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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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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The promises and limitations of law in guaranteeing freedom in Africa: The right to a Revolution

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

One of the main objectives of international and regional law is to maintain peace and security. It has been reasoned that where there is peace and security, humanity stands a better chance to protect individual rights and freedoms. On account of the importance of peace and security at national, regional and international level, States agreed to criminalize those who engage in violent conduct or seek to change governments through the use of violent force. Yet, is it a coincidence that in many dictatorial governments with atrocious human rights records, opposition leaders are often charged of attempting to unconstitutionally change the government of the day? This contribution seeks to discuss the right to a just-revolution and how existing laws promise freedoms but is limited in delivery when it comes to dictatorial governments. In this contribution, a just-revolution is defined as a revolution to overthrow a government of the day whose rule is characterised by gross human rights violations or international crimes such as crimes against humanity and genocide. Do citizens have a right to a just-revolution?

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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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Cameroon at cross roads

DuniaMekonnenTegegnAuthor: Dunia Tegegn
Human rights lawyer, Ethiopia

The war in Cameroon

The conflict in Cameroon is complex. It involves different actors including the separatists Ambazonia Governing Council, which leads the Ambazonia Defense Forces. The conflict also involves Southern Cameroons Defense Force, Boko Haram and government forces. For many years, Cameroon has been considered a refuge for Boko Haram, where the organisation was tolerated by the Cameroon authorities in the sense of an unspoken mutual non-aggression pact. Since 2013, however, the organisation has extended its attacks to Cameroon itself.

Again and again, the inequality between the Anglophone and the Francophone parts of Cameroon have been the trigger for burgeoning conflicts within society. Other triggers and exacerbators of conflict are corruption and state failure, especially with regard to the education and health systems. Already after the reunification, the Anglophone part began to strive for autonomy, which has intensified since 1990. As a result, the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) was founded in 1995, advocating the separation of the English-speaking part from Cameroon and the establishment of an independent “Republic of Ambazonia”. There were also demonstrations in the Francophone part of Cameroon against a possible secession.

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Uganda’s blasphemy law is unconstitutional

Author: Nimrod Muhumuza
Lawyer and LLD candidate, Dullah Omar Institute, University of Western Cape

Laws prohibiting blasphemy are astonishingly widespread worldwide with many countries criminalising conduct deemed blasphemous with disparate punishments ranging from prison sentences to lashings or the death penalty. A comprehensive report prepared by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom found that 71 countries prohibit views deemed blasphemous. These laws have dire consequences for those who find themselves on their wrong side as the most recent and much publicised case of Asia Bibi in Pakistan has demonstrated.

South of the Sahara, the report found that only four countries criminalise blasphemy. Uganda did not make that list. This is despite the provisions of Chapter III, sections 118-122 of the Penal Code Act. Sections 118-121 proscribe conduct that involves the destruction or damage or defilement of any place of worship with the intent of insulting the religion; disturbing religious assemblies, trespassing on burial places hindering burial of a dead body. The utility and legality of these provisions is not inherently the protection of religions and religious ideas and their constitutional validity will not be canvassed at this point.

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Violence against women and girls in Africa: A global concern to ponder on International Women’s Day and beyond

Author: Kennedy Kariseb
Doctoral candidate, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria

It has been four decades since the United Nations (UN) observed for the first time International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March 1975. Although there are traces of celebration of this day, dating as far back as 1909, its formal initiation came in the wake of the first World Conference of the International Women’s Year that took place in Mexico City, Mexico. Its object, as aptly argued by Temma Kaplan, is to mark ‘the occasion for a new sense of female consciousness and a new sense of feminist internationalism’.[i]

In a sense, 8 March is meant to be a day of both celebration and reflection for women the world over: a celebration of the gains made in enhancing women’s rights and the overall status of women globally, while reflecting and strategising on the voids and shortcomings still persistent in the women’s rights discourse. The occasion of the forty-third celebration of the IWD clearly marks an opportunity for feminist introspection on the broader question of violence against Women (VAW) and its regulation under international law. This is because while VAW is not the only form of human rights abuse women suffer, it is one in which the gendered aspect of such abuse is often the most clear and pervasive.

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Stripped of Dignity: The Struggle for LGBT Rights in Tanzania

rodger_owisoAuthor: Daniel Marari
LLM, International Human Rights Law, Lund University, Sweden

Although the Tanzanian Constitution (1977) guarantees the right to equality and prohibits discrimination based on gender and sex, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people still face deeply rooted hostility, prejudice and widespread discrimination in the Tanzanian society.  Threats of criminal penalty, social exclusion, harassment and violence make it particularly unsafe for one to come out as an LGBT person.

At present, certain homosexual acts between consenting adult males are criminalized under the Penal Code (Chapter 16 of the laws). Under section 154 of the Penal Code, committing or attempting to commit “unnatural offences” are crimes punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and twenty years’ imprisonment, respectively. “Unnatural offence” is defined as (1) sexual intercourse with any person “against the order of nature” as well as (2) consensual sexual intercourse between a man and man or woman “against the order of nature”.  The words “against the order of nature” are not statutorily defined. Also, under section 157 of the Penal Code, it is an offence punishable with a maximum of five years imprisonment for any male person, whether in public or private, to commit an act of gross indecency with another male person.  By section 3 of the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act, “gross indecency” is defined as “any sexual act that is more than ordinary but falls short of actual intercourse and may include masturbation and indecent physical contact or indecent behavior without any physical contact”.  Consent is no defense to any of these offences and no distinction regarding age is made in the text of the law. As the consequence of the existence of these laws criminalizing private consensual homosexual acts, LGBT people in Tanzania live in psychological stress and unceasing fear of prosecution and imprisonment.
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State response to political killings in Cameroon and its impact on the rule of law

emmanuel_a_nkeaAuthor: Emmanuel A. Nkea
Barrister, Cameroon Bar; Judge Emeritus, High Courts and Gambia Court of Appeal; Partner, SCP Security Law Firm, Tiko, Cameroon

Political killings and related violence have found expression in public discourses and have shaped the political-legal landscape in Cameroon since the re-introduction of multi-party democracy in 1990. The post-1990 constitutional state that Cameroon has become recognizes the universality of human rights; especially the right to life and security of the person. While these progressive laws further distinguish Cameroon as a state with outstanding legal commitments towards the universality of human rights, they have failed to find expression in the implementation process.

Creating such a strong visibility of human rights within the law is not enough. How the law is implemented determines its real worth and effectiveness. Accountability for crimes in a fair and expeditious trial remains the hallmark of an efficient criminal justice system.

This post examines how the state responded to cases of political killings and related crimes in Cameroon from the dimensions of legal and policy frameworks; legal processes; legal innovations; and institutional issues. It focuses on three key actors; the courts, the Legal Department, and the Police, and uses such assessment indicators as prosecution, conviction, and acquittal rates.

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In defence of these “disgusting and unnatural”


Benjamin_NgaruAuthor: Benjamin Ng’aru

Legal Assistant, Local Authorities Pensions Trust; Volunteer Programmes Assistant, Legal Exchange Centre, Nairobi, Kenya

On Monday 25 February 2014, Uganda’s long serving president Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014 (previously referred to as Kill the Gays Bill”). The Long Title thereof provides that this “Act [is intended] to prohibit any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; prohibit the promotion or recognition of such relations and to provide for other related matters.” Museveni has also, on record, called homosexuals “disgusting and unnatural” persons. The legislation has since received widespread condemnation from human rights organisations and leaders across the globe.

Whereas homosexuality was, since the colonial era, outlawed with the introduction of the British colonial rule and justice system, the new legislation is an all time low. Section 2(2) of the Act provides for a mandatory life sentence for persons convicted of “homosexual acts”. Section 1 of the Act has a wide margin of what constitutes “homosexual acts” such as “the touching of another’s breast, vagina, penis or anus, … however slight …. with any part of the body or through anything”.

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