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Centre News & Events: 2017
Call for Papers: 5th Annual Disability Rights Conference - ‘Domesticating the CRPD in the African region: A focus on access to justice and legal capacity’

22 May 2017 - The 5th Annual African Disability Rights Conference will be held from the 7th to the 8th of November 2017 at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria in South Africa. This year’s conference will focus on the following themes:

  • a) the implications of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) for the African region with particular reference to article 13, the right to access to justice and article 12, the right to equal recognition before the law;
  • b) the development of mechanisms/strategies for the effective domestication and implementation of articles 12 and 13 of the CRPD and
  • c) the interplay between article 13 and article 12 of the CRPD.

It is anticipated that papers presented at this conference will be reworked by authors and submitted for consideration for publication in the 2018 volume of the African Disability Rights Yearbook.


 

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Statement of the Centre for Human Rights on the Intersession Report of the Working Group on the Death Penalty and Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions

20 May 2017- Madame Chair, Honourable Commissioners, the Centre for Human Rights welcomes the ongoing work of the Working Group on the Death Penalty and Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings in Africa to continue placing questions concerning the right to life, the supreme human right, high on the agenda of the African Commission.

 
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The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria is seeking a new (second) Assistant Director

19 May 2017 - The Centre for Human Rights earlier this year went though the process of recruiting a new Director, after the current Director's second term in that position had come to an end. However, the University’s selection committee did not shortlist any of the applicants.

The University Management subsequently decided that the University would fund a permanent position in the Centre of an Assistant Director, if the incumbent Director agrees to serve for another term. The Director (Frans Viljoen) happily agreed, and is looking forward to contribute further to advance the Centre’s vision.

We are now embarking on a process of recruiting a suitable person for the permanent full-time position of Assistant Director in the Centre.

This new position will be in addition to that of the current position of Assistant Director, which is funded by the Centre from external funds (held by Norman Taku). These developments reflect the Centre's thematic and institutional growth over thirty years.


 

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Statement by the Gender Unit, Centre for Human Rights on the occasion of the 60th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights held at the Palais des Congres, Niamey, Niger from the 8 May to 22 May 2017

19 May 2017 - Part of the work we do at the Gender Unit, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria is to support the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa especially with respect to the popularization as well as the implementation of the Maputo Protocol across Africa

One area of such support is specifically, with regards to state reporting as well as popularising the 2009 reporting guidelines on the Maputo Protocol.

We therefore make 4 brief interventions in this regard.

First, with regards to the ratification and domestication of the Maputo Protocol in the continent

The Centre for Human Rights notes that despite some progress made in the protection and promotion of women’s human rights since the adoption of the Maputo Protocol in 2003; women and girl children across Africa continue to experience increased violations and discriminations. This includes all forms of violence against women, child marriages, harmful practices, Female Genital Mutilation and so on. As we may know, these violations many times have significant negative physical, psychological and emotional consequences on the lives of African women and girl children and in extreme cases result in their deaths.

In light of the above therefore, the Centre for Human Rights would like to strongly urge the 16 African states yet to sign and/ or ratify the Protocol to urgently do so and ensure its domestication where applicable in their respective countries. In particular, while we commend the government of Niger for hosting the 60th Ordinary Session and its warm hospitality, we join the call for the government of Niger to urgently ratify and domesticate the Maputo Protocol. This we believe would serve as a fundamental and significant step in concrete efforts to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of its women.



Pretoria University Law Press (PULP) launch of the OP-ICESCR Commentary

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African activism in the LGBTQIA+ community

17 May 2017 - On Tuesday the 9th of May 2017 Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ) - a student based civil society organization, worked with the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Unit of the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria to produce an evening of engagement, conversation and debate centered around developments in the LGBTQIA+ sphere in Africa and the severe situation of violence, discrimination and oppression facing the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa.



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The Pretoria University Law Press reaches milestone with launch of its 175th publication

17 May 2017 - The Pretoria University Law Press (PULP), established in 2005 and located in the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, celebrated a landmark this week, as it launched its 175th publication. On 15 May 2017, PULP hosted Doctor Malcolm Langford, who co-edited the landmark The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: A Commentary (OP-ICESCR Commentary), recently published by PULP. Dr Langford is a renowned socio-economic rights scholar based at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights.

The OP-ICESCR Commentary breaks new ground. It is the first and most comprehensive book of its kind. It offers rigorous scholarly commentary on the provisions of the OP-ICESCR, aimed at informing and encouraging research, reasoned argument, consistent interpretation and effective advocacy, adjudication and remedies under the Protocol. It also provides a critical resource for users of the Optional Protocol (applicants, lawyers, governments, the Committee) and a broader audience of scholars, students, national judiciaries and policy makers.



Pretoria University Law Press (PULP) launch of the OP-ICESCR Commentary

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Statement from the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender and the Centre for Human Rights in recognition of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT)

16 May 2017 - 17 May is the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), celebrated in more than 130 countries around the world.

The International IDAHOT Committee, founded in 2005 as an independent initiative, aimed at fighting against discriminations and injustices on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression.  This year, there is a special focus on families, including the role of families in the well-being of their LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex or Queer) members as well as respect for the rights of diverse LGBTIQ families.



17 May is the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT)

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Centre for Human Rights takes part in African Children’s Rights Committee hearing on implementation

16 May 2017 - At the recently concluded 29th Session of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Children’s Rights Committee) held in Lesotho, the Centre for Human Rights and RADDHO, an NGO based in Senegal, participated and presented a joint submission on the implementation of Committee’s decision in the decisions Centre for Human Rights and la Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme (on behalf of Senegales Talibés) v Senegal (Talibe case), ACERWC, Comm/001/2012, 15 April 2014.

This case deals with the conditions of some 100,000 children (called Talibés) who, while attending Koranic schools in Senegal, are required to beg on the streets of Dakar and other urban centres, to secure their own survival.  The Centre for Human Rights and RADDHO submitted the case as far back as 2012.



29th Session of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Children’s Rights Committee), held in Lesotho

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Centre for Human Rights calls on African Commission to focus on intersex persons’ rights, protection and implementation

12 May 2017 - STATEMENT BY NGO WITH OBSERVER STATUS: CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, FACULTY OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA

60th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
11 May 2017, Niamey, Niger



Centre for Human Rights calls on African Commission to focus on intersex persons’ rights, protection and implementation

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Renowned critical legal scholar Makau Mutua identifies steps to decolonise university curricula

12 May 2017 - In 2015, a call reverberated through South African universities. It started at Wits, moved to UCT and then to most campuses in the country. Thousands of students, at nearly every institution of higher education, demanded the decolonisation of university curricula and the radical transformation of academic spaces. This resulted in a movement towards the rejection of Eurocentric systems of knowledge and the advancement of African approaches and philosophies.

To engage further on the issue of a decolonised education model, the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, hosted a lunch lecture by renowned critical legal scholar Professor Makau Mutua. Prof Mutua teaches law at the SUNY Buffalo Law School, State University of New York, in the United States of America (USA). The lecture on 'Decolonising the university curriculum' provided an opportunity for critical reflection on South Africa’s racial and political past, its impact on tertiary education and the way forward.



Renowned critical legal scholar Professor Makau Mutua deliver a luch lecture on 'Decolonising the university curriculum'

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Centre for Human Rights laments continuing human rights violations in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon

10 May 2017 - Over the past six months, the English-speaking part of Cameroon has experienced serious repression and continuous human rights violations. The crisis erupted in October 2016, following a series of sit-in strikes and non-violent actions initiated by common law lawyers and teachers’ trade unions in protest against the government’s policy of assimilation through the imposition of the civil law judges to preside over cases in common law courts and French-speaking teachers to teach in English schools. This policy seems designed to systematically wipe out the legal and education systems of the peoples of Southern Cameroons.

The government’s lethal response to the strikes and protest actions led to the death of at least 8 protesters on 8 December 2016, and subsequent extra-judicial killings, disappearances, rape, maiming, torture and other forms of degrading and inhumane treatment. Civil society organisations coordinating the strikes and protest actions were banned on 17 January 2017.  Leaders, including Justice Ayah Paul Abine (Supreme Court Judge), Dr Felix Agbor Balla (prominent international human rights lawyer), Dr Neba Fontem (a university lecturer), Mr Mancho Bibixy (a civil rights activists), and hundreds of other activists and protesters were arrested and transferred to the nation’s capital, Yaoundé (a civil law jurisdiction). They are currently being tried in a military court on charges of terrorism, which carries a death penalty if found guilty. These actions violate the right to fair trial. This is happening in spite of the African Commissions’ ruling in the Kelvin Gunme v Cameroon (para 215(1)(ii)) forbidding the transfer of accused persons from the English-speaking part to be tried in the French-speaking part of the country.



#FreeSouthernCameroons demonstration held in London on 28 April 2017 (Photo credit: )

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A kiki* with Panti (#IDAHOT event)

9 May 2017 - A kiki* with Panti (*A gathering of people for a casual chat, laughter, and at times serious discussions. May involve locked doors, tea and gossip.)

In conversation with Rory O'Neill (aka Panti Bliss, performer, writer, mentor, and LGBTIQA+, HIV and human rights activist)



A kiki with Panti

Event Details

Date: Thursday 18 May 2017
Time: 14:30 - 16:00
Venue: Conference Room 100, UP (Hatfield Campus)
RSVP: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by 15 May 2017.

GENEVA (3 May 2017) – The Government of Eritrea must free journalist Dawit Isaak who has been awarded a prestigious press freedom prize some 15 years after he was detained, a United Nations human rights expert says.
 
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, is also calling on the authorities in Asmara to release unconditionally all others detained unlawfully.

“The Eritrean authorities should stop the practice of arrests and detention carried out without legal basis instantly,” said Ms. Keetharuth, welcoming the award of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017 to Mr. Isaak.

Dawit Isaak, who is 52 and a playwright, journalist and writer, moved to Sweden in 1987, where he later became a citizen. He returned to Eritrea only after independence in 1993 and was one of the founders and reporters of Setit, the first independent newspaper in the country.

Mr. Isaak was arrested in September 2001 during a political crackdown on the so-called G-15, a group of politicians, and journalists critical of Government policies. Some were detained and tortured, others disappeared. The last known sighting of Mr. Isaak was in 2005. His whereabouts now are unknown.

“The case of Mr. Isaak is emblematic of all those who have been subjected to enforced disappearances by the Government of Eritrea and remain unaccounted for,” said Ms. Keetharuth.

The Special Rapporteur recalled the findings of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, which concluded that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Eritrean officials had committed crimes against humanity, including the crime of enforced disappearance, in a persistent, widespread and systematic manner since 1991.

“The Government of Eritrea has an obligation to urgently provide information on the fate and whereabouts of all those deprived of physical liberty. This would be a first and long-overdue indication that the Government is committed to rebuilding trust with the Eritrean people,” Ms. Keetharuth said.

“By allowing independent monitors immediate and unhindered access to all places of detention, official and unofficial, the Government would send a strong signal that it acknowledges human rights violations of the past, while taking steps to improve the situation on the ground now.
“The arrests of Dawit Isaak and his fellow journalists remain the most visible sign of repression of freedom of expression. The Eritrean authorities continue to stifle all forms of expression that could be perceived as critical of the Government and its policies,” she said.

Ms. Keetharuth reaffirmed that freedom of expression was a basic human right, and a free press one of the tenets of a democratic society, providing a valuable check on potential excesses by government.

Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth (Mauritius) was appointed as the first Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea in October 2012. From 2014 to 2016, she also served as a member of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea. Since May 2014, Ms. Keetharuth is an expert member of the Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Until 2012, Ms. Keetharuth was the Executive Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa in Banjul, The Gambia. She also worked with Amnesty International in Kampala, Uganda, and as a lawyer and broadcaster in Mauritius. In 2017, Ms. Keetharuth was awarded with the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award by the University of Leicester, in recognition of her human rights work.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

- See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21571&LangID=E#sthash.rFwqqqsA.dpuf

 
Eritrea must free prize winning journalist, says UN human rights expert

9 May 2017 - GENEVA (3 May 2017) – The Government of Eritrea must free journalist Dawit Isaak who has been awarded a prestigious press freedom prize some 15 years after he was detained, a United Nations human rights expert says.
 
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, is also calling on the authorities in Asmara to release unconditionally all others detained unlawfully.

“The Eritrean authorities should stop the practice of arrests and detention carried out without legal basis instantly,” said Ms. Keetharuth, welcoming the award of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017 to Mr. Isaak.
 



Mr. Isaak was arrested in September 2001 during a political crackdown on the so-called G-15, a group of politicians, and journalists critical of Eritrean Government policies.

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Centre for Human Rights urges Zambian authorities to drop treason charges against opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema

9 May 2017 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, expresses deep concern about the treason charge Zambia’s opposition party leader Hakainde Hichilema is facing.

The Centre is deeply concerned about the serious recent ethnic tensions in Zambia, which appear to be politically motivated and to be part of an orchestrated campaign by sections of senior level politicians seeking to earn political dividends at the expense of peace in the country.  

Hichilema faces two charges, one for obstructing President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade, and another for treason, which is a non-bailable offence. Treason is an extremely serious offence, for which the maximum penalty is the death penalty.



Zambia’s opposition party leader Hakainde Hichilema

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Refresher 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 Maputo Protocol) in the Kingdom of Lesotho

8 May 2017 - In view of strengthening the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa (SRRWA), the Gender Unit of the Centre for Human Rights (CHR) organised a three-day refresher 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 Maputo Protocol) in the Kingdom of Lesotho. The workshop was held in collaboration with the Ministry of Law and Constitutional Affairs.

The workshop was held from 10 to the 12 April 2017 at the Lancers Inn conference hall in Maseru. Ten key government and civil society stakeholders involved in the state reporting process in Lesotho attended this workshop.

The main objectives of the workshop were to disseminate and popularize the Guidelines on State Reporting on the Maputo Protocol; to build and strengthen the capacity of the key stakeholders in on state reporting under the Maputo Protocol. In addition, to ensure that the government of Lesotho complies with its state reporting obligations under the African Charter (Part A) and particularly the Maputo Protocol (Part B). In pursuant of this goal, the CHR had provided a technical assistant to assist the country (for a period of 10 months) in the production of its report.

 Chief Justice of Sierra Leone Honourable Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm receiving the Vera Chirwa Award from Her Excellency Mrs Sia Yama Koroma, the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone

Patience Mpani and Prof Michelo Hansungule from the CHR at the 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 Maputo Protocol) in the Kingdom of Lesotho

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Round Table at Centre for Human Rights reflects on African approaches to international law

5 May 2017 - What is unique about Africa’s approach to international law? What would be the features of such an approach? This is some of the questions a group of forty international law scholars from across Africa and the diaspora asked themselves at a Round Table hosted by the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, on 3 and 4 May 2017.

The Round Table was convened under the theme ‘African approaches to international law’. During the Round Table the concept of an “African approach” was problematized, with participants agreeing that this notion should not be racially or culturally based, but spatially, or in terms of one’s methodological ‘orientation’.

One of the participants was Professor Makau wa Mutua, who is well known for his critical scholarship, and for having been instrumental in launching a school of anti-hegemonic thinking on international law, Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL). He emphasized the ‘African’ origins of TWAIL and contended that it has much to offer to African scholars critically engaged with international law.



Penelope Andrews, Busingye Kabumba, Prof Makau Mutua and Erika George at the Round Table

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Invitation: Brown Bag Lunch Lecture on 'Decolonising the university curriculum' by Professor Makau Mutua

5 May 2017 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to a brown bag lunch lecture on decolonising the university curriculum by distinguished critical legal scholar, Professor Makau Mutua.

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Open Society Foundations introduces Inclusive Education Scholarship Programme (IESP) in addition to the Disability Rights Scholarship Programme (DRSP)

5 May 2017 -  The Open Society Foundations (OSF) in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights (CHR) launched the Disability Rights Scholarship Programme (DRSP) in 2011. The CHR through the Disability Rights Unit has played a significant role of coordinating the DRSP which has included: marketing the programme, receiving applications, shortlisting semi-finalists and hosting the interviews of the shortlisted semi-finalists.

In 2016 the Open Society Foundation as the funder of the DRSP extended its funding and introduced for the first time an Inclusive Education Scholarship Programme (IESP), also in collaboration with the CHR.

DRSP and IESP are open to disability rights advocates, lawyers, and educators who are interested in the development of new legislation, jurisprudence, policy and research that will harness the innovations and opportunities offered by the domestication of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). For the 2017 programme those applying for the programmes had to be citizens of Mozambique, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, or Uganda at the time of application.

The interview panel for the semi-finalists was composed of members of disability rights and inclusive education academic institutions in
Europe, United States of America, Canada and the Open Society Foundation who are the funders of the Scholarship.

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Invitation: Presentation of a proposed Draft Model Law on Intersex Persons Rights in Africa | Fact sheet on intersex persons

5 May 2017 - The Centre for Human Rights cordially invites all interested stakeholders attending the NGO Forum preceding the 60th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Niamey, Niger, to its presentation of a proposed Draft Model Law on Intersex Persons Rights in Africa. The objective of the meeting is to share the idea of the Model Law, get your views and devise a possible strategy of getting the Model Law adopted and implemented.

Intersex persons continue to face unfair discrimination based on their natural biological sex characteristics. With the exception of a few African countries there is no law that mentions or protects the rights of intersex persons. The Centre for Human Rights anticipates that this Model Law will address the gap in national legislation and assist African States in developing national laws, policies and institutions to protect the rights of all intersex persons. The Model Law will also act as a tool for advocating for law reform and stronger legal recognition and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of intersex persons in Africa.

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Freedom Day 2017: After 23 years, working together is still needed to secure the rights of all South Africans

26 April 2017 - The Centre for Human Rights joins the rest of South Africa to celebrate Freedom Day 2017. On 27 April 1994, there was a major shift in South Africa’s trajectory with the first non-racial post-apartheid election being held in the country. Twenty three years ago, by this symbolic exercise, apartheid and oppression were formally rejected and South Africa resolved to ensure democracy and equality. This Freedom Day milestone was preceded by the struggle, bloodshed, purposefulness, hard work and the resilience of the people of South Africa. However, it is pertinent to note that the celebration of Freedom Day is South Africa’s victory just as much as it is the victory of Africa and the world. In Nelson Mandela’s speech at the 1995 Freedom Day celebration, he stated that Freedom Day marks a ‘transition from a history of oppression to a future of freedom.’ While revelling in our glorious past on a day like today, South Africa’s present and tomorrow are equally to be reflected upon and attended to.

 Chief Justice of Sierra Leone Honourable Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm receiving the Vera Chirwa Award from Her Excellency Mrs Sia Yama Koroma, the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone

Freedom Day on 27 April is an annual celebration of South Africa's first non-racial democratic elections of 1994.

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Centre for Human Rights hosts first consultative meeting to discuss Draft Model Law on the rights of intersex persons in Africa

26 April 2017 - On 24 April 2017, the Centre for Human Rights hosted its first consultative meeting on the Model Law on the rights of intersex persons in Africa. The meeting gathered together intersex rights activists in South Africa, coming from the following organisations: Iranti, AIDS Rights Alliance of Southern Africa (ARASA), Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), Transgender Intersex Africa (TIA) and OUT Well-Being. Also in attendance was John Chigiti from Gender Minorities Action Trust Foundation-Kenya (GMAT), who has represented intersex persons before the Kenyan courts.

The purpose of the meeting was to validate the Draft Model Law on intersex persons, which the Centre for Human Rights is currently drafting for eventual tabling at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Draft Model Law seeks to prevent unfair discrimination and to protect and promote of the rights of intersex persons in African countries.

 Chief Justice of Sierra Leone Honourable Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm receiving the Vera Chirwa Award from Her Excellency Mrs Sia Yama Koroma, the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone

First consultative meeting on the Model Law on the rights of intersex persons in Afric

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