Crossroads: Women's Rights Through Drama - The AU Protocol

Article Index

The African Union Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in AfricaWhat is the AU Protocol?

The AU Protocol is a continenetal legal framework for the protection of women's rights in Africa. The Protocol was adopted in Maputo in July 2003 and entered into force on 25th November 2005. As of January 2008, the Protocol has been ratified in 23 African countries. However, ratification is not enough. Countries need to domesticate its provisions by incorporating them into their own laws and creating legal framewors from which laws an then be enforced to protect women.

What does the Protocol say?

The Protocol deals with women's rights in a fairly comprehensive way. It covers everything from widow and property inheritance to economic and political participation in decision-making, to reproductive and sexual health and freedom from violence in both the public and private spheres. It even includes a section on implementing and monitoring the provisions made in the document.

A simplified breakdown of the Articles Crossroads deals with is outlined below. You can find out more information about the Protocol the African Union website, or click here to view the full doucment in PDF.

ARTICLE 4: The Rights to Life, Integrity and Security of the Person - This article recognises the right of every woman to her bodily integrity and security of her person. It prohibits all violence against women, as well as exploitation and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It calls for the promotion of peace, and the eradication of harmful cultural or traditional practices.

ARTICLE 6: Marriage - This article gives equal rights between a couple on a marriage in choosing the matrimonial regime and place of residence. It also requires that marriages take place with free and full consent of both parties who must be over the age of 18. It protects the rights of women in polygamous unions, gives married women the right to retain her maiden name and her nationality if she so chooses. It also gives her the right to acquire her own property and to administer and manage it freely.

ARTICLE 8: Access to Justice and Equal Protection before the Law - This article recognises women and men as equal before the law, and have the right to fair trial and the benefit of the law. It requires that women are able to access judicial and legal aid services, and that states support initiativs directed at reforming disciminatory laws and practices.

ARTICLE 9: Right to Participation in the Political and Decision-Making Process - This article upholds the right of women to participate ctively and effectively in electoral and other decision-making processes. It requires the states level the playing field in the policial arena and ensure women are adquately represented at all levels.

ARTICLE 10: Right to Peace - This article states that states must ensure participation of women in programmes of education for peace and conflict resolution practices.

ARTICLE 14: Health and Reproductive Rights - This article requires states to ensure women have access to adequate and affordable health services while strengthening existing pre-natal, delivery and post-natal health and nutritional services. It calls for upholding women's rights to control their fertility, the right to decide whether or not to have children, the number of children and spacing of children. It recognises the right to self-protection and being protected from sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. It also calls for pretection of women's reproductive rights by authorising abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape and incest.

ARTICLE 20: Widow's Rights - The article states that widowed women shall not be subjected to inhuman, humiliating or degrading treatment. A widow shall have the right to remarry a person of her choice and to automatically become guardian of her chidlren after the death of her husband, unless this is contrary to the welfare of the children.

ARTICLE 21: Right to Inheritance - This article requires that a widow have rights to an equitable share in the inheritance of the property of her husband and to remain in the matrimonial house. In the case of remarriage, she shall retain this right if the house belongs to her or if she has inherited it. Similarly, women and men shall have the right to inherit, in equitable shares, the parent's property.

Excerpted from "A Simplified Version of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women", published by the Coalition on Violence Against Women, 2006: Nairobi, Kenya.

Who has ratified the Protocol?

As of January 2008, the following countries have ratified the AU Protocol.

Angola, Benin, BurkinaFaso, Cape Verde, The Comoros, Djibouti, The Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia.

Who hasn't?

As of January 2008, the following countries have not ratified the AU Protocol.

Algeria, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatoria Guine, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia,Mauritius, Niger, Uganda, Sudan, Madagascar, Sahrawi Arab, Democratic Republic Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

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