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Gender Unit: News

Capacity building workshop on state reporting on the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa

The Gender Unit of the Centre for Human Rights organised a 2 day workshop on increasing States’ capacity for reporting under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Women’s Protocol) in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, in Rwanda. The workshop was held on 26 and 27 May 2015 at the Lake Kivu Serena hotel in Rwanda

Twenty two key government and civil society stakeholders involved in the state reporting process in Rwanda attended this workshop.

The main objectives of the workshop were to disseminate and popularise the Guidelines on State Reporting on the Women’s Protocol and to build and strengthen the capacity of the key stakeholders in Rwanda on state reporting under the Women’s Protocol.  Also, to ensure that the Rwandan government complies with its state reporting obligations under the Women’s Protocol.

 

 


 

Presentations were given on the African human rights system and the Women's Rights Protocol. An expert from Rwanda provided an overview of the situation of women’s human rights, highlighted progress and challenges in Rwanda.  A representative from the Ministry of Justice and the head of the State Reporting Unit in Malawi shared experiences of drafting Malawi’s state report on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Women’s Rights Protocol. This presentation was particularly beneficial considering that Malawi is the first country to have followed the guidelines on reporting on Part B on the Women’s Rights Protocol.

The workshop was highly interactive and participatory. After sharing the status of reporting and the challenges faced by those tasked with state reporting in Rwanda, participants worked in thematic groups to draft a report on the Women's Rights Protocol and presented it in a moot session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. (African Commission) This session provided an opportunity for the representatives to have constructive engagement with the African Commission’s procedures.  At the end of the workshop, participants expressed commitment to continue the process of working on the draft report in order to submit it before the next session of the African commission later this year.

The Centre for Human Rights is grateful to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its generous support of this activity.

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Regional experts meeting on child marriage in Africa, 5 - 6 March, 2014

The Centre for Human Rights hosted a meeting of experts on child marriage in Africa on the 5th and 6th of March 2014. This meeting forms part of the child marriage project which seeks to investigate the prevalence of this phenomenon in African countries, and to give recommendations on best practices that can be employed to curb it. This project supports the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa (SRRWA) especially to follow up on the implementation of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa by state parties, notably by preparing reports on the situation of women’s rights in Africa and propose recommendations to be adopted by the Commission. The Special Rapporteur is further mandated to carry out comparative studies on the situation of the rights of women in various countries of Africa. 

 
The meeting brought together regional experts from 10 countries which form part of this study, as well as 10 country researchers contracted to compile country reports which will form part of the final regional report. The countries focused on for this study are Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, South Africa and Uganda. These countries were chosen for their collective high prevalence rates in early and forced marriages, as well as to offer some examples in terms of best practices that may be employed, regionally in the fight against early and forced marriages. Also in attendance were representatives from the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), whose input was very helpful in framing some conceptual considerations. It is hoped that ultimately the report will be adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The women’s rights clinic which forms part of the Master’s program in human rights and democratization in Africa is also involved in the development of General Comments enumerating states obligations with respect to the elimination of harmful traditional practices, including early and forced marriage, under the Women’s Protocol to the African Charter. A draft was shared at the meeting for comments and input and it is envisioned that through the expertise present at this meeting, the Comments shall be finalised and presented to the African Commission for adoption at the session later in the year. 

It was a productive and engaging meeting that brought to the fore practical considerations and possible interventions that may be employed in the drive to eradicate harmful traditional practices including child marriage. Some recommendations made include naming the practice child unions and not a forced marriage as the necessary consent to marriage can never be present between a minor and an adult. It was also recommended that the ACERWC be closer involved in the development of this report, alongside the SRRWA as the issue relates primarily to the girl child. A firm commitment was made for future collaboration in the development of the report as well as in the completion of the General Comments. Further updates shall be made available.

 
 

 

Centre Hosts Conference on the Rights of Women in Africa and Annual Helen Kanzira Lecture on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

The Centre for Human Rights hosted a Conference commemorating the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Protocol to the African Charter in Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, on the 9th and 10th December at the Merensky Main Library Auditorium, University of Pretoria. The main theme of this conference was “exploring possibilities for promoting women’s sexual and reproductive health rights.”

Generously funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs it was a captivating two days which saw critical and informative discussions around various aspects of women’s health and reproductive rights under the protocol to the Africa charter. HE Kari Bjørnsgaard, Ambassador of Norway to South Africa was present to offer the opening remarks. 

 

The conference was well attended with participants ranging from, but not limited to human rights practitioners, academics, health care workers, researchers and students. Of utmost consideration was how much has changed in these 10 years and what can be done to ensure that the protocol is effectively implemented to the benefit of Africa’s women.

Touching on the main themes of the Conference, Dr Pregs Govender Deputy Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission gave a moving Key Note address, highlighting amongst others the importance of budgetary allocations in the realisation of women’s human rights as well as the importance of the right of access to information to allow women to assert their rights. The papers that followed this key note address were provocative and touched on the main conference sub themes of the protocol and HIV, the sexual and reproductive health rights of marginalised groups of women, access to safe abortion, sexual rights and women’s reproductive rights and the role of resources. 

Part of the Conference proceedings included a lecture by Mr Steven Lewis, Co-Director of AIDS Free World titled, “The power of advocacy” for the Annual Helen Kanzira Lecture. This is an annual lecture geared towards raising awareness on sexual and reproductive health rights. It is held in memory of the Late Helen Kanzira, an alumnus of the LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa, who died while giving birth to a baby girl.

His was a passionate call for all to realise the power of making your voice heard. Reflecting on the life of the late Nelson Mandela, Mr Lewis boldly encouraged all present to be relentless in their fight for social justice. Focusing on the general theme of the conference, he highlighted the importance of realising sexual and reproductive health rights for all women across the world and shared his varied experiences in his advocacy work. Mr Lewis especially made a call to the younger advocates for human rights to not lose sight of the mission at hand that is to boldly take a stand against impunity and injustice and speak loud in calling leadership to account in the realisation of especially women’s human rights.

This year’s lecture was particularly special due to the attendance by the husband of the late Helen Kanzira; Mr Ernest Kalibbala Wiltshire. He gave a moving opening address reminiscing on the special person that Helen was. She had a giving spirit, her warm and accommodating heart, but most of all the fervour with which she stuck to her principles. It was a reminder once again that we are all commissioned in our different spaces to be agents for the realisation of human rights. As we reflected the life of Helen through the eyes of her husband, it was a further reminder to actively seek social justice for women through the realisation of their sexual and reproductive health rights.

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The Gender Unit organised a 3-day workshop on state reporting under the African Women's Rights Protocol (Protocol) from 10 - 12 June at the University of Pretoria.  Government and civil society representatives from South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho, and Zambia were invited.  These countries were specifically targeted for one of two reasons: they are in the final stages of drafting their state reports  before submitting it to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (Commission); or they were one of the first countries to have ratified the Protocol but have yet to submit a report on measures they have taken to comply with the treaty.  

The objectives of the workshop were to popularise the guidelines on state reporting under the Protocol and to strengthen understanding of state reporting obligations in accordance with the Guidelines.  The workshop further aimed to provide a stimulus for the participating states to commit to submitting their state report, including the Protocol, to the Commission as a matter of priority. The importance of the workshop is underscored by the fact that no state party is yet to submit a report on the Protocol despite some states having been party to the instrument for close to 10 years.  

Relevant government representatives and civil society members were brought together to reinforce the imperative of consultation in the reporting process and to encourage civil society to monitor state progress towards completion and submission of the report.  Presentations were given on topics such as the African Human Rights System, the Women's Rights Protocol, and Women's Rights Protocol reporting guidelines.  The workshop was also highly participatory.  After sharing the status of reporting in each country and the challenges faced by those tasked with state reporting, participants worked in country groups to draft a report on the Women's Rights Protocol and present it in a moot session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.  

Another capacity building workshop on state reporting on the Women's Rights Protocol is scheduled to take place in August in Dakar, Senegal for selected West African countries. 

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Official launch of the General Comments to article 14(1)(d) and (e) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights

On 12 April 2013, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights officially launched the General Comments to article 14(1)(d) and (e) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights at the Commission's 53rd Session in Banjul, The Gambia. 

Under the guidance of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, and in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights and regional experts, the General Comments were drafted, and adopted, to provide specific guidance about the obligations of states under these provisions. They further aim to support the Special Rapporteur in the promotion and implementation of the Women’s Rights Protocol; to equip civil society organisations with a yardstick for advocacy and state accountability; and to guide the future jurisprudence of the Commission.

 

The Centre for Human Rights will continue to work closely with the African Commission, in particular, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, to disseminate the General Comments widely and promote implementation of the provisions at the domestic level.

Statement on the background to and drafting of the General Comments of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on article 14(1)(d) and (e) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, on the occasion of the launching of these general Comments, Banjul, The Gambia, 13 April 2013
Frans Viljoen, Director, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Like many international human rights treaties, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa contains some provisions that are not formulated with great precision. It is only when such open-ended provisions become the subject of a complaint before the Commission, or when the Commission in some other way provides normative clarity, that their content becomes much more distinct. In the past, the Commission has given normative guidance on thematic aspects of the African Charter through the adoption of resolutions, declarations or guidelines, focusing on particular themes, such as the Dakar Declaration on the Right to a Fair Trial (on the right to a fair trial) and the Robben Island Guidelines on Torture (on torture).

Under the guidance of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, a process was set in motion to provide greater clarity about provisions of particular interest and importance to women in Africa, namely, articles 14(1)(d) and (e) of the Women’s Rights Protocol relating to women's health and reproductive rights in the context of HIV. While these provisions have been widely praised as the first time an international human rights treaty dealt with and specifically mentioned HIV and AIDS, the nature of the state obligations arising from them were not clear. The need for normative guidance was exacerbated by the fact that, several years after the adoption and ratification of the Protocol, the level of implementation at the domestic level remains disappointing, and no complaints alleging violations of the Women’s Rights Protocol have been decided.  The General Comments on articles 14(1)(d) and (e) were therefore adopted to assist states by providing specific guidance about their obligations under these provisions; to support the Special Rapporteur in the promotion and implementation of the Women’s Rights Protocol; to equip civil society organisations with a yardstick for advocacy and state accountability; and to guide the future jurisprudence of the Commission.

The General Comments differ from declarations and guidelines, thus far adopted by the Commission, in that they provide a detailed interpretation of a particular treaty provision, based on a close analysis of the wording and an examination of the implications of the particular provision.

The process of drafting these General Comments benefited from the expertise and insights of many: First, the Special Rapporteur, who oversaw and guided the process, supported by her staff at the Secretariat  (in particular Charles Nguena), and other members of the Commission; second, a network of women’s rights NGOs, particularly the members of the Solidarity for African Women's Rights Network; third, all the participants in the numerous consultative working groups and drafting meetings (and in particular, Dr Ebenezer Durojaye, who is present here today);  fourth, Master’s students participating in the Women’s Rights Clinic of the Centre for Human Rights (one of whom are here today, Ms Satang Nabaneh); and last,  staff of the Centre, in particular the Head of the Gender Unit, Karen Stefiszyn, who steered and kept the process towards adoption of these General Comments on track. After an intensive and participatory process, the Commission adopted the General Comments at its 52nd session, held in Côte d’Ivoire, in October 2012.

We trust this first by the Commission will not be a milestone that is soon forgotten, but is take to heart and becomes a guiding beacon for all concerned about women’s sexual and reproductive rights, and in particular, their vulnerability to HIV infection.

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Official Launch :: General Comments to article 14(1)(d) and (e) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights Official Launch :: General Comments to article 14(1)(d) and (e) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights Official Launch :: General Comments to article 14(1)(d) and (e) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights Official Launch :: General Comments to article 14(1)(d) and (e) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights

Training for Lawyers on using the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa for legal action

Equality Now, Solidarity for African’s Women's Rights and the Centre for Human Rights recently collaborated to host a training for lawyers on using the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa for legal action on 25 and 26 March 2013. The participants from this program were selected from partner organizations across Southern Africa including private law firms and human rights institutes. They ranged in expertise from litigation specialists to legal advisers in both the public and private sector.

 

It was an intensive two day session packed with varied and informative presentations including from the Southern African Litigation Centre, successes and challenges noted in strategic litigation of certain cases; as well as a presentation by Professor Frans Viljoen on using the Protocol to advance women's rights and the existing regional mechanisms-The African Commission, African Court and Regional Economic Communities.

The participants also took part in a moot exercise based on a scenario democratically determined by the group based on a set of facts chosen from the group. A woman was raped and the police have failed to prosecute the matter to date despite a statement from the victim and other witnesses identifying the perpetrators. In this matter the participants argued before the Commission against Mozambique alleging violations of several provisions of the Women's Protocol. The key lesson learned from this exercise was the need to read the Protocol on Women's Rights in conjunction with the African Charter, its parent document. It was also an exercised designed at showing participants how to engage effectively with these treaty documents and their contents in an attempt to hold states accountable for failure to realise their obligations under these documents.

It was a vibrant session and several critical issues came up for discussion that will surely be followed up. These include a commitment to use the Commission’s interpretive function to clarify certain aspects of the Protocol by bringing more cases for adjudication. Ultimately a network was created to support the participants in the litigation of future human rights issues and to also provide a forum for discussion.

For more information kindly visit the Equality Now website at www.equalitynow.org

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Gender Mainstreaming Training Report Back Session

The Gender Unit in collaboration with Irish Aid recently hosted a report back session on Gender Mainstreaming; a follow up session to training offered to Irish Aid partners and some University of Pretoria staff on 17 - 21 September 2012 at the University of Pretoria. An important element of the Gender Mainstreaming session held last year was the development of projects which were to be implemented at the different organisations represented at the training session. This was done under the mentorship of Elize Delport and Karen Stefiszyn of the Gender Unit who took time to develop projects specific to the participants’ interest and also relevant within their organisations. The session on 14 and 15 March 2013 was designed to report back on the interventions carried out, as well as the highlights and challenges noted during the implementation of their projects.

 

The session highlighted the resistance to gender equality based on a false perception of what it entails, the task before them was therefore very daunting. However the training clarified the concepts and made it easier to advocate for the mainstreaming of gender in their own organizations by highlighting the benefits to all. This sharing was done along three main themes of awareness raising and capacity building, policy development and, analysis and monitoring. The projects ranged from gender audits, to the implementation of grass-root projects designed to directly benefit impoverished communities. The projects were designed to be sustainable and participants noted that even after the conclusion of the session the projects continued to be implemented in their organizations and formed a part of a new organizational culture. This was a certificate course that tested the participants’ ability to take the information gathered during the training and convert it into tangible results that are directly beneficial and responsive to the gender needs in their organizations.

It is envisioned that from this session a compilation document will be published, to serve as a guide for those who plan to mainstream gender in their respective organisations. We continue to develop and improve the course in response to the trends highlighted by participants and in that respect continue to contribute to the mainstreaming of gender as an important element in the drive towards gender equality.

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Due Diligence Project Consultative Meeting: 3 - 4 December 2012

The Gender Unit recently held the Due Diligence Project expert consultative meeting at the Centre for Human Rights from 3- 4 December 2012.  The Due Diligence Project is a multi-year project to develop due diligence standards and indicators on State responsibility to end violence against women.   It aims to add content to the international legal principle of “due diligence” in the context of State responsibility to address and end violence against women; and to instrumentalise the findings, indicators and good practices for practical application through manuals, tool kits and training modules. The Centre for Human Rights is an institutional partner of the Project, which is implemented by the International Human Rights Initiative based in Boston, USA.

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The objective of regional consultative meetings was to invite experts and stakeholders from the region to participate in a focused discussion on systemic regional patterns and thematic issues of importance to the region with respect to VAW. This included identifying key issues that pose challenges in Africa, such as cultural perception and stereotyping as well as political priority placed on and budget allocated for ending violence against women. The Africa regional consultative meeting brought together 9 regional experts from Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya. Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Uganda and South Africa. The meeting focused on 5 identified areas where states are obligated to exercise due diligence to end violence against women, namely prevention of violence against women, protection of victims/survivors, prosecution and investigations of VAW cases, punishment of perpetrators and the provision of redress and reparation for victims/survivors of VAW.

It was a very informative meeting which provided a forum for these experts to discuss the issues, challenges, state actions and their implementation as well as good practices with regard to eliminating violence against women. The participants shared their experiences on key thematic concerns in Africa such as the role of culture and political will in the elimination of violence against women. The discussions from this meeting will be incorporated into the Africa regional report on State compliance with their due diligence obligations to end violence against women and will input into the development of indicators and standards on due diligence and State responsibility.

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopts first General Comment, clarifying article 14(1)(d) and (e) of the African Women’s Protocol

During its 52nd Session in Yamoussoukro (9 - 22 October 2012), Ivory Coast, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) adopted a general comment on article 14(1)(d) and (e) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (African Women’s Protocol, also known as the Maputo Protocol) which provides for women’s human rights in the context of the HIV pandemic.

It is the first time the African Commission has adopted a general comment, which is an interpretive text to clarify the normative content of human rights provisions and the nature and scope of state obligations. General comments have been elaborated in many instances in the UN human rights treaty body system.

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The African Women’s Protocol is the first legally binding instrument to recognise the intersection of women’s human rights and HIV and guarantee corresponding protections. Article 14(1)(d) and (e) of the Protocol provides for women’s right to self-protection and to be protected from HIV, as well as the right to be informed on one’s status and the status of one’s partner in accordance with international standards and best practices. However, despite the progressive nature of the provisions, they do not clearly stipulate the necessary steps that States need to take to meet their obligations.

The General Comment addresses the ambiguities of these provisions by elaborating the normative content of the rights, enumerating state obligations, and identifying, and including in the text of the General Comment, the international standards and best practices in accordance with which states are expected to give effect to the enshrined rights. The General Comments aims to guide the 34 African Union member states that have already accepted the Women’s Protocol as binding, in adopting appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures to give effect to the relevant provisions of the Protocol.

The drafting process for the general comment was led by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa in partnership with the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria (Centre) which provided technical support and expertise. One of the Centre’s Human Rights Clinics, in which students on the LLM (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) worked under the supervision of the Head of the Centre’s Gender Unit, Karen Stefiszyn, conducted the background research. The Centre convened an expert working group in Pretoria, South Africa, to develop the first draft, followed by a broader consultation in Dakar, Senegal, with experts in West Africa. The expert working group meetings were financially supported by the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Network (SOAWR), of which the Centre is a member, and UNAIDS.

Following the regional consultations, the Commission discussed, refined and finalised the text of the General Comment, after it was presented by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, Commissioner Soyata Maiga.

Gender Unit convenes an Expert Working Group Meeting in Dakar

The Centre for Human Rights Gender Unit, with the generous support of UNAIDS, convened an expert working group meeting in Dakar, Senegal from 28-29 September to broaden consultation on the draft general comment on article (14)(1)(d) & (e) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

The general comment elaborates the nature and scope of the provisions in questions and clarifies state obligations towards complying with the identified provisions, namely concerning women's protection from HIV infection and issues related to information, testing and disclosure in line with international human rights standards.

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  The general comment elaborates the nature and scope of the provisions in questions and clarifies state obligations towards complying with the identified provisions, namely concerning women's protection from HIV infection and issues related to information, testing and disclosure in line with international human rights standards.

The initial draft was developed by an expert working group that met in Pretoria in June, 2012

The meeting was attended by experts on the intersection of women's human rights, HIV, and sexual and reproductive health, mainly from the West African region, including a former member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), Ms Dorcas Coker-Appiah from Ghana.   

The general comment was strengthened considerably by the conclusion of the meeting and was finalised in time to deliver it in french and english to the Commissioners of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights prior to the 52cd session of the Commission in October in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast.  The proposed general comment is on the session agenda to be considered for adoption by the Commission.  

The project has also received funding support from the Solidarity for African Women's Rights Network (SOAWR), of which the Centre for Human Rights is a member.
 

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Gender Mainstreaming Training

The Centre for Human Rights: Gender Unit and Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies, with funding from Irish Aid conducted training on gender mainstreaming from the 17 - 21 September 2012 at the University of Pretoria, Faculty of Law.

The participants in this week long training were chosen from various Irish Aid development partners as well as University of Pretoria staff. This training, now in its second year, is geared towards the comprehensive realisation of gender equality in both the public and private spheres.

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Various gender issues and related topics were discussed during this week including the distinction between sex and gender and an illuminating critique on the binary classification of males and females to the exclusion of those who may fall in between. Human rights and gender was another point of discussion which focused on highlighting the various human rights documents geared towards the realisation of gender equality. There were also discussions around gender analysis frameworks such as gender audits. HIV/AIDS and its impact on the realisation of gender equality was also discussed and the need to incorporate gender in our budgeting cycles as well as gender sensitive monitoring and evaluation of developmental outputs in a bid to realise substantive gender equality. These discussions were supplemented by various practical exercises that tested the participants understanding of the various concepts discussed in light of their varying contexts.

The training culminated in the development of practical projects by the participants for implementation within their respective organizations. The idea is that each participant will apply the knowledge learned during this week through the planning and execution of a gender mainstreaming project within their organization, under the guidance of facilitators from the Gender Unit and the Institute for Gender and Women's Studies. The group shall then reconvene early 2013 to report on their projects highlighting the challenges faced and successes experienced. Ultimately it is hoped that through exercises like these gender sensitivity will be a main feature in organisations as we strive towards the realisation of substantive equality for all.

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Rwanda: Govt Takes Critical Step in Recognizing Women's Fundamental Human Rights

Affirming the importance of women's access to safe and legal abortion, the Rwandan government has lifted its reservation to Article 14(2)(c) of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights of Women in Africa (also known as the Maputo Protocol). The Maputo Protocol is the only international treaty that explicitly guarantees the right to legal abortion. Under the Protocol, the Rwandan government is now required to "protect the reproductive rights of women by authorizing medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the fetus."

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This development comes on the heels of a significant reform to Rwanda's abortion law. The Rwandan Government recently signed into law a new penal code reducing harsh criminal penalties against women who terminate their pregnancies and doctors who perform abortions.

"Rwanda has taken a critical step forward in its efforts to respect women's fundamental reproductive and human rights by expanding the grounds upon which abortion is legally permitted," said Elisa Slattery, regional director for Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"Women who become pregnant as a result of rape, incest, or forced marriage - or whose pregnancy endangers their health - are now legally entitled to safe abortion services."

"We hope other African nations follow Rwanda's lead and affirm women's fundamental reproductive rights by ratifying the Maputo Protocol without reservations."

Statement by the Solidarity of African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) Coalition on the Election of Dr Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma as the AUC Chairperson

Nairobi, Kenya, 30 July 2012 - The 40 members of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition, based in 22 African countries, commend the African Union (AU) Heads of States and Governments on the successful election of Dr Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma as its African Union Commission (AUC) first female Chairperson. The admirable way the elections were conducted exhibited the AU’s ability to apply its principles of promoting gender equality and respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance as provided in the Constitutive Act of the AU. This is a strong message that should form the basis for similar renewed action within the AU and across Africa.

Working Group on Article 14 of the ACHPR Protocol on the Rights of Women

{jcomments off}The Centre for Human Rights with support from the Solidarity for African Women's Rights Network recently constituted a working group of experts, drawn from various organizations dealing with HIV/AIDS and related matters, at the University of Pretoria.

The Constitution of this group was geared towards the development of guidelines on state obligations relating to women's health and reproductive rights and HIV (Article 14 (1) (d) and (e) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa).

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This was driven out of the realisation that despite several years after the adoption and ratification of the protocol, the level of implementation at the domestic level remains disappointing. The constitution of this group therefore responds to the need for the African Commission to urge state action geared towards the promotion of women's bodily integrity and dignity through the adoption of guidelines on provisions of the Protocol under which the required obligations of state parties are not currently clear enough.

The aim of this group is to strengthen the jurisprudence of the African Charter with respect to the Women's Rights Protocol through the adoption of a general comment on women's health (sexual and reproductive) and HIV, specifically in relation to article 14 (1) (d) and (e) of the Protocol. This project also aims to support the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa in the promotion and implementation of the treaty with specific reference to the article mentioned above. Finally it is hoped that state parties to the Protocol shall be urged to implement it by clarifying their specific obligations therein especially under the article above.

The meeting was informative and productive and highlighted the importance of illuminating on what the right to sexual and reproductive health entails in the context of the protocol. Included in the discussion was the meaning and content of the right to self protection and the right to be protected from sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. Discussed further, was the international standards and best practices concerning testing and disclosure, as well as possible state obligations arising under the article. Although strides were achieved in the development of a draft document from which to proceed, it was realised that there is more to be done if the document is to be put forward for consideration at the next committee meeting. In this regard contributions are still welcome as it pertains to the articles above to ensure a comprehensive and duly informed document.

Photos:

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Navi Pillay presents the Helen Kanzira Memorial Lecture

On Tuesday 15 May 2012, Ms Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights presented the Annual Helen Kanzira Memorial Lecture at the University of Pretoria.

Helen Kanzira was an alumnus of the pioneer class of the Master of Laws in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa at the Centre for Human Rights. Helen passed away in Uganda following complications during childbirth.

 navi_pillay_chr

In commemoration of her spirit and dedication to human rights in Africa, the Centre for Human rights instituted the lecture to raise awareness on issues of women’s reproductive health rights.

In the lecture titled: ‘Valuing women as autonomous beings: Women’s sexual and reproductive health rights’, Ms Pillay illustrated the link between reproductive health and women’s human rights and provided an overview of the international human rights framework for the protection of women’s reproductive health rights. She hailed South Africa as a possible model for ensuring protection of women’s reproductive health rights and indicated that even though implementation was still to be achieved, the legal and policy framework were in place. She also indicated that in many parts of the world women are still burdened by poverty and therefore, reproductive health rights remained elusive. Commendably, Ms Pillay did not keep silent on sensitive issues such as abortion and rights relating to sexual orientation emphasising that human rights belong to everyone.

The floor was opened for questions following the lecture and the High Commissioner welcomed suggestions on how to best to advance women’s reproductive health rights.

The event was attended by approximately 200 guests who included members of the diplomatic corps, members of the general public, students and staff of the University of Pretoria. MsYanine Poc, the Regional Representative of the Southern Africa Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Prof Cheryl de la Rey, the Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria were also present.

Media:

Photos:

Maternal health in South Africa: Delivering Women's Human Rights

Over seventy students, lawyers, nurses, midwives, NGO staff from across Africa and other interested individuals packed a lecture hall on Wednesday 19 October 2011 for a panel discussion on maternal health in South Africa presented by the Centre for Human Rights. As the rate of maternal mortality more than quadrupled in South Africa in the last decade, the need to examine the related issues, challenges and opportunities is critical.

Panelist Karen Clark presented one inspiring success story, which represents a potential model for maternal health in rural areas. Ms Clark’s Birthworks Busfare Babies Birth Centre provides compassionate, quality care for pregnant women in rural Eastern Cape province, where she noted that care for women is often difficult to access. Delays in health care for expectant mothers can have disastrous consequences, including threats of HIV transmission and complications that can claim the lives of mother and/or child. Unfortunately, as Ms Clark observed, where access to health care is available, women often complain that medical staff are verbally and sometimes physically abusive before, during and after labor.

Dr Agnes Odhiambo from Human Rights Watch shared findings from her organisation’s recent report on maternal mortality and morbidity titled “Stop Making Excuses.” Dr Odhiambo told the group that 385 000 women globally die each year from pregnancy-related causes. More than 4 500 are South African women. What’s worse, perhaps, is that these deaths are entirely preventable. And this, she stated, is what makes maternal health a human rights issue. Maternal mortality typically follows a series of human rights violations, such as denial of the rights to health, education, liberty, dignity and life. Governments must do more to, according to Dr Odhiambo, to offer a continuum of services from adolescence through adulthood, which necessitates an increase in the number of skilled health care workers and includes unfettered access to family planning and safe abortion options. Dr Odhiambo also stressed the importance of accountability where the identification of key problem areas can help address pregnancy-related health issues and deaths. 

As the Chief Director of Maternal and Women's Health within the National Department of Health, panelist Dr Eddie Mhlanga understands that there is a great need to eliminate provincial disparities in the access to and quality of maternal health care in South Africa. Challenges exist, he recognized, stemming from the lack of skilled health care professionals and the prevalence of negative attitudes about the state health care system. South Africa must undertake initiatives, he said, to improve primary health care, increase the skills of midwives and nurses, and ensure access to contraception and family planning services. As importantly, declared Dr Mhlanga, there must be strong and substantial advocacy for women’s rights because, as he eloquently concluded, “unless women are respected, nothing else will make sense.”

And it is true. The women of South Africa are delivering the country’s future every day; it is therefore incumbent on the country to deliver South African women’s human rights every day.

Photos:

Maternal Health in South Africa - Delivering Women's Human Rights :: 19 October 2011 Maternal Health in South Africa - Delivering Women's Human Rights :: 19 October 2011 Maternal Health in South Africa - Delivering Women's Human Rights :: 19 October 2011 Maternal Health in South Africa - Delivering Women's Human Rights :: 19 October 2011 Maternal Health in South Africa - Delivering Women's Human Rights :: 19 October 2011 Maternal Health in South Africa - Delivering Women's Human Rights :: 19 October 2011 Maternal Health in South Africa - Delivering Women's Human Rights :: 19 October 2011 Maternal Health in South Africa - Delivering Women's Human Rights :: 19 October 2011 Maternal Health in South Africa - Delivering Women's Human Rights :: 19 October 2011 Maternal Health in South Africa - Delivering Women's Human Rights :: 19 October 2011 Maternal Health in South Africa - Delivering Women's Human Rights :: 19 October 2011 Maternal Health in South Africa - Delivering Women's Human Rights :: 19 October 2011

Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence

Istanbul, 11.V.2011

Istanbul, 11.05.2011 - The Council of Europe's new Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (CETS n° 210) has been opened for signature on the occasion of the 121st Session of the of Committee of Ministers taking place in Istanbul, gathering Ministers of Foreign Affairs from 47 Member States. The Convention is also open to accession by non-European countries and by the European Union.

This new landmark Council of Europe treaty is the first legally binding instrument in the world creating a comprehensive legal framework to protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence. The Convention also establishes an international mechanism to monitor its implementation at national level.

The following countries signed the new Convention during a ceremony held today in Istanbul: Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.

Download the Convention

Walking the Talk: Gender Equality in the African Union

A Quarterly Issue presented by the African Union and UN WOMEN: April 2011/ Issue Number 3/ Quarterly Publication/ Addis Ababa ‐ Ethiopia

In this issue:

  • Mainstreaming Gender in The AUC
  • The Decisions from the XVI Session of the Heads of State Summit
  • UN Women Celebrates its Creation at African Union Summit
  • CSOs participated in the Pre‐Summit organized by GIMAC

Download this newsletter

United Nations: Commission on the Status of Women -  Report on the 55th Session

Commission on the Status of Women: Report on the fifty-fifth session (12 March 2010, 22 February-4 March and 14 March 2011)

Major Victory Against Rape Apologist Hate Speech in South Africa

Courtsey of : Feministing.com
16 March 2010

"When a woman didn't enjoy it [sex], she leaves early in the morning. Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast, and ask for taxi money."
-ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, speaking to a group of 150 University students last May on why South African President Jacob Zuma's rape accuser must have enjoyed having sex with him.

These are the words of a rape apologist. They are the words of someone seeking to shame, embarrass, humiliate, and de-legitimize a woman who dared to take legal action against her alleged rapist- the president of a nation. And now, according to a recent ruling by the South African Equality Court, these words also legally constitute hate speech and discrimination, and will not be tolerated without legal ramification.

Young black male celebrates in the streets holding a sign that reads

The verdict handed down yesterday by the South African Equality Court was as much symbolic victory as a legal one, in my opinion. The comment is infuriating, sure, but it is made even more so when considering the context in which it was delivered- to a group of youth, in a country where it is estimated that one in three women is raped in her lifetime and one in four men admits to rape, by a leader in a historically progressive political party whose self-declared "key objective is the creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society."

The credit for this monumental victory belongs to Sonke Gender Justice Network, an amazing South African organization that supports men and boys to act against domestic and sexual violence. It was them who filed the lawsuit against Malema when they recognized the opportunity to make a public statement about the harm and destruction caused by rape culture.

This move took bravery. It also took strategic vision. The organization where I work, which has partnered with Sonke since 2008, has been anxiously awaiting this verdict since Sonke formalized their complaint in May, but we also recognize that the outcome wasn't really the point. The very act of them filing the claim was such a powerfully symbolic feminist victory.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that they ended up winning the case, and now, we don't have to just be content with a symbolic win. Upon being pronounced guilty of hate speech and discrimination, the two charges Sonke leveled against him in the Equality Court following his hateful comments, Malema was ordered to issue a written apology within the next two weeks and instructed to pay R50,000 (approx. $7,000) to an organization serving survivors of gender based violence.

More on the significance of this victory from Sonke's press statement:

"This case makes it clear that our country's leaders need to be more responsible in their public statements and that civil society can and will hold them accountable. We hope that this ruling will alert public figures to the potential repercussions of their words, both in terms of the impact that public statements can have in perpetuating gender-based violence and other forms of discrimination, and in terms of the legal implications.

"In a country where it is estimated that one in three a women is raped, we need to take strong action to counter myths and stereotypes which can lead perpetrators to believe that they can act with impunity, and which can dissuade rape survivors from seeking health care or justice."

The press statement goes on to outline next steps for continuing the fight against stigma, discrimination, and gender-based violence in South Africa:

"It is not sufficient, however, for leaders to refrain from making irresponsible comments; we need proactive leadership to mobilise men and boys to take action against gender-based violence. We reiterate our call for men in public positions to be clear and consistent in their explicit support of gender equality and to condemn openly and unequivocally all forms of gender-based violence.

Instead of perpetuating rape myths, public figures should make it clear that rape can happen anywhere, and that the rapist could be anyone: a stranger, a friend, a boyfriend, a husband. There are no rules that say a woman who has been raped will behave like this or like that. We need to make sure that women who have been raped are not stigmatised and are not made to feel like the crimes against them were their fault."

I'm so psyched to continue to support and partner with Sonke through my work at IWHC as they continue their incredible work generating support for women's rights and gender equality - and specifically to educate men and boys about the role they can play in advancing gender transformation.

Truly a cause for celebration!

The Right of Women to be Appointed as Judges

The Supreme Constitutional Court Refuses to Answer the Question of Common Knowledge
15 March 2010

The Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights (ECWR) was pleased by the Supreme Constitutional Court interpretation and ruling that approved the right of women to be appointed as judges in the State Council. This decision was rooted in the principles of justice and law to achieve the equality of Egyptian women by not neglecting her right.

The Supreme Constitutional Court resolved the issue of women's appointment to the judiciary of the State Council at the request of the Prime Minister, who asked the Minister of Justice for the Supreme Constitutional Court's interpretation of two articles because of conflicts between the Special Council and General Assembly's use of this law within the State Council. The first article is regarding item (1) of article (73) in the code of the State Council. The article states that in order to fulfill the conditions and be eligible as a member in the State Council, one has to be an 'Egyptian' who enjoys full citizenship. The Constitutional Court noted that the term 'Egyptian' used in article 73 of the State Council code has not created any conflicts in its application between the Special Council and General Assembly. There has been no dispute in its application or in the significance of its interpretation. Therefore, Article 73 (which the Prime Minister requested for its interpretation) is not relevant as there is no dispute over its interpretation.

The court confirmed that women's rights as Egyptian citizens is not a subject of debate or interpretation, but that women have full rights and should not be discriminated against.*

The second article to be considered and interpreted is the third passage of article (83) that states: "The rest of the members and the representatives are appointed according to the decision of the President after the approval of the special council for administrative affairs."

Furthermore, the Constitutional Court confirmed the importance of Article 83, regarding it as one of the texts of the State Council code, the laws of the judiciary and is considered complementary to the Constitution. Therefore, the interpretation of this text is acceptable. The conflict about this text surrounds the difference in enforcement between the special council for administrative affairs and the General Assembly. The court concluded in its final ruling that the approval to appoint judges in the State Council is based on the special council for administrative affairs, not the General Assembly.

ECWR respects the independence of the judiciary and the important role of the State Council in establishing the principles of justice and protecting rights and freedoms. ECWR is confident that the State Council will apply the procedures in the appointment of male and female graduates from the school of law, according to their qualifications and experience and in coordination to the principles of the Egyptian Constitution and international conventions. This is necessary, especially in light of the Egyptian society that has declared vividly by all peaceful means that they refuse infringement upon applying justice standards or any justification for discrimination between Egyptians based on ethnicity, color, race or gender.

ECWR, NGO partners and civil society demand:

  • The opening of doors for female graduates to work in the judiciary according to equal standards with men and according to their qualifications without discrimination.
  • Speedy action to create a law that prevents discrimination, in order for Egyptians to feel secure that they are being treated according to their citizenship rights and qualifications.

    Landmark case secures victory for Swaziland women's land rights

    For the first time in the history of Swaziland, women married under community of property will now be able to have “immovable property, bonds, and other real rights” registered in their name.
    The historical judgment was handed today (23 February 2010) by Justice Qinisile. M. Mabuza in a case of Mary Joyce Doo Aphane vs the state in which she contested the denial by Section 16 (3) of the Deeds Registry Act 37/1968 of women married in community of property to register title in their own names. The judgement effectively redresses 42 years of injustice and sub-ordination of women married in community of property. It also weakens all laws that still regard women as minors.
    Ms Aphane’s battle began on 24 November 2008, when she and her husband entered into a deed of sale to buy title deed land in Mbabane, Swaziland and wanted both their names as purchasers registered. The application was not allowed as it contravened some provision found in the Deeds Registry Act.
    Aphane fought the act on the basis of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland 101/2005 Section 20 and 28 which secures the equality of all in the eyes of the law. This is the first case in Swaziland which tested the effectiveness of the constitution in protecting women’s rights.

    Following the judgement, Ms Aphane said: “This case was not just about me. It was about all the women of Swaziland. Women who are married in community of property will now be able to stand on their own. My husband was very supportive and he understood the importance of this battle.”
    Aphane called on women in Swaziland to use this judgement to their advantage and work to remove all laws that are discriminatory to women.

    Download the judgment

    Panel discussion - Reflections on the 54th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the BPFA+15 Review:
    Challenges, opportunities and priorities for Africa

    At its recently-concluded 54th session, the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) focused on two thematic issues:

    • A review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) (1995) and the outcomes of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly (2000), with an emphasis on the sharing of experiences and good practices with a view to overcoming remaining obstacles and new challenges; and
    • A review of its contribution to shaping a gender perspective towards the full realization of the Millennium Development Goals.

    The Centre for Human Rights invited speakers to share their reflections on this session and, in particular, to highlight challenges, opportunities and priorities for Africa arising from the BPFA+15 Review.

    Documents:

    Documents relating to this discussion can be viewed under the Documents section.

    Videos:

    Visit http://www.ips.org/mdg3/multimedia/ for videos relating to:

    • Why women count : Zimbabwe; Sierra Leone
    • Investigating cases of gender violence in Kenya
    • Victims of gender violence speak out 

    Major Victory Against Rape Apologist Hate Speech in South Africa 

    Courtsey of : Feministing.com
    16 March 2010

    "When a woman didn't enjoy it [sex], she leaves early in the morning. Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast, and ask for taxi money."
    -ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, speaking to a group of 150 University students last May on why South African President Jacob Zuma's rape accuser must have enjoyed having sex with him.

    These are the words of a rape apologist. They are the words of someone seeking to shame, embarrass, humiliate, and de-legitimize a woman who dared to take legal action against her alleged rapist- the president of a nation. And now, according to a recent ruling by the South African Equality Court, these words also legally constitute hate speech and discrimination, and will not be tolerated without legal ramification.

    Young black male celebrates in the streets holding a sign that reads

    The verdict handed down yesterday by the South African Equality Court was as much symbolic victory as a legal one, in my opinion. The comment is infuriating, sure, but it is made even more so when considering the context in which it was delivered- to a group of youth, in a country where it is estimated that one in three women is raped in her lifetime and one in four men admits to rape, by a leader in a historically progressive political party whose self-declared "key objective is the creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society."

    The credit for this monumental victory belongs to Sonke Gender Justice Network, an amazing South African organization that supports men and boys to act against domestic and sexual violence. It was them who filed the lawsuit against Malema when they recognized the opportunity to make a public statement about the harm and destruction caused by rape culture.

    This move took bravery. It also took strategic vision. The organization where I work, which has partnered with Sonke since 2008, has been anxiously awaiting this verdict since Sonke formalized their complaint in May, but we also recognize that the outcome wasn't really the point. The very act of them filing the claim was such a powerfully symbolic feminist victory.

    Of course, it doesn't hurt that they ended up winning the case, and now, we don't have to just be content with a symbolic win. Upon being pronounced guilty of hate speech and discrimination, the two charges Sonke leveled against him in the Equality Court following his hateful comments, Malema was ordered to issue a written apology within the next two weeks and instructed to pay R50,000 (approx. $7,000) to an organization serving survivors of gender based violence.

    More on the significance of this victory from Sonke's press statement:

    "This case makes it clear that our country's leaders need to be more responsible in their public statements and that civil society can and will hold them accountable. We hope that this ruling will alert public figures to the potential repercussions of their words, both in terms of the impact that public statements can have in perpetuating gender-based violence and other forms of discrimination, and in terms of the legal implications.

    "In a country where it is estimated that one in three a women is raped, we need to take strong action to counter myths and stereotypes which can lead perpetrators to believe that they can act with impunity, and which can dissuade rape survivors from seeking health care or justice."

    The press statement goes on to outline next steps for continuing the fight against stigma, discrimination, and gender-based violence in South Africa:

    "It is not sufficient, however, for leaders to refrain from making irresponsible comments; we need proactive leadership to mobilise men and boys to take action against gender-based violence. We reiterate our call for men in public positions to be clear and consistent in their explicit support of gender equality and to condemn openly and unequivocally all forms of gender-based violence.

    Instead of perpetuating rape myths, public figures should make it clear that rape can happen anywhere, and that the rapist could be anyone: a stranger, a friend, a boyfriend, a husband. There are no rules that say a woman who has been raped will behave like this or like that. We need to make sure that women who have been raped are not stigmatised and are not made to feel like the crimes against them were their fault."

    I'm so psyched to continue to support and partner with Sonke through my work at IWHC as they continue their incredible work generating support for women's rights and gender equality - and specifically to educate men and boys about the role they can play in advancing gender transformation.

    Truly a cause for celebration!

    Gender Expert Meeting on State Reporting on the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa
    6 - 7 August 2009

    The Centre for Human Rights (CHR) has identified a need to support the African Commission in the development of reporting guidelines under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (African Women’s Protocol or Protocol) in order to promote strengthened state reporting and facilitate subsequent meaningful engagement between state parties and the ACHPR on women’s rights.  On 6 and 7 August 2009, the CHR facilitates a working meeting in Pretoria with invited experts and members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission).  The overall goal of this working meeting is to strengthen the capacity of the African Commission to promote and protect women’s rights in Africa through monitoring implementation of the Protocol.

    The Protocol is a legally binding multilateral supplement to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), adopted in 2003 by the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government. The Protocol entered into force on 25 November 2005. By 30 June 2009, it had been ratified by 27 of the 53 African Union (AU) members, all of which are also state parties to the African Charter.(1)

    • (1) See www.africa-union.org/root/au/Documents/Treaties/Text

      The state parties are: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

    Monitoring UNGASS-AIDS Goals in Sexual and Reproductive Health

    Between June 8th and 9th (2009) there will take place in Cape Town, the III UNGASS Forum South Africa. The forum is coordinated by Mosaic Training, Service and Healing Centre for Women and Health Systems Trust in partnership with Gestos, an NGO from Recife, Brazil, that coordinates an international advocacy push on women’s sexual and reproductive health (SRH). The event will have the participation of leading representatives of South Africa’s health social movement, including NGOs, networks and possible governmental institutions to dialogue on the pressing issues of HIV/AIDS and SRH.

    Monitoring UNGASS-AIDS Goals in Sexual and Reproductive Health
    Press Release III UNGASS-AIDS Forum South Africa - June 8th and 9th, 2009

    Gender Unit awarded a grant by the Geneva Institute of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

    As part of a Swiss initiative to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Gender Unit has been awarded a grant by the Geneva Institute of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights to undertake research in Botswana and Malawi on the right of women living with HIV to control their fertility.  Two researchers from the Centre have been invited to participate in the official launch of the initiative entitled 'Enhancing Human Dignity: An Agenda for Human Rights' in Geneva on 5 December.

    Gender Unit awarded research grant by the Centre for the Study of AIDS

    The Gender Unit has been awarded a research grant by the Centre for the Study of AIDS to pursue a study entitled 'knowledge and understanding of male cicumcision messages and its effect on HIV prevention behaviour among men and women respondents in Pretoria and its surrounding communities'.

    In light of a trial conducted in 2005 in South Africa (Orange Farm) revealing that circumcised men had at least 60% reduction in HIV infection as compared to men who were not, the hypothesis of the study is that there is a lack of specific knowledge and understanding of HIV prevention messages based on male circumcision among men and women in various groups. In international human rights law states have a positive duty to promote and ensure access to health-care services, including health education. Accurate information about male circumcision is therefore a human right and should include, for example, comprehensive messages about HIV prevention, and provision of information to men and women about the need for continued condom use even after circumcision. Amidst enthusiasm around male circumcision as a ‘vaccine’ for HIV, the proposed study will explore to what extent the right to health education is being respected in the context of male circumcision. In addition, the potential effect of the confusion about male circumcision on HIV prevention attitudes among men and women will be addressed. The study, to be completed in February 2009, is intended to provide policy makers and programme implementers with key insight into some of the critical issues that they have to take into consideration when considering male circumcision as a prevention tool.

    Centre staff member participates in UN expert group meeting on good  practices in violence against women legislation

    Karen Stefiszyn, head of the Gender Unit, was invited to participate in the UN Division for the Advancement of Women expert group meeting on good practices in violence against women legislation in Vienna from 26 - 28 May 2008. 

    A Brief Overview of Recent Developments in Sexual Offences Legislation in Southern Africa
    Karen Stefiszyn, Centre for Human Rights 

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