Ensure the full implementation of the Domestic Violence Act 2009 and the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2009, including by ensuring that victims of violence have access to immediate means of redress and protection and that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished; implementing training for law enforcement personnel, the judiciary and health workers; implementing public awareness campaigns and adopting a zero tolerance policy on all forms of violence against women.

• Eliminate all forms of discrimination with respect to the ownership, co-sharing and inheritance of land.

• Increase women’s access to education, including by expanding free education and addressing socio-economic and cultural factors that impede access to education.

• Take all necessary measures to ensure women’s access to justice, including by ensuring that women are aware of their rights and of mechanisms of access to justice; and providing access to free legal representation.

• Strengthen efforts to address stereotypical attitudes about the roles and responsibilities of women and men, including educational measures, awareness-raising and public education campaigns directed at women and men.

• Include women, from all ethnic groups, in national reconciliation and peace building initiatives, in accordance with UN Resolutions 1325 and 1820, and ensure that such initiatives include measures of accountability, redress and rehabilitation for women and girls who have been victims of violations.

• Ratify the Maputo Protocol and the Optional Protocol to CEDAW.

• Implement all recommendations issued by the CEDAW Committee, in August 2002.

Principal sources

• Focal Points: FHRI, FIDA-U

• Recommendations of the CEDAW Committee, August 2002

• AFROL, Gender profile, www.afrol.com

• Inter Parliamentary Union, www.ipu.org

• Wikigender, www.wikigender.org

THE CAMPAIGN FOCAL POINTS IN UGANDA

Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) FHRI is an independent, non-partisan human rights NGO established in 1991. FHRIconducts human rights monitoring, promotes access to justice for poor and vulnerable groups and raises awareness. FHRI’s main activities on women’s rights include: promoting access to justice; providing pro-bono legal assistance to women victims of violations; and raising awareness on domestic violence and women’s rights. www.fhri.or.ug

Association of Women Lawyers in Uganda (FIDA-U) FIDA-U is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit making civil society organization, composed of Ugandan women lawyers, which aims to achieve observance of the law, human rights and gender equality. www.fidauganda.org

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Dossier of Claims: Botswana

RATIFY! While Botswana has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol, Botswana has so far failed to ratify – or even sign – the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).

RESPECT! The Coalition of the Campaign is particularly concerned about the following continued violations of women’s human rights in Botswana: application of discriminatory customary laws; access to property; violence against women; access to decision-making positions; access to employment and health services; and the persistence of discriminatory stereotypes and patriarchal attitudes.

SOME POSITIVE DEVELOPMENTS...

The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges several developments in recent years aimed at improving respect for women’s rights, including:

  • The adoption of the Domestic Violence Act in 2008, which criminalises many acts of gender-based violence and provides some protection to the victims.
  • The adoption of the Abolition of Marital Power Act in 2007 which abolished the common law principle of marital power, according to which the husband was the sole administrator of the family estate, and replaced it with the principle of equality of the spouses with respect to the joint matrimonial assets. However, customary and religious marriages are unaffected by these reforms. The Act also abolished the common law principle of unity of matrimonial residence and allows women to choose their place of residence.
  • The adoption of the Children’s Act 2009 (not yet in force) under which birth certificates contain the names of both parents.

BUT DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST

In Law

Botswana has a dual legal system, under which customary law is applied alongside common law. While there have been several reforms of discriminatory provisions under the common law, customary law remains particularly prejudicial to women’s rights, perpetuating unequal power relations between men and women and strengthening stereotypes on the role of women in society.

Although the Constitution of Botswana contains a provision on non-discrimination, under clause 15(4)(c) the prohibition does not apply to: “adoption, marriage, divorce,burial, devolution of property on death or other matters of personal law”.

Customary law remains deeply discriminatory against women, in particular in the areas of family and property law. For example:

Marriage: While the Marriage Act was amended in 2001 to specify 18 years as the minimum age for marriage for both sexes with parental consent, many marriages take place under customary law according to which there is no such limit. The principle of marital power continues to apply to marriages under customary and religious law. Women are considered legal minors and require their husband’s consent to buy or sell property and land, apply for a bank loans, and enter into legally binding contracts. Customary law authorises polygamy with the consent of the first wife, but it is not a common practice.

Separation: In case of separation, custody is traditionally granted to the husband’s family. Mothers have only the right to visit. Although the Affiliation Proceedings Act of 1999 mitigated discrimination against children born out of wedlock, allowing women or care-givers to seek maintenance from the father; under customary law an unmarried mother has no right to receive such maintenance. The mother’s own father has a duty to support the child.

Inheritance: A widow has no right to inheritance from her husband; all property passes to the eldest son. If the husband had no sons, his eldest daughter can inherit but in such case property is administered by her male guardian.

In Practice

Violence

Violence against women remains highly prevalent. Although the Domestic Violence Act 2008 criminalised many forms of violence against women, under customary law and common rural practices men are perceived to have the right to “chastise” their wives. The majority of crimes are unreported and those complaints that are registered are rarely effectively investigated and prosecuted. In 2009, it was estimated by the United Nations that 3 in 5 women in Botswana have experienced some form of domestic violence. Botswana has also recently seen an increase in cases of murder of women by their partners.

By law, the minimum sentence for rape is ten years, however, the majority of perpetrators are not prosecuted or convicted. Marital rape is not criminalised. As a result post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is not provided to married women who have been raped by their spouses. The Domestic Violence Act contains other significant gaps. For example, it empowers police officers to remove survivors of domestic violence from their residences but does not provide for the creation of shelters for victims of violence. Botswana currently has one such shelter, run by a NGO.

Under-representation in political life

While the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Declaration on Gender and Development includes a commitment to achieving at least 30% representation of women in political and decision making structures by 2005, Botswana has failed to take effective measures to increase representation, for example by introducing a quota system. In 2008, there were only 7 women in the 61 seat National Assembly,

4 women in the 24 member cabinet and 4 women in the 35 seat House of Chiefs (an advisory upper chamber to the National Assembly). There were 3 female judges in the 13 seats High Court. In the October 2009 elections, of a total of 117 candidates, only 10 were women and only two were elected to parliament.

Obstacles to access to education and employment

Whilst some efforts have been made by the government to increase girls’ access to education, girls continue to drop out of education due to pregnancy, early marriage or to earn money to support their families. Although the law prohibits sexual harassment, it remains a serious problem both in schools and in the workplace. Employment legislation has been reformed to remove some discriminatory provisions (in particular those prohibiting women from working in mines, industrial and agricultural work at night) and in 2008 women were authorised to serve in the military. Yet, women mainly occupy junior positions or are employed in the informal sector and thus have no access to social security benefits. Although there have been increases in women occupying high level positions in the private and public sector, they remain under represented (31% in 2007). Women’s limited access to property and credit also form major obstacles to the establishment of businesses.

Obstacles to access to health

The very high prevalence of HIV/ AIDS and the practice of unsafe abortions remain a major problem. The Criminal Code criminalises abortion, unless pregnancy is a result of rape, defilement, or incest, poses a physical or mental health risk to the pregnant woman, or if the unborn child would suffer from or later develop serious physical or mental abnormalities or disease.

Obstacles to access to justice

Obstacles include a lack of information on women’s rights and the laws protecting them, social pressure, a culture of silence and legal costs. Law enforcement agents have not been sufficiently trained on how to deal with cases of gender-based violence.

Furthermore, there is no specific law implementing CEDAW in national legislation and enabling its provisions to be invoked before the courts.

THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF BOTSWANA TO:

  • Reform or repeal all discriminatory statutory laws, in conformity with CEDAW, including by abolishing article 15(4)(c) of the Constitution and widely disseminating statutory laws protecting women’s rights.
  • Harmonise civil, religious and customary law, in conformity with CEDAW and ensure that where conflicts arise between statutory legal provisions and customary or religious law, the statutory provisions prevail.
  • Strengthen laws and policies to protect women from violence and support victims, including by criminalising marital rape; establishing a legal aid system for women victims of violence; ensuring effective prosecution and punishment of offenders; implementing awareness-raising programmes for the general population; and establishing shelters for women victims of violence.
  • Increase women’s access to education and employment, including by addressing socio-economic and cultural factors that impede access to education; and enforcing legislation on sexual harassment.
  • Increase women’s representation in decision-making positions, in conformity with CEDAW and the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development, including through the adoption of temporary special measures such as quotas.
  • Ensure women’s access to health services, including by intensifying efforts to combat HIV/aids; providing PEP to women victims of rape, including marital rape; and reforming the Penal Code to decriminalise abortion in all circumstances.
  • Eliminate discrimination against women concerning access to property, including by raising awareness on land and property rights, especially of rural women, and expanding legal assistance to women wishing to file claims of discrimination.
  • Ensure women’s access to justice, including by adopting specific law to implement CEDAW into national legislation and enable its provisions to be invoked before the national courts; implementing training for all law enforcement personnel; ensuring that women are aware of their rights; providing access to free legal representation.
  • Eliminate discriminatory cultural practices and stereotypes, including through awareness-raising programmes targeting women and men, traditional and community leaders and the media.
  • Ratify the Maputo Protocol and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
  • Implement all recommendations issued by the CEDAW Committee, in February 2010.

PRINCIPAL SOURCES

  • Focal Points: DITSHWANELO and Emang Basadi
  • Shadow report submitted to the CEDAW Committee, Botswana Council of NGOs (BOCONGO), October 2009
  • Inter Parliamentary Union, www.ipu.org
  • Wikigender, www.wikigender.org

THE CAMPAIGN FOCAL POINTS IN BOTSWANA

DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights
DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights is an NGO established in 1993. It is the only organisation in Botswana dealing with the full range of human rights issues. It works towards achieving gender equality by incorporating it in actions to advocate for legislative changes, providing information to the public and offering paralegal services. www.ditshanelo.org.bw

EMANG BASADI
The EMANG BASADI Women’s Association was established in 1986 to lobby against discriminatory laws. Emang Basadi seeks to raise awareness on women’s rights through lobby, advocacy and capacity building and provides legal aid and counselling services for the empowerment of women.

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Cahier d'exigences : Bénin

Ratifier ! Le Bénin a ratifié la Convention sur l’élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination à l’égard des femmes (CEDAW), ainsi que le Protocole à la Charte africaine des droits de l’Homme et des peuples relatif aux droits des femmes en Afrique (Protocole de Maputo), mais n’a toujours pas ratifié le Protocole facultatif à la CEDAW.

Respecter ! Si les lois béninoises ne contiennent pas de dispositions discriminatoires à l’égard des femmes, force est de constater que les droits des femmes continuent à être violés dans la pratique. La Coalition de la campagne est particulièrement préoccupée par : les discriminations au sein de la famille ; les violences à l’égard des femmes ; les entraves à la liberté de circulation ; et l’accès limité des femmes à l’éducation, au marché du travail, aux postes de prise de décision et aux services de santé.

QUELQUES AVANCÉES

La Coalition de la campagne reconnaît plusieurs développements positifs relatifs aux droits des femmes au Bénin au cours des dernières années, tels que :

  • L’adoption du nouveau Code des personnes et de la famille en août 2004 qui consacre la supériorité du droit statutaire et l’obsolescence du droit coutumier. Le nouveau Code prévoit l’égalité entre hommes et femmes concernant l’âge du mariage (fixé à 18 ans pour les deux sexes), l’autorité parentale et l’héritage et interdit le lévirat et la polygamie.
  • L’adoption d’une loi concernant le régime foncier rural en octobre 2007 qui prévoit un accès égal aux ressources naturelles en général, et aux terres agricoles en particulier, sans discrimination de sexe ou d’origine sociale (article 11).
  • L’adoption d’une politique nationale d’éducation des filles en avril 2007 qui vise à éliminer les disparités entre les sexes dans l’éducation et la formation.


MAIS LES DISCRIMINATION ET LES VIOLENCES PERSISTENT

Si la législation béninoise consacre l’égalité de l’homme et de la femme, l’application effective de ces lois n’est pas encore une réalité, d’une part du fait de leur méconnaissance par les femmes et d’autre part de l’ancrage des traditions au Bénin.

• Discriminations dans la famille
Bien que le nouveau Code des personnes et de la famille interdise désormais la polygamie, le statut des mariages conclus avant l’adoption de ce texte en 2004, demeure flou. Avant l’adoption du Code, la fréquence des mariages polygames était estimée à entre 15 et 41 %, suivant les régions. Concernant les mariages forcés, ils sont encore très répandus. De plus, malgré les dispositions du Code des personnes et de la famille qui prévoient l’égalité de l’homme et de la femme en matière de succession, celles-ci sont souvent ignorées et l’héritage de la terre continue d’être refusé aux femmes dans certaines localités.

Lors du décès de son père, les oncles d’Ayaba, fille unique, se sont accaparés toute la propriété du défunt, sous prétexte que leur nièce, en tant que fille, ne doit pas hériter des biens. Cas documenté par l’organisation WILDAF Bénin

Les femmes continuent de subir les rites de veuvage qui les privent de certaines libertés. Par exemple, dans certaines communautés rurales, pendant plusieurs mois, les veuves sont contraintes de ne pas sortir, de ne pas se laver pendant plusieurs jours, de ne pas se coiffer... Ainsi, ces femmes, ne pouvant pas travailler, se retrouvent isolées dans une situation d’extrême pauvreté.

• Violences
Il n’existe pas de loi spécifique réprimant les violences faites aux femmes qui demeurent très répandues. De telles violences, en particulier dans le cadre familial, sont considérées comme des affaires privées, et les femmes sont souvent réticentes à les dénoncer. Le phénomène de vidomegon, qui consiste, pour une famille désavantagée, à placer son enfant dans une famille plus aisée censée le protéger et l’éduquer, touche de plus en plus de jeunes filles (90 à 95 % sont des filles) et favorise le développement croissant d’une nouvelle forme d’esclavage économique et, parfois, sexuel. De plus, de nombreuses jeunes femmes employées comme domestiques sont victimes d’exploitation économique et de mauvais traitements. La traite des femmes n’est pas réprimée par la loi qui ne sanctionne que la traite des enfants. Enfin, la loi de 2003 prohibant les mutilations génitales féminines (MGF) et les nombreuses campagnes de sensibilisation qui l’ont accompagné dans l’ensemble du pays, ont sensiblement fait diminuer ces pratiques traditionnelles néfastes pour les femmes. Néanmoins, la pratique des MGF reste flagrante dans certaines régions, notamment dans le Nord-Est du pays, où, selon l’UNICEF, en 2005, près de 58 % des femmes auraient subi une forme de MGF.

• Entraves à la liberté de circulation
De façon plus générale, certains cultes traditionnels privent les femmes de leur liberté de circulation et les cantonnent à l’intérieur. Ainsi, dans la vallée de l’Ouémé, au cours du mois d’août, lors du culte “ORO”, pour éviter qu’elles ne divulguent les secrets de cette divinité, les femmes sont privées de leur liberté d’aller et de venir pendant 17 jours (elles sont obligées de s’enfermer dans leurs chambres).

• Obstacles à l’accès à l’éducation
Au Bénin, la médiocrité des infrastructures éducatives et le nombre insuffisant d’écoles et d’enseignants, constituent des obstacles majeurs à l’éducation des filles. Le taux de scolarisation des filles est très faible, la préférence étant souvent donnée aux garçons. Les filles sont très nombreuses à quitter l’école jeunes en raison, notamment, des grossesses précoces. Le taux d’analphabétisme des femmes est extrêmement élevé : en 2005, environ 80 % des femmes et des filles âgées de 15 à 49 ans étaient analphabètes.

• Sous représentation dans le vie publique et politique
La représentation des femmes dans la vie publique et politique, ainsi qu’aux postes à responsabilité, y compris au niveau international, est très faible. L’Etat n’a pas adopté de mesures spéciales temporaires, telles que des systèmes de quotas, sous prétexte que de telles mesures pourraient être considérées comme allant à l’encontre du principe d’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes inscrit dans la Constitution du pays. Lors des dernières élections législatives de 2007, seulement 9 femmes ont été élues sur 83 députés (soit 10,84 %).

• Obstacles à l’accès à la santé
Malgré l’adoption en 2003 d’une nouvelle loi sur la santé sexuelle et la reproduction et plusieurs initiatives visant à améliorer l’accès des femmes à la santé maternelle, ces efforts restent insuffisants, surtout dans les zones rurales. Les femmes béninoises ont un accès extrêmement limité aux services de planification familiale. Cette faible utilisation de contraceptifs implique une pratique en hausse des avortements, parfois clandestins et réalisés dans des conditions pouvant mettre en danger la sécurité de la mère.

LA COALITION DE LA CAMPAGNE DEMANDE AUX AUTORITÉS DU BÉNIN DE :

  • Assurer la mise en œuvre effective du Code de la famille, notamment en ce qui concerne la polygamie et le droit à l’héritage.
  • Renforcer les lois et politiques pour lutter contre les violences à l’égard des femmes, et notamment:
  • Adopter une loi spécifique interdisant toutes les formes de violences faites aux femmes
  • Allouer des moyens financiers supplémentaires destinés à la lutte contre les violences domestiques
  • Prendre des mesures pour mettre fin au phénomène de vidomegon
  • Renforcer la protection des femmes travailleuses domestiques
  • Adopter une loi réprimant la traite des femmes.
  • Eliminer les obstacles à l’éducation des filles et des femmes, notamment :
  • En assurant le maintien des filles dans le système éducatif et, en particulier, des élèves enceintes.
  • En augmentant le budget destiné à l’éducation, permettant notamment la construction d’infrastructures scolaires et une meilleure formation des enseignants.
  • En mettant en place des cours pour adultes destinés à réduire le fort taux d’analphabétisme féminin.
  • Favoriser la participation des femmes dans les sphères publiques et politiques,notamment en adoptant des mesures spéciales temporaires, telles que des systèmes de quotas.
  • Assurer l’accès des femmes à la santé, y compris aux services de soins obstétriques et de planification familiale, notamment :
  • En assurant l’accès des femmes aux différents moyens de contraception, en particulier dans les zones rurales.
  • En prenant des mesures, y compris législatives, afin de réduire les taux de mortalité maternelle, résultant en grande partie des avortements clandestins réalisés dans des conditions n’assurant pas la sécurité de la mère.
  • Éliminer les pratiques culturelles et les stéréotypes discriminatoires, notamment des traditions qui privent les femmes de leurs libertés, à travers des programmes de vulgarisation des textes de loi et de sensibilisation,à destination des hommes et des femmes, y compris les responsables gouvernementaux, les chefs religieux, les dirigeants communautaires et traditionnels.
  • Ratifier le Protocole facultatif à la CEDAW.
  • Assurer la mise en œuvre de toutes les recommandations émises par le Comité de la CEDAW en juillet 2005.


PRINCIPALES SOURCES

– Point focal : WILDAF Benin
– Ligue pour la défense des droits de l’homme (LDH)
– Recommandations du Comité CEDAW, juillet 2005
– L’Union interparlementaire, www.ipu.org
– Amnesty International, www.amnesty international/benin
– UNICEF, www.unicef.org

LE POINT FOCAL DE LA CAMPAGNE AU BÉNIN

WiLDAF – Bénin WilDAF-Bénin fait partie du réseau panafricain WILDAF. Créé en 1999, ses principales actions comprennent : l’établissement d’un centre d’accueil et de conseil en droit des femmes; le renforcement des compétences auprès des acteurs judiciaires ; la lutte contre les pratiques traditionnelles concernant les veuves; ainsi que des campagnes de sensibilisation. www.wildaf-ao.org

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Dossier of Claims: South Africa

RESPECT! Over the past decade South Africa has ratified the main international and regional women’s rights protection instruments; and national statutory laws tend to respect the principle of equality between women and men. Yet, the continued application of discriminatory customary laws and persistent patriarchal traditions lead to widespread violations of women’s human rights. The Coalition of the Campaign remains particularly concerned about: discrimination within the family; violence against women, including trafficking; unequal access to property; discrimination in employment; and access to health services.

SOME POSITIVE DEVELOPMENTS...

In addition to the ratification of all the main women’s rights protection instruments, the Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges several other developments in recent years concerning women’s rights:

  • The adoption of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Amendment Act 2007 which modifies the definition of consent and the evidential requirements for proving rape (including abolition of the cautionary rule against complainants’ evidence and providing that no negative inference can be drawn from a delay in reporting rape).
  • The adoption of the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Amendment Act 2007, which establishes minimum sentences for rape. This amendment was intended in particular to prevent courts failing to impose minimum sentences on the basis of absence of physical injuries, the “cultural beliefs” of the perpetrator, or the behavior of the victims or her relationship to the perpetrator.
  • The adoption of National Instructions for Police on Sexual Offences, which sets out how police investigations should be conducted in such cases.
  • Concerning representation of women in parliament, following the 2009 parliamentary elections, 178 out of a total of 400 members of the lower house are women (44.5%). In the upper house, 16 of 54 members are women (29.6%). At ministerial level and deputy minister level respectively 42% and 39% are women.

BUT DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST

South Africa has a hybrid legal system composed of statutory and customary law. Laws protecting women’s rights are ineffectively implemented, due to lack of training of law enforcement personnel, general lack of awareness of women’s human rights and generalised impunity for violations.

Discrimination in the family

Legally both civil and customary marriages are recognised. Religious marriages have been recognised by the courts and laws recognising such marriages are currently under consideration. Under customary law, polygamy is authorized (although it is rarely practised). Indeed, the current President, Jacob Zuma, whose role is to guarantee the application of the Constitution, which provides for equality between men and women, openly defends polygamy and married his fifth wife in 2010.

The Recognition of Customary Marriages act requires a court application if a spouse in an existing customary marriage wants to take on a new wife. However, the need to register customary marriages is not well-known and many women within customary marriages do not know about their rights as outlined in the new legislation.

Violence

Despite the adoption of specific legislation to protect women from domestic violence, including marital rape, (Domestic Violence Act 1998), such violence remains widespread. The implementation of the law is curtailed, due to deeply rooted social attitudes which condone violence against women, lack of resources, and inadequate training of doctors, police and court personnel. Efforts undertaken by the government, including the financing of shelters for victims and training for police, have so far proved inadequate.

South Africa has the highest recorded incidence of rape in the world. Over a nine month period, during 2007-2008, 36,190 complaints of rape were recorded by the police. Yet, the large majority of rapes committed go unreported. Reported cases are generally not effectively investigated and prosecuted, in part due to lack of training of law enforcement officials. According to a 2008 study, only 4.1% of reported cases result in convictions. The government abolished specialist sexual offences units in favour of a decentralized approach to the investigation of these cases. This has lead to deterioration in how rape cases are dealt with by the police. In 2009, the Minister of Police announced government’s intention to reverse this decision but this has not been implemented.

There are extensive reports of rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and assaults of girls at school by teachers, students, and other persons in the school community. Although the law requires schools to disclose sexual abuse to the authorities; administrators often conceal sexual violence or delay disciplinary action.

Violence against those accused of witchcraft occurs, especially amongst elderly women. There have been reports of women accused of witchcraft being driven from their villages in rural communities, assaulted, exiled, and in some cases, murdered.

The Children’s Act 2005 (signed into law in 2008) prohibits trafficking of children, and the new Sexual Offences Act of 2007 prohibits any trafficking for sexual purposes. The Prevention of Trafficking Bill is currently at parliamentary stage and aims to comply with government’s international obligations in relation to trafficking. The precise extent of trafficking operations in South Africa is unknown.

Obstacles to access to health

Poverty and HIV/AIDS remain the two key inter-linked drivers of maternal and infant mortality. South Africa has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS worldwide. In 2009, the Government announced that it would expand access to anti-retroviral treatment for women and children who are living with HIV/AIDS.

THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF SOUTH AFRICA TO:

  • Harmonise statutory and customary laws in conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol and ensure that, where conflicts arise between statutory legal provisions and customary law, the statutory provisions prevail.
  • Strengthen measures to protect women from violence and support victims, including by ensuring effective prosecution and punishment of perpetrators; implementing training for all law enforcement personnel, in particular concerning implementation of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences Acts and the related National Instructions; reinstating specialist sexual offences units; adopting a policy to increase the responsiveness of health services to domestic violence cases; and implementing awareness-raising programme informing the population of women’s rights and mechanisms of access to justice.
  • Take all necessary measures to increase women’s access to employment, including by addressing socio-economic and cultural factors and enforcing legislation on sexual harassment.
  • Adopt all necessary measures to reform or eliminate cultural practices and stereotypes that discriminate against women,including through awareness-raising programmes targeting women and men, traditional and community leaders and the media.
  • Implement all recommendations issued by the CEDAW Committee, in June 1998, and submit the long overdue combined 2nd and 3rd periodic report to the CEDAW Committee.

PRINCIPAL SOURCES

  • Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR)
  • First monitoring report of the Shukumisa Campaign, Sexual violence, calling the system to account, available at www.tlac.org.za
  • Inter Parliamentary Union, www.ipu.org
  • Wikigender, www.wikigender.org

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Dossier of Claims: Ethiopia

RATIFY! Although Ethiopia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1981, the government has not yet ratified its Optional Protocol or the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).

RESPECT! The Coalition of the Campaign is particularly concerned by the following continued violations of women’s rights in Ethiopia: persistence of discriminatory laws; discrimination within the family; violence against women, including harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation; and limited access to educa- tion, property, healthcare and justice.

SOME POSITIVE DEVELOPMENTS…

The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the recent adoption of several laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights, including:

  • The adoption of amendments to the Family Code in 2001 which raised the minimum legal age for marriage to 18 for both men and women (art. 7); abolished the provision conferring marital power on the husband as the head of the family; and added additional grounds for divorce (art. 76) by mutual consent of the spouses.
  • The adoption of a the Criminal Code in 2005 which criminalised several harmful traditional practices, such as abduction (art. 586), female circumcision, infibulations or other harmful practices (art. 565, 566 & 567), early and forced marriage (art. 648), widow inheritance and polygamy (art. 650). It also criminalized domestic violence (art. 564).
  • The adoption of the National Action Plan for Gender Equality 2006-2010 in 2005.

BUT DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST

In Law

The Constitution recognises the application of customary and religious laws alongside statutory law, in particular in the area of family law, which are particularly discriminatory against women (art. 34). Under this provision, disputes concerning marital, personal and family rights can be settled by Sharia courts.

Discrimination in the family

The practice of early marriage is common, particularly in rural areas. For example, in the Amhara region of Northern Ethiopia (where parents consent to their daughters’ consummated marriages when they are still as young as 10 or 12), 48% of women are married before the aged of 15. In 2005, it was estimated that 27 % of girls under 19 years are married. Despite the criminal prohibition on polygamy, it remains prevalent in rural Ethiopia. Although article 34(5) of the Constitution requires the consent of both parties for a dispute to be submitted to the jurisdiction of a Sharia court in the field of marital, personal and family rights; in practice women often accept settlement of their dispute before such court due to social pressure.

Violence

Domestic violence is highly prevalent in Ethiopia and widely socially condoned. A study conducted by the World Bank in July 2005 concluded that 88 percent of rural women and 69 percent of urban women believed their husbands had the right to beat them. Moreover the courts do not tend to consider domestic violence as a serious justification for granting a divorce.

Abduction of women, although a criminal offence, is still considered as a legitimate way of procuring a bride (especially in southern Ethiopia). It is estimated that approximately 8% of married women in the country have been abducted and forced into marriage. Although cases of abduction and rape are sometimes reported to the Ethiopian authorities, prosecutions are uncommon and rarely successful. Marital rape is still not recognised under the Criminal Code 2005.

Finally, although the Criminal Code, as well as the Constitution (article 35(4)), condemn harmful traditional practices, female genital mutilation (FGM) remains widely practised in Ethiopia, especially in the regions of Somali, Afar, Dire Dawa, Oromia and Harar. It is estimated that around 74% of the female population undergoes FGM. No criminal prosecutions have ever been brought against perpetrators of FGM.

Obstacles to access to education

Although there has been progress in access to all levels of education in Ethiopia, men have benefited more than women. Women who are married at an early age do not tend to go to school (it is estimated that only 9% of married girls attend school). It is estimated that rate of literacy for women over 15 is 23% whereas it is 50% for men. Women make up less than 30% of the undergraduate enrollment and 10% of graduate enrollment.

Obstacles to access to property

In nearly all regions of the country women have a very little access to land. When a husband dies, other family members often claim the land over his widow. As a result of their lack of ownership of property, women also have a relatively limited access to bank loans and micro-financing. In addition, married women often need the husband’s permission to obtain loans. Although the law does not discriminate against women in matters of inheritance, in practice, due to tradition or custom, women and girl children are excluded from inheriting property. In some Muslim families, male children can receives two third of the estate whereas females receive only one third and sons inherit family land.

Obstacles to access to health

Ethiopian women have limited access to prenatal and postnatal care and family planning services. It is estimated that only 10% of Ethiopian births were attended by skilled birth attendants. Levels of maternal and infant mortality rates are high and HIV/AIDS remain prevalent among women. Early pregnances also has serious consequences on the health of young girls, including obstretical fistulae. These high rates can also be explained by the lack of access to information on women’s reproductive health and rights; FGM; early marriage and non-medically supervised abortions.

Obstacles to access to justice

While women have legal recourse via the police and courts, societal norms and problems within the justice system (poor documentation, inadequate investigation and lack of special handling of cases involving women) prevent them from seeking legal redress, particularly in rural areas. In addition, under the traditional justice system, according to which conflict resolution takes place before Elders’ Councils, women are not allowed to participate in proceedings concerning them.

THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF ETHIOPIA TO:

  • Reform or repeal all discriminatory legislative provisions, in accordance with CEDAW.
  • Harmonise statutory, religious and customary law in accordance with CEDAW, and ensure that where there is contradiction, statute law prevails.
  • Ensure the effective application of the revised family code in all regions.
  • Strengthen laws and policies to combat violence against women, in particular by including a provision sanctionning marital rape in the Criminal Code; establishing a legal aid system to provide assistance to women victims of violence; ensuring effective prosecution and punishment of offenders; implementing awareness raising programmes for the general population and training for all law enforcement personnel; and establishing shelters for women victims of violence.
  • Take all necessary measures to combat the practice of FGM, in particular by ensuring that perpetrators are prosecuted; and by carrying out awareness-raising campaigns.
  • Take measures to eliminate obstacles to education, by ensuring equal access at all levels of education, retaining girls in school and enable girlswho give birth to return to education, as well as developing awareness raising programmes to overcome stereotypes and traditional attitudes.
  • Take measures to increase women’s access to property, including land and inheritance.
  • Take all necessary measures to ensure women’s access to healthcare, including obstetric care and family planning, including ensuring access to contraception, in particular in rural areas; and providing access to safe abortions.
  • Take all necessary measures to ensure women’s access to justice, in particular by training police and legal personnel; ensuring women’s access to legal aid; and inform women of their rights and legal recourse mechanisms.
  • Adopt all necessary measures to reform or eliminate discriminatory cultural practices and stereotypes, including through awareness raising programmes targeting women and men, traditional and community leaders.
  • Ratify the optional protocol to CEDAW and the Maputo protocol.
  • Implement all recommendations issued by the CEDAW committee in January 2004.

PRINCIPAL SOURCES

  • CEDAW Committee Recommendations, January 2004
  • World Health Organisation, www.who.int
  • UNICEF, www.unicef.org
  • Wikigender, www.wikigender.org

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Dossier of Claims: Sierra Leone

Ratify! While Sierra Leone has ratified the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) without reservations, it has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).

Respect! The Coalition of the Campaign remains particularly concerned by the fol- lowing violations of women’s rights in Sierra Leone: the persistence of discriminatory laws; violence against women; unequal status in marriage, family, and inheritance; unequal access to education, employment, decision-making, and property; and lack of access to health services.

SOME POSITIVE DEVELOPMENTS...
The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the recent adoption of several laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights, including:

  • The adoption of the Domestic Violence Act in 2007, criminalising domestic violence.
  • The adoption of Registration of Customary Marriages and Divorce Act in 2007, which sets the legal age for marriage at 18, requires the consent of both parties to marriage and the registration of all marriages, empowers both spouses to acquire property and provides that gifts, payments, or dowries are non-refundable.
  • The adoption of the Devolution of Estate Act in 2007, which requires property to be equally distributed between the deceased’s spouse and children and criminalises expulsion of widows from their homes after the death of the husband.

BUT DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST

IN LAW
Sierra Leone has a plural legal system consisting of statutory, customary, and religious laws. The three bodies of law create contradictions and inconsistencies particularly in the areas of marriage and family law. A Commission was created in 2007 to eliminate discriminatory measures, however, discriminatory provisions remain widespread within each source of law.

Statutory Laws
Constitution: Under section 27(4), the prohibition on discrimination does not apply with respect to adoption, marriage, divorce, burial, devolution of property on death, or other personal law issues.
Criminal Code: Abortion is criminalised. Severeal provisions discriminate against women with regard to their legal capacity. For example, a male juror must be over the age of 21, while a woman juror must be over the age of 39 (Criminal Procedure Act 1965, s.15).

Customary and Religious Laws
Islamic, Christian, and customary laws remain deeply discriminatory against women. In general, customary law governs matters of marriage, divorce, property and inher- itance. For example:
Discrimination within the family: Under customary law, women must obtain parental consent to marriage. Although prohibited by statutory law, polygamy is authorised and widely practiced under customary and Islamic. Approximately 70% of marriages take place outside of statutory law and an estimated 43% of women between the ages of 15-49 are in polygamous unions. According to customary law, women are considered perpetual minors. A woman cannot file a legal complaint without her husband’s consent.
Violence: Customary law permits the physical chastisement of women. There is no minimum age for sexual intercourse and a minor’s consent to sex is not required. Inheritance and Property: Under customary law, a woman cannot inherit her deceased husband’s property.

IN PRACTICE

Discrimination in the family
Despite the adoption of the Child Rights Act and the Registration of Customary Marriages and Divorce Act in 2007, which set the legal age to marry at 18, early marriages continue to take place. In 2007, it was estimated that 62% of girls under the age of 18 were married.

• Violence
Despite the passage of the Domestic Violence Act in 2007, domestic violence against women remains widespread and is surrounded by a culture of silence, especially in the northern provinces.
Rape and sexual slavery were used as weapons of war during the civil war ending in 2002. In 2002, the government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which made specific recommendations for the rehabilitation, psychological recovery, and social reintegration of victims. However, insufficient attention has been given to the Commission’s findings and victims find themselves marginalised in society. Since the end of the war, rape and sexual violence remain highly prevalent. Although rape is criminalised (carrying a prison sentence of up to 14 years), in practice rape cases are frequently settled outside of court, in part due to insufficient training of victims’ lawyers. Families often settle by accepting monetary compensation or by forcing the victim to marry the perpetrator especially when the rape has resulted in pregnancy. A draft law on sexual violence is currently pending.
There is no law in Sierra Leone prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM), and the practice is widely condoned and even supported by politicians and community mem- bers. In 2007, it was estimated that 94% of women in Sierra Leone between the ages of 15-49 have been subjected to some form of FGM. It is practiced by all Christian and Muslim ethnic groups
Although the Anti-Trafficking Act of 2005 prohibits human trafficking, this practice remains widespread, with women and young girls as the main targets. Women and children are trafficked from the provinces to work in the capital as labourers and commercial sex workers and to the diamond areas for labour and sex work.

Obstacles to access to property
Although women constitute the majority of agricultural labourers, they do not have full access to land, which is governed by customary rules. The land generally belongs to the family and is most often administered by the male head of the household. In parts of northern and western Sierra Leone, a woman can only access land through her husband or male relatives.

Obstacles to access to education
The civil war in Sierra Leone has had a negative impact on the educational infrastruc- ture constituting a particular obstacle for the educational opportunities of girls and young women. As of 2004, 71% of women and girls were illiterate. The high dropout rate of girls can be partly explained by the prevalence of early and forced marriage and pregnancy. New laws provide for girls to return to school after giving birth, but they are seldom enforced.

Obstacles to access to employment and under-representation in political and public life
There are currently no measures in Sierra Leone to accelerate the achievement of de facto equality between women and men in political and public life, education, and employment in the formal economy and the propotion of women in each of these fields remains very low. Most illiterate women work in the informal sector and do not benefit from a social security scheme. Women remain underrepresented in political life. In 2007, 15% of Members of Parliament, 30.4% of the judiciary, and 10.5% of magistrates were women. Only 4 women held cabinet positions.

Obstacles to access to health
Healthcare services for women are woefully inadequate. Health clinics are understaffed and personnel are undertrained and often unpaid. Sierra Leone’s maternal mortality rate is the highest in the world (2,000 of 100,000), as a result of lack of access to pre- natal and post natal care, lack of contraceptive usage and family planning (only 4% of women have access to family planning services), cultural barriers, financial barriers, lack of skilled birth attendants, health issues including malaria, HIV/AIDS and unsafe abortions. The President has announced the forthcoming creation of a free medical scheme for pregnant and lactating mothers and children under 5.

THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF SIERRA LEONE TO:

  • Reform or repeal all discriminatory statutory laws in conformity with CEDAW to ensure conformity with international and regional instruments on women’s rights, including discriminatory provisions within the Constitution, Criminal Code and Family Code.
  • Harmonise statutory, customary, and religious laws in conformity with inter-national and regional instruments on women’s rights and ensure that where conflicts arise between formal legal provisions and customary law, the formal provisions prevail.
  • Strengthen other measures to protect women from violence and support victims, including by removing obstacles to victims’ access to justice; ensuring effective prosecution and punishment of offenders; implementing training for all law enforcement personnel; and establishing shelters for women victims of violence.
  • Increase efforts to ensure women’s equal access to education and employment, including measures to ensure equal access at all levels of education and by regulating the informal sector.
  • Increase women’s access to political life, including by adopting temporary special measures, such as quotas.
  • Improve access, quality, and efficiency of public health care, strengthen efforts to reduce the incidence of maternal and infant mortality, to increase knowledge of and access to affordable contraceptive methods, improve sex education and establish family planning services.
  • Adopt all necessary measures to reform or eliminate cultural practices and stereotypes that discriminate against women, including through awareness-raising programmes targeting women and men, traditional and community leaders.
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol to CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol.
  • Implement all recommendations issued by the CEDAW Committee in June 2007.


PRINCIPAL SOURCES

  • Focal Point: FAWE
  • CEDAW Committee recommendations, June 2007
  • CEDAW NGO Coalition Shadow Report to the CEDAW Committee, May 2007
  • Wikigender, www.wikigender.org



THE CAMPAIGN FOCAL POINT IN SIERRA LEONE

Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE)
FAWE is a pan-African Non-Governmental Organisation working in 32 African countries to empower girls and women through gender-responsive education. FAWE works hand-in-hand with communities, schools, civil society, NGOs and ministries to achieve gender equity and equality in education through targeted programmes which influence government policy, build public awareness. www.fawe.org

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Dossier of Claims: Zimbabwe

RATIFY! Although Zimbabwe has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), it has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW.

RESPECT! The Coalition of the Campaign remains particularly concerned by the following violations of women’s human rights in Zimbabwe: the persistence of discriminatory laws; discrimination within the family; violence against women; obstacles to access to employment; under-representation in political life; and inadequate access to health services.

Some positive developments…

The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the recent adoption of several laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights, including:

• The adoption of a provision within the Constitution (amended in 2005) prohibiting laws that discriminate on the basis of sex (s. 23). However, a new Constitution is currently under discussion.

• The prohibition of marital rape within the Criminal Law Act (Codification and Reform) 2006 (s.68(a)) marital rape.

• The adoption of the Domestic Violence Act 2007, which includes prohibition of any cultural or customary rites and practices that discriminate against women such as female genital mutilation, child marriages or forced marriages.

• The ratification in 2008 of the Maputo Protocol and the South African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development.

DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST

In Law

Zimbabwe has a hybrid legal system composed of statutory and customary law. Whilst statutory law tends to conform to CEDAW, discriminatory customary laws continue to apply, especially in rural areas.

The law recognises three types of marriage: civil marriage, registered customary marriage and unregistered customary marriage. The predominance of registered and unregistered customary marriages contributes to the vulnerability of women within the family:

• Early and forced marriages under customary law are widespread. In 2004, the United Nations estimated that 23% of girls between 15 and 19 years were married, divorced or widowed.

• Although polygamy is prohibited under statutory law, it is authorised under customary law and continues to be practised in rural areas.

• Whilst civil marriage grants spouses equal rights to parental authority, under customary marriage men have the right to custody of children.

• The custom of the bride price (lobola), which is authorised under statutory law, also contributes to women’s vulnerability within the family.

• Under the rules of customary marriage, widows cannot inherit their husband’s property and daughters can inherit from their father only if there are no sons.

IN PRACTICE

Violence

Despite the adoption of legislation, including the Domestic Violence Act 2007 and reforms to the Criminal Law Act in 2006, violence against women, particularly domestic violence, remains widespread and perpetrators continue to benefit from impunity. The lack of training of law enforcement personnel, the lack of awareness of women’s human rights, the fear of social stigma and reprisal contribute to the ineffectiveness of such laws. Since the criminalisation of marital rape, only one case of marital raped has been tried in court.

Obstacles to access to employment and decision-making positions

Women in Zimbabwe generally have lower incomes and less job security than men. Most women are employed in the agriculture, forestry, farming industries and the domestic sector, in which salaries tend to be low. Women remain underrepresented in decision-making positions. Despite ratification of the South African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development, which sets a target of 50% representation of women in all decisionmaking bodies by 2015, women are poorly represented in the government of national union of Zimbabwe. Only 4 women were nominated amongst the 35 members of the new government. Following the 2008 elections, women represented 15% of members of the lower House of Parliament and 24% of the upper House.

Obstacles to access to health

HIV/ AIDS is particularly prevalent amongst women. The 2005/2006 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS) revealed an average prevalence rate among young people of age 15 to 24 of 11.25% among females and 4.45% among males. Other studies shows that young women make up almost 80% of all infections in the 15 to 24 years age group. The rate of maternal mortality remains very high (880/ 100,000 births), in part due to the practice of non-medicalised abortions. Abortion is criminalised. Women in rural areas face major obstacles to accessing health services, including having to travel long distances.

THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF ZIMBABWE TO:

Ensure that the new Constitution contains provisions guaranteeing the principle of equality and non-discrimination between men and women.

Reform or repeal all discriminatory legislation in conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol.

Harmonise statutory religious and customary law in conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol and ensure that where conflicts arise between formal and legal provisions and customary law, the formal provisions prevail.

Take all necessary measures to guarantee the effective implementation of the laws criminalising domestic violence and prohibiting discriminatory customary practices; provide support to victims, including by establishing a legal aid system; implement awareness-raising programmes for the general population and training for all law enforcement personnel.

Increase efforts to ensure women’s equal access to employment and decision-making positions, including by strengthening measures to combat sexual harassment in the workplace, ensuring employment legislation applies to private sector employers and regulating the informal sector; and implementing quotas on representation of women in political positions.

Ensure women’s access to health services, including obstetric care and family planning; launch awareness campaigns to inform the public about contraception and provide contraceptives in order so as to reduce the number of illegal abortions; decriminalize abortion; and ensure access to sexual and reproductive health education.

Provide the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development with the necessary material and financial resources to enable it to carry out its mandate.

Adopt all necessary measures to reform or eliminate discriminatory cultural practices and stereotypes, including through raise awareness programmes targeting women and men, traditional and community leaders.

Ratify the Optional Protocol to CEDAW.

Principal sources

• Focal Point: Zimrights

• UNFPA, www.unfpa.org

• Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS)

• Wikigender, www.wikigender.org

THE CAMPAIGN FOCAL POINT IN ZIMBABWE

ZIMRIGHTS: ZimRights, an indigenous non-profit NGO founded in 1992, is a network of human rights activists, with a strong grassroots representation. Zimrights holds inclusive human rights and civic education workshops and its members often participate in gender sensitisation workshops. www.zimrights.org

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Dossier of Claims: Mozambique

RESPECT! Although Mozambique has ratified the main international and regional women’s rights protection instruments, their provisions are often violated in law and practice. The Coalition of the Campaign is particularly concerned by the following continued violations of women’s rights in Mozambique: the persistence of discriminatory laws; violence against women; limited access to property, education and healthcare; and obstacles to access to justice.

SOME POSITIVE DEVELOPMENTS…

The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the recent adoption of several laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights, including:

  • The adoption of the new Family Code in December 2004 which provides for gender equality in all matters of family law (consent to marriage, divorce procedures, custody of children, sharing of household assets, etc.) and prohibits all practices that discriminate against women concerning polygamy, inheritance, minimum legal age for marriage, treatment of widows etc.
  • Improvements in women’s political representation. During the December 2004 elections, 87 women were elected to the National Assembly, of a total of 250 members (34.8%). The Prime Minister, 24 ministers, 2 deputy ministers and 2 province governors are women.
  • The adoption on 21 July 2009 of a law on domestic violence.
  • The ratification of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW in 2008.

BUT DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST

In Law

Although Mozambique has adopted several laws to protect women from discrimina- tion and violence, several discriminatory laws and regulations persist:

Several provisions of the Criminal Code, which dates back to the 19th century, are still awaiting reform.

Amendments to the law on domestic violence (arts. 35 and 36) which stipulate that the law must be applied taking into consideration the need to “protect the family”. Furthermore, the law on domestic violence does not sanction marital rape.

Abortion is only allowed under limited circumstances according to a Ministerial Decree of 1978 (only three hospitals are permitted to perform abortions). The criminalization of abortion in the vast majority of situations causes the deaths of thousands of girls each year. The Minister of Health submitted a law to parliament in 2009, but it remains pending.

The inheritance law, awaiting review, contradicts the new Family Code concerning women’s property rights.

The new Family Code of 2004 has been amended to delete provisions regarding the recognition of common law marriage. Yet, in Mozambique, 54% of “unmarried” couples are in de facto marriages.

In Practice

The weight of traditions, which continue to be protected in order to safeguard the “Mozambican identity”, together with the patriarchal vision of society, keep Mozambican women in a position of inferiority and impede the effective application of laws protecting their rights. Furthermore, it is not unusual for representatives of religious communities and traditional leaders to accuse women’s associations of advocating “immorality” and “wanting to destroy the family”.

Discrimination in the family

Although forbidden by law (article 30 of the Family Code sets the minimum age for marriage at 18 years, for both girls and boys), early marriage is common, especially in the rural areas (in 2004, it was estimated that 21% of girls were married by the time they were 15). This is one of the main reasons for the low school enrolment rate for girls and the very high rate of early pregnancy (it is estimated that 24% of women between ages 15 and 19 already have 2 children). The government has taken measures to raise awareness of the general population on these problems, but there are no specific penalties for forced marriage.

Furthermore, although article 16(2) of the Family Code requires marriages to be monogamous, polygamy remains common, especially in rural areas. Regarding inheritance, customs are especially discriminatory. Widows are often expelled from their family home and receive no inheritance from their husbands.

Violence

Although the adoption of the law on domestic violence in 2009 represents signifi- cant progress, its impact on the Mozambican society has been limited. A “domestic violence” unit has been created within the Ministry of the Interior but its means are too meagre to allow for effective action.

Domestic violence enjoys considerable social legitimacy stemming from a widespread view that the man, as the head of family, has the prerogative to use force to solve marital disputes conflicts. WLSA Mozambique Rape accounts for half the reported cases of violence against women. Sexual abuse at school, including harassment of girl students by their teachers or by fellow stu- dents, has increased alarmingly. According to the Mozambican law, incest is rape with aggravating circumstances, but there is no specific government policy to control this type of violence. There is no sanction for marital rape.

Obstacles to access to property

Although the Land Law adopted in 1997 and the Family Code 2004, explicitly provide for equal property rights, in practice the application of these provisions is problem- atic. Yet women account for more than half of those working the land. In this area, resistance to the law is especially strong due to the weight of traditions.

Obstacles to access to education

Many schools and health care facilities were destroyed during the civil war and by the natural disasters that struck the country in 2000, 2001 and 2007. Lack of schools is one of the reasons for the massive female illiteracy and the low female enrolment rate although, theoretically, primary school education (7 years) is compulsory. The annual national budget allocates 20% to education but only some 40% of children go to school. Notwithstanding the state’s awareness-raising campaign (radio and TV flashes, input from national celebrities and religious leaders) and the creation of boarding houses for girls who live too far away from school, most families still only consider sending their sons to school. Early marriage is also a major cause for girls to drop out of school.

Obstacles to access to health

Besides the common health problems facing the whole population – 52% of the coun- try benefits from health coverage – women also have to confront problems linked to maternal, sexual and reproductive health. Furthermore, AIDS affects more women than men. Although the government has introduced free prenatal care, the maternal death rate is still a high (480 per 100,000 births), although only half of what it was ten years ago.

Obstacles to access to justice

Women’s access to justice is impeded due to a lack information on their rights and the laws that protect them, the cost of proceedings and the lack of training of police and legal personnel. The creation of community tribunals to make up for the shortage of judges and lighten the burden of the official state courts has not improved the situation. The community tribunals are composed of only 10% women and are apply traditional law, which is particularly discriminatory against women.

THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF MOZAMBIQUE TO:

  • Reform all discriminatory legislation in conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol, particularly the discriminatory provisions of the Criminal Code, the Family Code, the law on domestic violence and inheritance law.
  • Strengthen laws and policies to protect women from violence and support victims, including by: adopting all necessary measures to ensure the effective implementation of the law on violence against women, including domestic violence, and adopting measures to sanction marital rape; allocating additional financial resources to the fight against domestic violence; adopting measures, including severe sanctions, to eliminate sexual abuse of young girls in school.
  • Eliminate obstacles to the education of girls and women, in particular by: ensuring equal access to all levels of education; adopting measures to retain girls within the education system, including pregnant pupils; and launching awareness raising programmes to overcome stereotypes and traditional attitudes.
  • Take measures to guarantee women’s access to adequate health care, including obstetrical care and family planning; ensure access to contraception.
  • Take all necessary measures to ensure women’s access to justice, in particular by addressing the shortage of judges, facilitating women’s access to these positions and ensuring training of police and legal personnel.
  • Adopt all necessary measures to reform or eliminate discriminatory cultural practices and stereotypes, including awareness-raising programmes targeting men and women, governmental, traditional and community leaders.
  • Ensure the implementation of all recommendations issued by the CEDAW committee in June 2007.

PRINCIPAL SOURCES

  • Focal Point: WLSA-Mozambique
  • Liga Moçambicana dos direitos humanos (LMDH), www.lmdh.org.mz
  • FIDH and LMDH, Women’s rights in Mozambique, May 2007, www.fidh.org
  • CEDAW Committee Recommendations, June 2007
  • Inter-Parliamentary Union, www.ipu.org

THE CAMPAIGN FOCAL POINT IN MOZAMBIQUE

WLSA-Mozambique

WLSA-Mozambique is a member of the regional network Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA). The organisation seeks to promote gender equality through the identification of favourable initiatives and obstacles to legislative and political changes. www.wlsa.org.mz

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Dossier of Claims: Tanzania

RESPECT! Although Tanzania has ratified the main international and regional women’s rights protection instruments, many of their provisions continue to be violated in both law and practice. The Coalition of the Campaign remains particularly concerned about the following violations in Tanzania: the persistence of discriminatory laws; violence against women; unequal access to education, employment and health services; and violations of the right to property.

Some positive developments…

The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the adoption in recent years of a number of laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights, including the reform of property laws to establish equal rights to acquire, own and use land (Village Lands Act No. 5) and the implementation of programmes to promote women’s access to education (Education Sector Development Programme (2000-2015)).

Advances have also been made in women’s political participation. In 2005, the 14th amendment to the Constitution increased the number of seats reserved for female Members of Parliament from 15 to 30 percent. After the 2005 general elections, 98 of a total of 321 MPs were women (30.4%). The Tanzanian government has stated that it aims to increase the number of female MPs to 50 percent by 2010 in conformity with the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC’s) Protocol on Gender and Development of 2008. However, the representation of women in other areas of public and professional life remains low.

The Coalition also welcomes the ratification of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW in 2006 and the Maputo Protocol in 2007.

DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST

In Law

Many discriminatory legislative provisions remain in force in Tanzania. Propositions for amendments to some of these laws, which would remove some discriminatory provisions, have met with strong resistance and reforms have stalled. Examples of discriminatory legislation include:

Family laws

Under the Law of Marriage Act 1971, polygamy is authorised (s. 10), whilst women are expressly prohibited from having more than one husband (s. 15). Proposed amendments to the Marriage Act would not remove these provisions. The legal minimum age for marriage is 15 years for girls and 18 years for boys (s. 13). A marriage contract can be concluded without the consent of the bride, on the basis of an agreement reached between the father of the bride and the groom (s.17).

The Penal Code allows for the marriage of girls under 15 provided that the marriage is not consummated before the age of 15 (s.138).

The Law of Persons Act allows for the payment of a bride price. Upon payment, the wife becomes the “property” of the husband and the husband’s family.

Property laws

Three systems of law apply to inheritance according to the Judicature and Application of Laws Act 1920:

Statutory law: the Indian Succession Act 1865 provides for one-third of the estate to pass to the widow and two-thirds to the children. If there are no children, then the widow is entitled to half of the estate (the other half passes to the deceased’s parents or other blood relatives).

Islamic law: provides for widows to receive one-eighth of the deceased husband’s property if there are children and one-fourth if there are no children.

Customary laws: under the Local Customary Law (Declaration No. 4) Order 1963, a widow cannot inherit property of the deceased husband. The government has stated its intention to review discriminatory laws that prevent women from inheriting property, but no amendments have yet been introduced.

Nationality laws The Citizenship Act limits women’s right to transfer their nationality to their children and foreign husbands (ss. 7(5), 10, 11).

In Practice

• Violence

Domestic violence and sexual violence are highly prevalent in Tanzania. Customs and traditional practices condone the harassment and abuse of women and a culture of impunity prevails. Cases of violence are underreported and those that are reported are often settled out of court. Existing laws do not adequately protect women from violence. The Penal Code does not contain a specific provision on domestic violence and does not criminalise marital rape. In 2001, the Tanzanian government adopted a National Plan of Action to Combat Violence Against Women and Children (2001 –2015), but the effective implementation of this plan has been hindered by inadequate funding and the lack of a comprehensive legal aid system that can be accessed by women. In 2008, the Government announced its intention to amend laws that perpetuate gender-based violence but no such reforms have been introduced.

Despite the adoption of the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act (SOSPA) in 1998 which prohibits female genital mutilation (FGM) of girls under the age of 18 years, and the National Plan of Action to Combat FGM (2001- 2015), FGM continues to be practised, in particular in the regions of Arusha, Dodoma, Kilimanjaro, Kigoma, Manyara, Mara and Morogoro. The continued legality of the practice upon women over 18 years of age is also of grave concern. In addition, the law does not provide for a minimum sentence, which has resulted in courts exercising their discretion to impose marginal sentences on offenders.

• Obstacles to access to education and employment

Although some progress has been made in increasing girls’ access to education, including the recent achievement of gender parity in primary school enrolment, fewer girls enter secondary school and university as well as vocational and technical education. Traditional attitudes represent significant obstacles to girls’ education and there are high drop-out rates due to early marriages, pregnancies and domestic responsibilities. Girls who become pregnant are often expelled from Tanzanian schools.

The public sector remains male dominated and the majority of women are in lower or middle level jobs. Many women in the informal sector are in a precarious situation, in particular those working in the agricultural sector, as well as small business, food processing and handicrafts. They lack job security and access to social benefits. Sexual harassment also constitutes a serious problem for women workers.

• Obstacles to access to health

The maternal mortality rate remains very high (950 per 100,000 births in 2005), and life expectancy of women has decreased in recent years. Many women do not have access to sexual and reproductive health services and there are no family planning services.

• Obstacles to access to justice

Under the Constitution of 1977, every person in Tanzania is entitled to own property. The Land Act No. 4 of 1999, as amended in 2004, and the Village Lands Act No. 5 of 1999 reversed discriminatory customary practice connected with women’s rights to land. However, despite these provisions, women, in particular those in rural areas, lack effective access to ownership of land, largely due to a lack of awareness of these laws or on how to enforce their rights. Whilst 63% of the female labor force is engaged in agricultural labor, only 19% of women own titled land. Furthermore, the amended land laws do not address the issue of discriminatory inheritance rights.

THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF TANZANIA TO:

Reform or repeal all discriminatory legislation in conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol, including discriminatory provisions within the Law of Marriage Act, the Penal Code, the Law of Persons Act, the Indian Succession Act 1865, the Local Customary Law Order and the Citizenship Act.

Harmonise civil, religious and customary law, in conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol and ensure that where conflicts arise between statutory legal provisionsand customary law, the statutory provisions prevail.

Strengthen laws and policies to protect women from violence including by: amending the Penal Code to add a specific provision on domestic violence, criminalizing marital rape and all other sexual offences; establishing a legal aid system to provide assistance to victims; implementing training for all law enforcement personnel on violence against women and providing gender-sensitive support; and establishing shelters for women victims of violence.

Strengthen measures aimed at eliminating FGM, including by: extending the prohibition to include women over 18 and establishing a minimum sentence commensurate with the seriousness of the crime; ensuring the effective prosecution and punishment of offenders; and implementing awareness-raising programmes particularly targeting the most affected regions.

Reform or eliminate discriminatory cultural practices and stereotypes, including through awareness-raising programmes targeting women and men, traditional and community leaders.

Eliminate obstacles to the education of girls and women, including by adopting measures to retain girls in school; and implementing awareness-raising programmes to overcome stereotypes and traditional attitudes.

Ensure women’s equal access to employment, including by strengthening measures to combat sexual harassment in the workplace.

Strengthen efforts to increase women’s access to health-care facilities, to increase knowledge of and access to affordable contraceptive methods, improve sex education and establish family planning services.

Eliminate discrimination against women with respect to ownership of land, including by raising awareness on land and property rights, especially of rural women.

Implement all recommendations issued by the CEDAW Committee in July 2008.

Principal sources

• Focal Point: LHRC

• CEDAW Committee, Concluding Comments, July 2008

• Alternative report to the CEDAW Committee 2008, Tanzania CEDAW NGO Coalition

THE CAMPAIGN FOCAL POINT IN TANZANIA

Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) LHRC is an independent NGO with the mission of achieving a just and equitable society, by empowering the public and promoting, reinforcing and safeguarding human rights and good governance in Tanzania. www.humanrights.or.tz

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Dossier of Claims: Nigeria

RESPECT! Although Nigeria has ratified the main international and regional women’s rights protection instruments, discrimination against women persists widely both in law and practice. The Coalition of the Campaign is concerned that 25 years since Nigeria’s ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the government has failed to adopt a law to allow CEDAW to be invoked before Nigerian courts. The Coalition remains particularly concerned by the following violations of women’s rights in Nigeria: persistence of discriminatory laws; lack of harmonisation between statutory and customary laws and application of Sharia laws in the northern states; violence against women, including widowhood rites; and obstacles to access to employment, decision-making positions and health services.

SOME POSITIVE DEVELOPMENTS…

The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the adoption of several laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights, including:

The passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Law 2007 by the states of Anambra and Imo, providing for affirmative action measures to redress under-representation of women in appointive and elective positions and prohibiting discrimination in areas such as education and employment.

The adoption of laws protecting the rights of widows in several states: Enugu (2001), Oyo (2002), Ekiti (2002), Anambra (2004), and Edo (2004). However, implementation of these laws remains inadequate.

BUT DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST

In Law

Nigeria is a federal republic with 36 states, which each adopt distinct federal laws. Nigeria has a tripartite legal system consisting of statutory, customary, as well as, in the northern states, sharia laws. The three bodies of law create contradictions and inconsistencies and discriminatory provisions are widespread within each source of law particularly in the areas of family and property law.

Discriminatory statutory laws include:

Constitution: Article 26(2) limits the rights of Nigerian women to transmit their nationality to foreign spouses. Article 29(4) deems a woman to be of full age upon marriage, which lends support to early marriages and contradicts the minimum age requirement (18 years for men and women) set by the Child’s Right Act 2003.

Criminal code: Very strict evidential requirements are imposed to prove the crime of rape, making convictions almost impossible (s. 358, requirement of corroborative evidence). Abortion is criminalised (ss. 228-230).

Discriminatory customary and religious laws include:

Marriage: In the southern region, customary laws allow marriage of girls between 12 and 15 years, while in other regions marriage is authorised from 9 years. A 2004 United Nations report estimated that 28% of girls between 15 and 29 years were married, divorced, or widowed. Polygamy is authorized and widely practiced under both customary and Sharia laws. Nearly one third of Nigerian women are in polyga- mous unions.

Divorce: Sharia law recognizes four main types of divorce. The talaq procedure can only be initiated by the husband. It allows him to repudiate the marriage by announcing out loud that he intends to divorce his wife. The khul’u procedure allows a woman to request a divorce by paying a “ransom” to her husband in order to terminate the marriage. The khul’u is settled in court. The tafriq and faskh procedures also require court intervention. Divorce is pronounced following an investigation into the truth of the wife’s accusations.

Violence: Under the Penal Code of Northern Nigeria, husbands are permitted to beat their wives provided it does not rise to the level of “grievous hurt” (s. 55). Under Sharia law, the husband can withdraw maintenance if his wife refuses sexual inter- course. Under Sharia law (eg. Kano State Sharia Penal Code), a woman alleging rape must produce 4 witnesses to the rape. If the rape is not proved she can be punished for adultery with a prison sentence or flogging.

Ownership of property: Under customary law, only men have the right to own land. Sharia law does not allow women access to real property. Under customary law, a widow cannot inherit marital property.

In Practice

Violence

Despite intensive lobbying efforts of women’s rights organisations in Nigeria, the legislature has yet to pass into law 9 draft bills on violence against women, including bills prohibiting domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and sexual offences. Domestic violence is extremely prevalent in Nigeria. It is estimated that 20% of women are victims of domestic violence and such violence is generally condoned by society. There is no specific legislation sanctionning domestic violence and marital rape is not criminalised. It is almost impossible to obtain convictions for rape due to strict evidential requirements. In addition, women tend not to report rape for fear of shaming themselves and their family members, and aware that the authorities generally refuse to file their complaints. When complaints are filed, investigations are often abandoned.

Despite the passage of laws in several states prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM), and the adoption of a National Plan of Action aimed at reducing the preva- lence and incidence of FGM, the practice remains widespread. A 2007 World Health Organization study reported that FGM is practised in the vast majority of Nigerian states. It is estimated that across the country 20% of women aged 15 – 49 have under- gone some form of FGM and the areas with the highest prevalence are southwestern Nigeria (56.9%), southeastern Nigeria (40.8%), and southern Nigeria (34.7%). Although laws protecting the rights of widows have been adopted in several states, across the country women continue to be subjected to widowhood rites. Such rites include forcing widows to drink the water used to bathe the husband’s corpse, or to crawl over his corpse. According to the practice of levirate, a widow can be forced to marry to her deceased husband’s male relative.

Despite the adoption of the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Law Enforcement and Administration Act in 2003 (amended in 2005) and the establishment of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, trafficking remains widespread.

Obstacles to access to employment and under-representation in political and public life

Women have higher rates of illiteracy than men and are predominantly employed in the informal sector and thereby restricted from accessing social security benefits. Sexual harassment remains prevalent. Women continue to be seriously underrep- resented in decision-making positions. Despite the 35% minimum quota stipulated in the National Gender Policy, in 2010 women represented 6.9% of members of the House of Representatives and 8.3% in the Senate.

Obstacles to access to health

Healthcare facilities are inadequate in quality, number, and funding. Lack of access to prenatal and post-natal care, obstetric services and family planning information, contributes to the high maternal mortality rate. Nigeria has the world second highest maternal mortality rate (1,100 per 100,000 births in 2007). Other contributing factors include unsafe abortions, inadequate post-abortion care, early and child marriages, early pregnancies, high fertility rate and inadequate family planning services, the low rates of contraceptive usage, lack of sex education.

THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF NIGERIA TO:

  • Reform or repeal all discriminatory statutory laws in conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol, including provisions within the Constitution and the Criminal Code.
  • Harmonise statutory, customary, and religious law in conformity with international and regional instruments on women’s rights and ensure that where conflicts arise between formal legal provisions and customary law, the formal provisions prevail.
  • Strengthen legislation and other measures to protect women from violence and support victims, including by adopting specific legislation to criminalise domestic violence, marital rape and other crimes of sexual violence; and reforming the evidence requirements to prove rape; removing obstacles to victims’ access to justice; ensuring effective prosecution and punishment of offenders; implementing training for all law enforcement personnel; and establishing shelters for women victims of violence.
  • Increase efforts to ensure women’s equal access to employment and decision-making positions, including by strengthening measures to combat sexual harassment in the workplace and implementing temporary special measures, including quotas.
  • Improve women’s access to health, including by strengthening efforts aimed at reducing the incidence of maternal and infant mortality; increasing knowledge of and access to contraception; improving sex education and establishing family planning services.
  • Adopt all necessary measures to reform or eliminate discriminatory cultural practices and stereotypes, including through awareness-raising programmes targeting women and men, traditional and community leaders.
  • Implement all recommendations issued by the CEDAW committee in July 2008.

PRINCIPAL SOURCES

  • Focal Points: BAOBAB, CLO, WILDAF-Nigeria
  • CEDAW Committee recommendations, July 2008
  • Nigeria CEDAW NGO Coalition Shadow Report to CEDAW June – July 2008
  • Wikigender, www.wikigender.org

THE CAMPAIGN FOCAL POINTS IN NIGERIA:

BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights

BAOBAB is a not-for-profit NGO with the mandate to promote and protect women’s rights under religious, statutory, and customary laws in Nigeria. Activities include media awareness, capacity building, and producing publications on women’s rights issues.www.baobabwomen.org

Civil Liberties Organization (CLO)

CLO is Nigeria’s first and largest, independent, not for profit human rights organisation founded in 1987. CLO has six zonal offices, 37 state branches and 111 units in the lcal government areas and tertiary institutions in Nigeria.http://www.clo-ng.org/

WILDAF-Nigeria

WilDAF-Nigeria is a member of the pan-African network, WILDAF. The sub-regional coordination of WiLDAF West Africa covers 8 countries including Nigeria.http://wildaf-ao.org

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Dossier of Claims: Guinea-Bissau

RATIFY! While Guinea-Bissau has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Optional Protocol to CEDAW, it has still not ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).

RESPECT! The Coalition of the Campaign is particularly concerned by the following continued violations of women’s rights in Guinea Bissau: persistence of discriminatory legislation; discrimination within the family, violence against women, including female genital mutilation; limited access to education, decision-making positions, health services and justice; and the particular vulnerability of women in rural areas.

SOME POSITIVE DEVELOPMENTS…

The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the recent adoption of several laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights, including:

  • The ratification in 2007 of the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
  • The ratification of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW in August 2009.
  • The introduction of strategies specifically targeting women in the National Strategy to Reduce Poverty.

BUT DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST

In Law

In Guinea-Bissau, although customary law does not represent a formal source of law, it continues to be applied alongside statutory law.

Statutory Law Although article 25 of the Constitution establishes equality between men and women, many provisions of the Civil Code and Family Code, inherited from the colonial period (1966) remain discriminatory, including: legal age of marriage: the legal age for marriage is 14 years for women and 16 years for men.

Marital authority: According to section 1674 of the Civil Code, the husband is the head of the family. He can thus represent his wife and make decisions on all matters concerning their married life. According to article 1686, a wife cannot do business without the consent of the husband, unless she is the administrator of all the couple’s assets.

Administration of the couple’s assets: Art. 1678 of the Civil Code establishes that the couple’s assets belong to the husband as head of the family. The wife can only administer assets if the husband is prevented from doing so.

The Coalition of the Campaign also regrets the absence of an explicit provision within the Constitution stipulating that international and regional conventions take precedence over national laws. Finally, although articles 24 and 25 of the Constitution guarantee the principles of equality and non-discrimination, there is no precise definition of the term discrimination, in conformity with CEDAW.

Customary Law

Numerous provisions of customary law are discriminatory and widely applied, includ- ing the authorisation of early and forced marriages, polygamy and levirate.

In Practice

The effective application of laws protecting women’s rights conflicts runs up against the widespread patriarchal conception of society, especially in rural areas.

Discrimination in the family

Society in Guinea-Bissau is deeply patriarchal and authority is perceived to reside with the father as head of the family. Polygamy remains a common practice. Concerning inheritance, customary law applied by certain ethnic groups is particularly discrimi- natory against women, allowing inheritance only from father to son.

Violence

In the absence of a specific law prohibiting violence against women, violence including incest and domestic violence are particularly widespread. Although rape is criminalised, the law is rarely applied and perpetrators rarely prosecuted, notably because of a lack of resources. Female genital mutilation (FGM), or “fanado”, is not criminalised. The World Health Organization estimates that around half of women in Guinea-Bissau have been subjected to FGM, rising to 70% or 80% in the rural Fula and Mandingue communities.

Specific vulnerability of rural women

The situation of rural women (the majority of women in Guinea-Bissau) remains extremely precarious. These women live in extreme poverty. They have very little access to education, to health and other basic social services, to land ownership, to credit or to technology. Moreover, discriminatory customs and harmful traditional practices, such as early and forced marriage, polygamy and levirate are particularly widespread in rural areas.

Obstacles to access to education

Despite efforts made by the government in the area of education, including school lunch programmes, a system of micro-loans for parents who send their daughters to school, literacy programmes aimed at women and girls and a resolution of the Council of Ministers in 2006 establishing a 50% quota for educational grants to girls, women and girls continue to suffer from a lack of access to education. According to UNICEF, only 11% of girls attend primary school and 6% secondary school (figures for the period 2000-2007).

Under-representation in political life

The level of participation of women in political and public life remains very low. During the last legislative elections in November 2008, only 10 women were elected out of 102 members of parliament (i.e. 10%).

Obstacles to access to health

Despite efforts made by the government to reduce maternal mortality rates and to combat the country’s HIV/Aids epidemic, women suffer from a lack of access to adequate health services, notably because of inadequate health infrastructure and human and financial resources. Thus, the maternal mortality rate is particularly high (1100 per 100,000 births in 2005).

Obstacles to access to justice

Women in Guinea-Bissau face extreme obstacles in seeking justice to assert their rights. This is principally due to a lack of information on women’s rights and the laws that protect them, the cost of proceedings and lack of training for police and legal personnel.

THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF GUINEA-BISSAU TO:

  • Reform all discriminatory legislation in conformity with CEDAW, particularly the discriminatory provisions of the Civil Code and the Family Code; and ensure - by adopting a provision in the Constitution that international conventions have supremacy over national laws.
  • Harmonise civil and customary law, in conformity with CEDAW, in order to prohibit forced marriage, levirate marriage, genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women.
  • Strengthen laws and policies to protect women from violence and support victims, including by adopting a specific law to prohibit all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence and spousal rape; adopting the draft law to criminalise FGM; strengthening the political and operational mandate of the Institute for Women and Children; and allocate additional financial resources to the fight against domestic violence.
  • Adopt measures aimed at eliminating obstacles to the education of girls and women, in particular by: taking measures ensure equal access to all levels of education ensuring, to retain girls within the education system, including pregnant; launching awareness programmes to overcome stereotypes and traditional attitudes; increasing the budget for education to improve educational infrastructure and teacher training; and establishing courses for adults aimed at reducing high levels of illiteracy among women.
  • Take measures to encourage women’s participation in public and political life, in particular by adopting the bill on quotas.
  • Take measures to ensure that all women have access to healthcare, including obstetrics and family planning, in particular by: ensuring access to contraception, particularly in rural areas; allocating additional funds to health, particularly in rural areas.
  • Take emergency measures to improve the particularly vulnerable situation of women in rural areas.
  • Take all necessary measures to ensure women access to justice, including by implementing training programmes for police and all legal personnel.
  • Adopt all necessary measures to reform or eliminate discriminatory cultural practices and stereotypes, including awareness-raising programmes targeting men and women, governmental, traditional and community leaders.
  • Ratify the Maputo protocol.
  • Implement all the recommendations issued by the CEDAW committee in August 2009.

PRINCIPAL SOURCES

  • Focal Point: LGDH
  • Recommendations from the CEDAW Committee, August 2009
  • UNICEF, www.unicef.org
  • Interparliamentary union: www.ipu.org
  • Wikigender, www.wikigender.org

THE CAMPAIGN FOCAL POINT IN GUINEA-BISSAU

  • Liga Guineense dos direitos do homen (LGDH)

Created in 1991, LGDH aims at the promotion and protection of human rights, defense of peace and conflict prevention. Through a public denunciation, advocacy, lobbying and legal assistance to victims, it seeks to contribute to respect of the rights of women and children, freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the fight against torture.www.lgdh.org

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Dossier of Claims: Ghana

RATIFY! Ghana has ratified both the main international and regional instruments protecting women’s rights; the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), without reservations. Ghana has also ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW.

RESPECT! The Coalition of the Campaign remains particularly concerned by the following violations of women’s rights in Ghana: the persistence of discriminatory laws; violence against women; unequal status in marriage, family, and inheritance matters; unequal access to employment, decision-making, and lack of access to quality health services.

SOME POSITIVE DEVELOPMENTS…

The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the recent adoption of several laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights, including:

  • The adoption of the Human Trafficking Act 2005 which criminalises human trafficking and imposes a sentence of a minimum of 5 years imprisonment for offenders.
  • The establishment of the Domestic Violence Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) in 2005 within the police service to provide basic support to victims and assist in rehabilitation and reintegration into society. However, at present, the DOVVSU lacks necessary financial and human resources to provide effective services to victims.

BUT DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST

In Law

Ghana has a plural legal system consisting of statutory, customary, and religious laws, which creates contradictions and inconsistencies particularly in the areas of marriage and family laws and inheritance and property rights.

Statutory Laws

Criminal offences Act : Marital rape is not criminalised under this law on the basis that consent is implicit within a marriage and cannot be rescinded (s. 42(g)).

Citizenship: Article 7(6) of the Constitution and Section 10(7) of the Citizenship Act add an additional requirement for foreign spouses of Ghanaian women to acquire citizenship.

Religious And Customary Laws

Marriage: Although marriages under the Marriage Ordinance are required to be monogamous, polygamy is permitted under both the Marriage of Mohammedans Ordinance of 1907 and customary law. Nearly all marriages in Ghana are customary.

Custody: The Children’s Act of 1998 grants parental authority and custody rights to both the mother and father equally. However, under customary law, children are deemed to belong to the father’s extended family and upon dissolution of marriage, the husband usually acquires custody of the children.

Inheritance: Under Muslim law, women receive smaller shares of inheritance and family property than their male counterparts.

In Practice

Discrimination in the family

Despite the Children’s Act of 1998, which sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 years, customary practices of early marriages remain. An estimated 16% of women between 15-19 years of age are currently married, divorced or widowed. About 22% of Ghanaian women are estimated to be in polygamous unions, and 40% of women in northern regions live in polygamous relationships.

Violence

Despite the adoption of the Domestic Violence Act 2007, domestic violence remains extremely prevalent in Ghana. It is estimated that 1 in 3 women in Ghana experience it within the family. Statistics from the DOVVSU in 2008 showed that 12,245 cases were reported to the unit in that year. Problems include a general lack of public awareness of legal provisions and insufficient support for victims. Although the Domestic Violence Act prohibit doctors from charging fees for the medical reports required to bring complaints, in practice doctors continue to charge victims resulting in many abandoning their formal complaints.

Rape is criminalised under the Criminal Code but perpetrators are rarely prosecuted and convicted. As of september 2008, the DOVVSU noted few reports of rape, 110 arrests, and only 7 convictions.

Ghana was the first African country to criminalise female genital mutilation (FGM) under the Criminal Code Amendment Act of 1994, yet the practice continues. Its prevalence depends on the ethnic group and region and is difficult to evaluate since data is not available for all groups. In the Bawku area (upper east region), for example, it is estimated that 85% of girls undergo FGM. In Accra and Nsawam (south), FGM reportedly affects girls who have migrated from the north of Ghana and from neighbouring countries.

A new law has recently been adopted to amend Section 796A of the Criminal Code. The law redefines FGM and punishes those who aid and abet in the practice of FGM. Slavery and involuntary servitude are criminalised under article 26 of the Constitution of Ghana. In 1998, parliament enacted an amendment prohibiting “ritual or customary servitude,” and the Human Trafficking Act was adopted in 2005. Yet, the practice of ritual slavery (trokosi) continues in the Volta region. According to this practice, when a relative commits a crime, the family must offer the local shrine a virgin daughter from 8-15 years of age to become a “slave of the gods.” The priest of the shrine exerts full ownership rights and is permitted to beat the girl, demand sex and labour from her, and deny her food, education, and basic health rights. To date, the government has not enforced any legal measures with regard to involuntary servitude. In some of the poorest parts of the country (mainly the Northern, Upper East, Upper West), belief in witchcraft remains widespread. Many poor, often elderly women are accused of being witches and are confined in “witch camps”.

Obstacles to access to employment and under-representation in political and public life

Although existing legislation provides for equal rights to employment, women continue to suffer discrimination, in large part due to a lack of monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. In 2007, it was estimated that 86% of working women were employed in the informal sector. Only 4% of working women were employed in the formal public sector and only 6% in the formal private sector. Women in urban areas who manage to obtain the necessary skills and training encounter resistance in entering non-traditional fields.

Although the government developed a white paper on Affirmative Action in 1998, aimed at increasing women’s representation in public life, no such policy has been adopted and women continue to be significantly under-represented in decision making positions.

Although there is a female speaker of parliament, female attorney general, and female chief justice, Ghana’s parliament only has 19 women of a total of 230 members.

Obstacles to access to health

The adoption of the Reproductive Health Policy and Strategic Plan for Abortion Care has resulted in many improvements to women’s access to health services (more clinics established in districts across the country, traditional birth attendants provided with skills training, free pre-natal care for women). However certain significant challenges remain: application of customary practices, difficult access to hospitals etc. Ghana has a high mortality rate (560 per 100,000 births in 2005), resulting from unsafe abortions, low rates of contraceptive usage and lack of sex education.

THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF GHANA TO:

  • Reform or repeal all discriminatory statutory laws in conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol.
  • Strengthen other measures to protect women from violence and support victims, including by removing obstacles to victims’ access to justice; ensuring effective prosecution and punishment of offenders; implementing training for all law enforcement personnel, and increasing financial resources allocated to domestic violence programs and services.
  • Improve access, quality, and efficiency of public health care, strengthen efforts to reduce the incidence of maternal and infant mortality, to increase knowledge of and access to affordable contraceptive methods, improve sex education and establish family planning services.
  • Adopt all necessary measures to reform or eliminate cultural practices and stereotypes that discriminate against women, including through awareness-raising programmes targeting women and men, traditional and community leaders.
  • Ratify the optional protocol to CEDAW.
  • Implement all recommendations issued by the CEDAW committee in 2006.

PRINCIPAL SOURCES

  • Focal Point: WILDAF-Ghana
  • CEDAW Committee recommendations, August 2006
  • Ghana WilDAF Shadow Report to the CEDAW Committee, 2006.
  • Wikigender, www.wikigender.org

THE CAMPAIGN FOCAL POINT IN GHANA

  • WILDAF-Ghana

WILDAF-Ghana is a member of the pan African network WILDAF.www.wildaf.org

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Dossier of Claims: Liberia

RATIFY! Liberia has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) without reservations. However, Liberia has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW.

RESPECT! Despite the ratification of the CEDAW in 1984, it has yet to be incorpo- rated into Liberian law and is not justiciable in Liberian courts. The Coalition of the Campaign remains particularly concerned by the following continued violations of women’s rights in Liberia: the persistence of discriminatory laws; unequal status within the family; violence against women; and limited access to education, employ- ment, decision-making positions and health services.

SOME POSITIVE DEVELOPMENTS…

The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the recent adoption of several laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights, including:

  • The enactment of the 2008 Gender and Sexually Based Violence Act, which provides for the establishment of a specialized court to try cases of sexual violence.
  • The enactment of the 2006 Law on rape which includes spousal rape within the definition of rape.
  • The creation of the National Gender-based Violence Plan of Action (2006) and the National Policy on Girls’ Education (2006).
  • The election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as President in 2005, making Liberia the first African country to elect a woman President.
  • The ratification of the Maputo Protocol in 2008.

BUT DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST

In Law

Liberia has a dual legal system consisting of statutory and customary law. While Liberia has made efforts with the support of the United Nations Mission in Liberia to review national laws that discriminate against women, discriminatory statutory and customary laws remain in force particularly in the areas of family law.

Discriminatory provisions in statutory law include:

Nationality and citizenship: Under the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law, a child born abroad to a Liberian mother and a non-Liberian father is not automatically granted the mother’s nationality.

Discriminatory provisions under customary law include:

Married women are not allowed to appear before traditional courts without their husbands.

Women have no right to parental authority and no right to custody of children in the event of divorce or upon the husband’s death despite the passage of a new civil law on shared custody.

Although civil law allows for equal rights to inheritance and property, customary law does not allow for married woman to inherit from their husbands.

Polygamy, although prohibited under statutory law, is permitted under customary law.

In Practice

Discrimination in the family

The custom of early marriages remains widespread and many girls are married at age 12 or 13. In 2004, it was estimated that 36% of girls between age 15 and 19 years were married, divorced or widowed. More than one third of married women in Liberia between the age of 15 and 49 live in polygamous marriages.

Violence

Domestic violence, although prohibited by law, remains a widespread problem. Crimes of sexual violence are highly prevalent in Liberia. During the conflict, women and girls were particularly vulnerable to such crimes, which were generally committed with complete impunity. Under the Gender and Sexually Based Violence Act 2008, the crime of rape carries a sentence from 7 years to life imprisonment, however implementation of the law is inadequate. Despite recent government efforts, there remain insufficient services to support victims and access to justice is limited.There is no law prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM) and this practice remains widespread. An estimated 50% of women in Liberia have undergone some form of FGM.

Despite the passage of the 2005 Anti-Human Trafficking Act, human trafficking remains a serious problem in Liberia particularly for domestic work and other labour. Young women are especially at high risk for trafficking. Although penalties for trafficking range from one year to life imprisonment, enforcement remains weak.

Obstacles to access to education and employment

Despite ongoing efforts aimed at increasing enrolment and retention of girls in schools, structural and traditional barriers to the education of girls persist, including gender-based stereotypes and harmful traditional practices such as early marriage and teenage pregnancies. Furthermore, girls are vulnerable to sexual harassment in schools in the absence of laws penalising such harassment. Liberian women also face obstacles concerning access to employment. Women are highly concentrated in the informal sector and lack rights and social benefits including maternity protections.

Under-representation in political life

Although there have been some efforts made to increase women’s participation in public and political life, there remains a low level of participation of women at the highest levels of decision-making due in part to prevailing social and cultural attitudes. As of 2008, there were 4 female ministers, 12 female deputy ministers, 5 women in the Senate, 9 women in the House of Representatives, 5 female county superintendents, 1 female mayor of Monrovia, and 2 female Supreme Court associate justices.

Obstacles to access to health

Liberia’s health-care infrastructure was strongly affected by the conflict. Liberia lacks basic resources and capacity to implement its health-care policies. Liberia has high rates of maternal mortality (1200 per 100,000 births), due in part to the lack of sexual and reproductive health services and post-natal care, the lack of sex education and contraceptive usage, and the high rate of teenage pregnancy. HIV/AIDS is prevalent, particularly amongst women.

THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF LIBERIA TO:

  • Reform or repeal all discriminatory statutory laws in conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol.
  • Harmonize statutory and customary laws in conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol and ensure that where conflicts arise between statutory provisions and customary law, statutory provisions prevail.
  • Strengthen other measures to protect women from violence and support victims, including by removing obstacles to victims’ access to justice; ensuring effective prosecution and punishment of offenders; implementing training for all law enforcement personnel; and establishing shelters for women victims of violence.
  • Increase efforts to ensure women’s equal access to education and employment, including measures to ensure equal access at all levels of education and by regulating the informal sector.
  • Improve access, quality, and efficiency of public health care, strengthen efforts to reduce the incidence of maternal and infant mortality, increase awareness of and access to affordable contraceptive methods, improve sex education and establish family planning services.
  • Adopt all necessary measures to reform or eliminate cultural practices and stereotypes that discriminate against women, including through awareness raising programmes targeting women and men, traditional and community leaders.
  • Ratify the optional protocol to CEDAW.
  • Implement all recommendations issued by the CEDAW committee in July 2009.

PRINCIPAL SOURCES

  • Focal Point: RWHR
  • CEDAW Committee Recommendations, July 2009.
  • Wikigender, www.wikigender.org

THE CAMPAIGN FOCAL POINT IN LIBERIA

  • Regional Watch for Human Rights (RWHR)

Regional Watch for Human Rights (formerly Liberia Watch for Human Rights) monitors compliances wtih human rights standards, assesses human rights situation in West African countries, and pressurizes governments and other influential actors to change their practices in order to improve respect for human rights. http://blog.rwhr.org

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