Equality Now in conjunction with Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) is delighted to announce the release of A Guide to Using the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa for Legal Action. The release of this manual comes 5 years after the Protocol came into force. “We hope African lawyers and women’s rights advocates find the manual useful and it gives them hands-on guidance on how best to apply the remarkable standards of the Protocol in cases of violations of women’s rights,” said Faiza Jama Mohamed, Nairobi Office Director of Equality Now, which convenes SOAWR, a coalition of 47 civil society organizations working to ensure that the Women’s Protocol is ratified and implemented across the continent.
The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa is renowned for its strong and comprehensive provisions on women’s rights. For the first time in international law, it explicitly sets forth the reproductive right of women to medical abortion when pregnancy results from rape or incest or when the continuation of pregnancy endangers the health or life of the mother. In another first, the Protocol explicitly calls for the legal prohibition of female genital mutilation (FGM). It also specifies 18 years as the minimum age for marriage and promotes equal representation of women in the judiciary and law enforcement as well as at all levels of decision-making.
Jane Serwanga from FIDA Kenya, a member of SOAWR, adds that “It is amazing how social justice activists have raised awareness about the Protocol and advocated for African governments to embrace its standards, as a result 31 countries have thus far ratified it. But we now feel the need to strengthen civil society’s capacity to ensure implementation which is why we have produced the manual.” This Guide provides step-by-step guidance for using the Protocol at local, national, and regional levels. It explains how to bring women’s rights abuses that violate the Protocol before domestic courts and regional justice mechanisms like the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and analyzes key cases related to women’s rights decided by the African Commission. The Guide also provides activists with more general strategies for the popularization and domestication of the Protocol to protect the rights of African women and girls and ensure they have complete access to justice.