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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Decriminalisation of consensual same-sex acts in Angola and the progress of LGBTI human rights in Lusophone Africa

Author: Rui Garrido
Ph.D Candidate, University Institute of Lisbon (Portugal)

On 11 February 2021, the new Angolan Penal Code officially entered in force. This new legislation represented a major achievement for LGBTI people not only in Angola, but across the rest of Africa. It is important to highlight that, while the Penal Code was approved in Parliament in 23 January 2019, it was only officially published on 11 November 2020. Prior to this, the criminal legislation, the Portuguese Criminal Code (1886), inherited from colonialism, criminalised the “vices against nature” (art. 71)), a very vague formulation for deemed to refer to consensual same-sex conduct. Angola was the last of the African former Portuguese colonies to repeal the colonial legislation.

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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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When policy isn’t enough: Examining accessibility of sexual and reproductive health rights for displaced populations in South Africa

Author: Lidya Stamper
Research Fellow, Centre of Human Rights, University of Pretoria

The right to sexual and reproductive health services (SRHS) is a fundamental human right for all, guaranteed under international human rights law. Legal protections outlining these rights have been recognised in South Africa through international, regional and domestic instruments. More specifically, these protections are highlighted and specified in documents such as the ‘Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women’ (CEDAW), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), and the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Despite the presence of these legal frameworks, outlining equality and non-discrimination, persistent inequalities continue to act as barriers to exercising SRHS. Legislative and policy advances in SRH have been undermined by a lack of successful implementation and improvements in service delivery, service accessibility, and service availability. Implementation challenges combined with a fragmented health sector have resulted in various obstacles including a lack of standardised care, gaps in the dissemination of information, overburdened health facilities, and provider opposition. Social conditions such as gender inequality, poor access to health services, and provider attitudes continue to reinforce these barriers, undermining many of the intended outcomes of the existing legislative and policy advances in the SRH realm.

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Africa is bleeding: The Anglophone crisis in Cameroon

Author: Mary Izobo
International Human Rights Lawyer and Gender Advocate

Introduction

The failure to promote the rule of law and democracy creates an environment for conflict, often exacerbated by marginalisation, discrimination,  inequality and inequity. The bitterness of citizens roused by violence is usually entrenched in lack of basic services and public infrastructure, corruption, lack of personal and economic security and lack of transparency and accountability of government to its citizens.  Thus, the greatest problem of African countries is their failure to protect the economic, political, social, and cultural concerns of its people. This year, 2020 has been marred by a series of human rights violations from Lagos to Kumba, Africa is bleeding.

On 24 October 2020, at least eight children were killed, and dozens wounded by a group of armed men at the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy  Kumba, in the Southwest Region of Cameroon. There has been a lot of attacks in Cameroon since 2016, however, these attacks have intensified dramatically.

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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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A call for an adequate legal and institutional framework in the protection and inclusion of children with mental/ developmental disabilities in Nigeria

Author: Busayo Oladapo
Kenna Partners Associate, Nigeria

According to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), between 93 and 150 million children live with a disability worldwide. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also reports that there are 7 million children with disabilities in Nigeria. With the emergence of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006, the scope of disabilities has expanded to include persons with mental, intellectual or sensory impairments. Despite the almost universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which reiterate the inalienable rights of children, children with disabilities and their families all over the world are continually confronted with daily challenges that compromise the enjoyment of their human rights, Nigeria inclusive. With the global rise in the number of children with developmental disabilities, the implication is that in the coming years, a significant number of young adults globally would be individuals with one form of mental/ development disability or the other. Therefore, it is imperative for state parties to be more intentional about the protection and inclusion of children with developmental/mental disabilities for better integration into the society.

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The perpetual endeavour: Gender-mainstreaming and sustainable development in Kenya

Author: Juliet Nyamao
Human Rights Attorney, Kenyan Bar

According to Amnesty International’s Africa 2017/2018 report, women disproportionately bear the brunt of poverty. Persistent discrimination, marginalisation and abuse of women and girls, have systematically become institutionalised by unjust laws. Although the Constitution of Kenya guarantees equal rights and freedoms for both men and women, long-standing gender inequalities have significantly impeded the overall contribution of women and girls in achieving Kenya’s sustainable development agenda. Read the rest of this entry »


The impact of state surveillance and censorship of sexuality on the lives of LGB Ethiopians living in Addis Ababa

Author: Selamawit Tsegaye Lulseged
African Union Human Rights Observers Mission in Burundi (formerly)

Dialogue regarding same-sex sexual act and eroticism is a recent phenomenon in Ethiopia. As is true for most African countries, in Ethiopia, there is a strong heterosexual culture that bases its legitimacy on the hegemony of masculinity. The social construction is based on the values of family that depends on traditional gender role and religious dogmas. In many discourses, lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals are mentioned in relation to pedophilia, mental sickness and people who chose deviant sexual behavior. Thus, same-sex sexuality is not only something that is pushed under the rug, but also subjected to state scrutiny and embargo.

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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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