Towards eradicating female genital mutilation in Nigeria

DuniaMekonnenTegegnAuthor: Dunia Mekonnen Tegegn
Human Rights Lawyer and Gender equality advocate

Nigeria is home to over 180 million people, 49.4% of whom are female. Along with the rest of the population, the Nigerian female population will experience dramatic increases in size by 2050. As far as violence against women is concerned, federal law addresses sexual violence, physical violence, psychological violence, harmful traditional practices, and socio-economic violence. The law also cites spousal battery, forceful ejection from the home, forced financial dependence or economic abuse, harmful widowhood practices, female genital mutilation/cutting (“FGM/C”), other harmful traditional practices, substance attacks (such as acid attacks), political violence, and violence by state actors (especially government security forces) as offenses.

A 2019 survey on domestic violence found that 47% of respondents had suffered from domestic violence or knew someone who had; 82% of respondents indicated that violence against women was prevalent in the country. Police often refused to intervene in domestic disputes or blamed the victim for provoking the abuse. In rural areas, courts, and police were reluctant to intervene to protect women who formally accused their husbands of abuse if the level of alleged abuse did not exceed local customary norms.

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Child marriages in Zimbabwe and the failure by the State to fulfil its obligations to protect the rights of children

Nqobani-NyathiAuthor: Nqobani Nyathi
Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Introduction

Recently, there have been reports about a 14-year old child who died during childbirth. The reason why such a tragedy happened and may continue to happen is the State’s failure or unwillingness to eradicate child marriages. This article seeks to outline Zimbabwe’s legislative framework regarding child marriages and its obligations in terms of international law.

The legal position

Child marriage is illegal in Zimbabwe as held by Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court. In January 2016, the apex court rightly found that the legislative provisions legalising child marriages were inconsistent with the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The Constitution has fairly strong provisions promoting and protecting the rights of children, including the right to be protected from sexual exploitation or any form of abuse. The Court also observed that historically there has been a “lack of common social consciousness on the problems of girls who became victims of early marriages.”

The fact that child marriages had to be declared illegal through litigation exposes this lack of common social consciousness. Zimbabwe had been clinging to the archaic law legalising the marriage of children in terms of both the Marriage Act 81 of 1964 and the Customary Marriages Act 23 of 1950.

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Why Angola should ratify the African Protocol on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Beyond the legal imperative

Author: Eduardo Kapapelo
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

One of the main objectives of international and regional law is to ensure the widest scope of human rights and welfare. It has been reasoned that when the physical and mental health of individuals is promoted and safeguarded societies have a better chance of establishing peaceful societies in the aftermath of violent conflict.

Some of the earliest literature has identified that a significant proportion of military casualties are psychological. Such literature which has focused heavily from the perspective of soldiers who have had to fight and ultimately kill on the battlefield to a large extent neglected to adopt a wider scope – to include the civilian population who often receives the brunt of such violence in war-time.

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African countries need to ensure that the health of refugees is protected during the COVID-19 pandemic

Omotunde-EnigbokanAuthor: Omotunde Enigbokan
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

The protection of the right to health for refugees in Africa requires urgent attention, especially in this period when evidence shows that new variants of the coronavirus are spreading. As we celebrate World Refugee Day on 20 June 2021, and against the backdrop of the UNHCR’s theme ‘Together we heal, learn and shine’, it is pertinent that we interrogate how African countries are ensuring that the right to health for refugees, is guaranteed. This is particularly important with the development of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, and in the onset of the administration of these vaccines in Africa.

Challenges faced by refugees in Africa

Existing research underlines the need for heightening refugees’ access to health facilities.  Research further shows that refugees have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. This situation is further compounded by the fact that many refugees live in overpopulated camps or reception centres, where they lack adequate access to health services, clean water and sanitation. This makes them more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.    

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African youth’s sexual and reproductive health: a plight of degeneration?

Author: Thandwa Dlamini
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria

At the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994, the right to sexual and reproductive health was recognised as the core of development. The right has also been embedded in various conventions, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child where it was established that adolescents have a right to ‘age-appropriate’ sexual and reproductive health information, education, and services that enable them to deal positively and responsibly with their sexuality. However, these agreements have not been fully and effectively implemented in Africa mainly because the policies of most African countries are framed on the basis of religious morality which pushes the unrealistic agenda of abstinence. As a result, a line between impermissible age discrimination and legitimate protection of minors has been difficult to draw in young adolescents’ sexual relations.  This article argues that there is a need to direct attention to the issues involved in consensual relations among young adolescents, in tandem with other strategies that work towards giving them full sexual autonomy whilst curtailing unsafe, risky health outcomes and violence.

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Addressing gender-based violence against women and children in Africa

Author: Kwasi Asiedu Abrokwah
Operational Supervisor, Prime Legacy Construction Pty; Communications Director, The Great People of South Africa

Introduction

Gender-based violence (GBV) is defined as violence that is directed against a person on the basis of their gender or sex, including acts that inflict physical, mental, or sexual harm (intimate partner violence or non-intimate partner violence), suffering threats of such acts, coercion and deprivations of liberty. According to the United Nations Women’s Organisation (UNWomen), it is estimated that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. In the West African region, Liberia, Cote d´Ivoire and Sierra Leone are examples of countries where GBV were used as weapons of war. GBV has been a huge problem in Africa where women and children are violated by men. GBV occurs in various forms, including femicide, female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence and kidnapping. It may also occur in the form of socio-economic violence, including discrimination and denial of opportunities or services on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation.

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Ending child marriage: A call to action

Author: Mary Izobo
International Human Rights Lawyer and Gender Advocate

Introduction

The International Day of the Girl Child is commemorated globally every year on 11 October since 2012 to highlight the injustices girls face based on their gender, while advancing the fulfilment of their rights, development and wellbeing. The United Nations theme for  the International Day of the Girl Child 2020 is ‘My voice, our equal future.’ There is a specific emphasis on the girl child because there is a direct form of discrimination against girls who are often deprived of their fundamental human rights. Millions of girls from birth are discriminated against on the grounds of sex and gender. This year, as we commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child, it is important to bring to the world’s attention, child marriage which continues to be an unending anathema that serves as a challenge in the fulfilment and enjoyment of the rights and welfare of the girl child.

Child marriage is the marriage of a child before he or she turns 18 years of age. It is a global phenomenon that continues to obstruct the wellbeing of young boys and girls. Child marriage affects both boys and girls, but nine in ten children married off before they turn 18 years are girls. Every two seconds, a girl is married off, before she is physically, psychologically or emotionally developed enough to become a bride or mother. An estimated 650 million women and girls in the world today were married before they turned 18 years and one-third of these women and girls were married off before they turned 15 years. According to United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), out of the world’s population, 1.1 billion are girls and 22 million of them are married off before they attain adulthood.

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Critical analysis of Pan-African Parliament’s resolution on peace and security in Africa

Author: Masalu Masanja
LLM (HRDA) student, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Introduction

The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) is among the nine organs of the African Union (AU) established with the aim of ensuring the full participation of African people in the development and economic integration of Africa. This purpose is anchored under Article 17 of the of the AU Constitutive Act. One of the objectives of PAP is the promotion of peace and security on the continent. In terms of its mandate, PAP is limited to consultative and advisory power within the AU. Its full-fledged legislative power is provided for under the Protocol to the Constitutive Act of the African Union on the Establishment of the Pan-African Parliament (Malabo Protocol), which is yet to come into force. This opinion piece seeks to examine critically the resolution on peace and security with a specific focus on the Continental Early Warning Mechanism (CEWM).

War and violence in Africa are among the stumbling blocks to economic development and integration in Africa. Consequently, the PAP passed a resolution on the promotion of peace and security in Africa at its Second Session of the Fourth Parliament held from 5 to 17 October 2015. This opinion piece specifically focuses on PAP’s recommendation on the need of reinforcing CEWM in conflict prevention in Africa and the establishment of an African centre for conflict and arbitration focusing on providing training and capacity building on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in the five sub-regions of Africa, under the oversight of African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

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Promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights for women with albinism in Africa

Author: Satang Nabaneh
Post-doctoral Fellow, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Discrimination and stigma relating to persons with albinism remain the norm in many Africa countries. Persons with albinism have been subjected to gross human rights violations. In some extreme cases, persons with albinism in the African region have been killed for rituals or subjected to other physical abuse. While attention has been given to the killings of persons with albinism worldwide, little attention has been given to other human rights violations they encounter while seeking social services, particularly health care services. Deep-rooted prejudices and stereotypes about persons with albinism tend to aggravate human rights violations they experience. Discrimination against persons with albinism can lead to deleterious health consequences and at the same time hinder access to care for them.

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Afro-digital ethics, law and online hate in Africa

Author: Thompson Chengeta
European Research Council Fellow on Artificial Intelligence Ethics and law, University of Southampton

Introduction

Across the globe, there is a general increase in online hate and sharing of hateful messages on online platforms. The past weeks saw hateful and xenophobic hashtags trending in South Africa. As noted by some commentators, online hate “can pollute civic discourse, inflict harm on targeted victims, create and exacerbate social divisions, and erode trust in the host platforms”. Online hate should not only be dealt with in terms of the law but also afro-digital ethics. With increased internet penetration in Africa, advent of smartphones and digital platforms, many people spend most of their time online. In this digital age, the virtues of our lives are beginning to be shaped and influenced by our virtual lives. Yet, not much has been done to guide our lives – particularly those of young people – in this new virtual world. The African saying “it takes a village to raise a child” denotes communitarian ethos relating to duties of the elderly in the community to instil African ethics in young persons. But does such an African village exist online? While digital technologies are undoubtedly impacting our African utopias or dystopias on what it means to be humane, the elderly who usually enforce and instil African ethics and morality in young people are offline. For parents who are online, they rarely have access to their children’s online platforms for many reasons including the use of ghost accounts. I also contend that a failure to respect African ethics online is a result of the breakdown of African communitarian ethos in the real world. For example, the spread of hateful content against fellow Africans has its genesis in economic failures of African leaders, most of whom are selfishly and corruptly enriching themselves.

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