The Maputo Protocol – Myth or Reality?

This year (2019) marks 16 years since the adoption of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, famously known as the Maputo Protocol by the African Union in 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique. This formidable and landmark regional treaty is lauded as one of the most progressive instruments on the rights of women and girls not only in Africa but in the world.

The Protocol covers a broad range of women’s rights including: the elimination of discrimination against women, the right to dignity, the right to life, the integrity and security of the person, the protection of women in armed conflicts, the right to education and training, economic and social welfare rights and health and reproductive rights. To date, out of the 55 countries in Africa, 40 have ratified the protocol. But the question is, is what is contained in the protocol still a myth or reality?

In a study conducted in 2011 by the Centre for Human Rights on the impact of the Maputo Protocol in some selected 17 African states, it was found that: lack of awareness and use of the Maputo Protocol, as well as the jurisprudence of the African Commission, were primary causes of the minimal impact of the Maputo Protocol in the selected states. One of the points that however came out clearly from the study was the need for periodic review of the impact of the Maputo Protocol in all member states of the African Union.

It has been widely established that for most African countries, there is no way of tracking progress on commitments made after signing and ratification of continental instruments such as the Maputo Protocol; hence a lot of countries cannot clearly illustrate sustainable progress on the implementation of the protocol beyond signing and or ratification. Therefore, implementation of the Maputo Protocol requires actualization of sustainable gender equality and the enforcement of the rights of women and girls. This therefore calls for evidence based interventions and the constant monitoring and evaluation of progress, including qualitative and quantitative data. Without data, countries remain in a cycle of ‘commitment’ to gender equality without evidence to inform sustainable approaches towards greater equality especially for the most vulnerable populations.

All is not lost. There has been classic examples both from some governments, civil society and faith based organizations working towards realizing the fruition of this noble continental treaty. For example, to raise awareness on the protocol, the government of Nigeria in collaboration with other organizations ensured translation of the protocol into indigenous languages, prior to its ratification.

The African Children and Youth Network for Human Rights /Réseau des Enfants et Jeunes Africains pour les Droits Humains (REJADH) has also been advocating for reduction, prevention and an end to Gender Based Violence (GBV) through a campaign dubbed: Myth of Maputo. This Campaign calls for the ratification and full implementation of the Maputo Protocol, among other strategies to address GBV and it negative impacts on children and youth. In this campaign, the network has mainly focussed on capacity building sessions, for instance, through advocacy, leadership training and networking as well as online advocacy through the hashtag: #MythOfMaputo on ratification and implementation of the protocol. Since inception in 2016, over 500 young leaders from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan (where the network is present) have been trained on the protocol and its significance to ending GBV.

Has your country ratified the Maputo Protocol? Are the people aware of the protocol and its gains? Is the protocol being implemented and made use of in the fight against GBV in your country? Perhaps reflection and possible answers to these questions would tell you if the Maputo Protocol, 16 years later is still a myth or reality.