Africa’s rights watchdog hails Banjul’s FGM, child marriage ban

Women’s organizations have accepted that traditional practices, which are deeply rooted in society, cannot simply be legislated away: Pansy

tlakula

The chairwoman of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Pansy Tlakula, has hailed Gambia’s decision to ban female genital mutilation and child marriage in the country in her opening statement at the ongoing NGO forum taking place in Banjul.

Tlakula made these remarks in a statement presented on her behalf by Jamesina King, one of the commissioners of Africa’s leading human rights institution, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

“Women’s organizations have accepted that traditional practices, which are deeply rooted in society, cannot simply be legislated away. Instead, they require political will and commitment, dialogue within communities and with traditional leaders, civic and human rights education, economic empowerment of women and girls, increased access to social services such as education, concrete actions and strategies to end gender-based violence, as well as increased access to sexual reproductive health services and rights, to name a few,” she said.

“Some examples of these interventions include the banning of child marriage in… Gambia, with tough penalties imposed on anyone marrying a girl below 18. Additionally, the Government of The Gambia banned female genital mutilation and criminalized the practice.”

Over 100 NGOs across the world, but mainly from Africa, converged at Paradise Suite hotel yesterday to discuss issues of human rights on the continent ahead of the 59 ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights slated for October 20.

Child marriage and female genital mutilation are longstanding traditional practices that were banned by Gambia government in 2016.

However, Tlakula criticized the decision of the Nigerian senators earlier this month to reject a women’s right bill which was meant to raise minimum age of marriage in the West African power house to 18, among other things.

“Earlier this month, this bill which sought to give men and women equal rights in marriage, divorce and inheritance and raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 years was rejected by the Senate, comprised of 109 members of which 7 are women” she said.

“The bill has faced strong opposition because it was said to be incompatible with Nigerian cultural and religious beliefs. The bill would have been a milestone for women’s rights in Nigeria and an example for neighboring countries to follow.”

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ forum is the continent’s biggest human rights session that bring together right defenders, NGOs and CSOs to discuss the situation in Africa two times every year.

Meanwhile, Jamesina King is the Commission’s chair of the working group on economic, social and cultural rights in Africa and she also told the Turkey News Agency that “there is so much more to do around women’s empowerment in the continent”.

She cited what she referred to as the “unfortunate” case of women rights in Nigeria, increasing teenage pregnancy on the continent, feminization of poverty and the discrimination of women in the area of education.

She said there is a need for more “political will on the part of legislators in Africa” as was proven in the “Nigerian case” in order to improve on protection of women’s rights in Africa.

This year is the African year of human rights with specific focus on the rights of women and King also observed that there has been some good improvement in protection of women’s rights.

Being established by the African Human Rights Charter, continent’s leading human rights instrument, the Commission is an “independent body” consisting of 11 members elected by the AU Assembly from experts nominated by the State Parties to the Charter.

The Commission is officially charged with the responsibility of protecting human and peoples’ rights, the promotion of human and peoples’ rights and the interpretation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

 

 

 

 

 

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