REPROHEALTHLAW Updates – January 2019

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DEVELOPMENTS

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Legal access to abortion expanded in July 2018, to comply with Article 14 of the (Maputo) Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. “Women can now legally access abortion – in cases of sexual assault, rape or incest, or when the continuing pregnancy would endanger the mental and physical health of the woman or the life of the woman or the fetus.”  Details from Safe Abortion.

El Salvador: Court frees another woman jailed under anti-abortion laws, BBC News (Dec. 18, 2018).   BBC News article

[U.N. Human Rights Committee]  General comment No. 36 (2018) on  article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights…

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Voting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) against all odds: An account of the 30 December 2018 elections in one of the polling centres

Author: Trésor Makunya
Doctoral Candidate & Academic Associate, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

The presidential and legislative elections at both national and provincial level that Congolese including those living in the diaspora have been waiting for almost two years finally and against all odds, took place on Sunday 30 December 2018. Although elections are always regarded as part of the DNA of a democratic state, these elections were particularly of utmost importance because, if properly conducted, it is expected that they mark the first peaceful alternation of presidential power.[1] Since 2015 when the incumbent president Joseph Kabila demonstrated his desire to maintain his grip on power, many young people, most of whom were from prodemocracy groups, have been killed through excessive use of force by law enforcement officers, arrested or jailed when they protested to urge President Kabila to abide by Article 70 of the 2006 DRC Constitution that sets a  maximum two presidential terms and to finance the electoral commission so as national elections may take place in December 2016. Since then, President Kabila has been enjoying a de facto third-presidential term, just like members of the national assembly whose five years-term has been prolonged for two years now. Equally surprising was the fact that elections of governors, of senators and members of provincial assemblies were yet to be organised since respectively 2007 and 2006. Such an unthinkable prolongment had rendered provincial assemblies and the senate illegitimate in the eyes of voters although they had continued to enjoy a semblance of legality. This is the background against which around 39 million Congolese woke up (or were expected to wake up) early that morning and go overwhelmingly to polling stations.

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Zambia’s “deportation” of Zimbabwean opposition leader Tendai Biti: is someone to blame?

Author: Cristiano d’Orsi
Research Fellow and Lecturer at the South African Research Chair in International Law (SARCIL), University of Johannesburg

Zimbabwean opposition figure Tendai Biti was on Thursday August 9 2018 charged with inciting public violence and declaring unofficial election results[1] as fears grew about a government crackdown following the disputed July 30 election.[2] The court appearance followed dramatic events in which Biti fled to Zambia, was denied asylum and was handed over to Zimbabwean security forces in defiance of a Zambian court order.[3] UNHCR quickly expressed concern.[4] A joint statement by the heads of missions in Zimbabwe of the European Union, the United States, Canada and Australia urgently called on Zimbabwean authorities to guarantee Biti’s safety and respect his rights.[5]

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A new hope to Ethiopian Women’s Rights CSO’s?

DuniaMekonnenTegegnAuthor: Dunia Mekonnen Tegegn
Human rights lawyer, Ethiopia

A number of scholars have discussed the implication of the Civil Society Proclamation (CSP) in terms of realizing human rights recognized under the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE). However, the quality of attention given to the direct implication of this proclamation on women’s rights organizations and on measures that are focused on gender equality is not significant.

This article argues that the CSP of Ethiopia is and has been unconstitutional and violates the rights of women to freedom of association that is recognized under the aspirations and provisions of the FDRE Constitution. It goes beyond the rhetoric and provides a practical overview of the myriad of challenges the women’s rights movement faced in its effort to tackle down gender inequality in the country.

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The constitutional problems to protect the principle of linguistic equality in Cameroon

Author: Frank Maxime Yankam Lemdjo
Researcher, Peace and Security Department, African Union.

Cameroon will soon elect its next President. Whilst preparation of this important event is underway, the country is facing one of its greatest social crisis known as the Anglophone crisis. This reflection aims to point out the fact that the Constitution adopted on 18 January 1996[1] and revised by law 2008/001 of 14 April  2008[2]cemented a constitutional system that has failed to achieve one of the principles that the same Constitution guarantees: the principle of equality between Francophone and Anglophone. Article 1(3) of the Constitution states that ‘the official languages of the Republic of Cameroon shall be English and French, both languages having the same status’. The Constitution sets out the principle of linguistic equality in Cameroon, without further explanation on how this principle would be guaranteed. The same article further states that ‘the State shall guarantee bilingualism throughout the country. It shall endeavor to promote and protect national languages’. In the meantime, the preamble of the Constitution states that: ‘the State shall ensure the rights of minorities […] in accordance with the law’. But the Constitution does not provide a definition for the term ‘minorities’.

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Apartheid, gender and property relations in South Africa: Some reflections from Rahube v Rahube & Others

Authors: Kennedy Kariseb & Nimrod Muhumuza

Kennedy Kariseb Nimrod Muhumuza

Land reform is a litmus test for how far post-apartheid democratic South Africa is willing to go to redress its abhorrent racist and sexist history. There have been several attempts to reconcile colonial and apartheid-era laws with their concomitant rights and obligations in the new democratic dispensation, epitomised by the transformative 1996 Constitution. The latest proposal is to expropriate land without compensation which is currently undergoing public consultation. However, scant attention has been paid to the gendered land relations that have excluded women from owning land in their own name.

The recent  judgment of Kollapen J in Rahube v Rahube & Others,[1] is one such case that indicates the difficulty of reconciling the impact of a skewed racial, gendered history in a new democratic dispensation premised in a supposedly transformative constitutional regime.[2] The Rahube judgment is another (rather unfortunate) reminder of the subordinate position that women occupy in South Africa, as in most parts of Africa, reminding us that inasmuch as land and property relations in South Africa were racially anchored, they were, (and still are) thoroughly gendered. This is because for the most part, colonial and apartheid laws and practices limited, and at worst excluded women from accessing and controlling resources such as property, including land.[3]

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Freedom of expression: Hopes, anxieties and skepticism in Liberia’s nascent democracy

Author: Urias Teh Pour
Legal Advisor on the Liberia Law Society Land Rights and Freedom of Expression Projects

The recent move to repeal Liberia’s Criminal Libel laws by the newly elected Government of former Liberian Football legend, George Manneh Weah, has been hailed by human rights groups as a positive step in the right direction. The effort to decriminalise section 11.11 of the Penal Law comes barely two months following the visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to Liberia. The UN Officials called on the Government of Liberia to review all laws that undermine free speech, as guaranteed by article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other instruments ratified by Liberia.

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