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The impact of the African Charter and Women's Protocol in selected African states
Pretoria University Law Press (PULP)
October 30, 2012

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Introduction and background

Benin obtained independence on 1 August 1960 as Dahomey. Until 1972, the country experienced political instability marked by frequent regime changes through civil and military coups. The country was then ruled by a dictatorship until 1989 when the demise of the Marxist-Leninist regime led to a national conference in 1990. Subsequently, a new constitution was adopted which opened an era of democracy. Prior to the 'democratic revival', Benin had, in 1986, become party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (the African Charter), which had a great influence on the drafting of the 1990 Constitution and subsequent political reforms in general. Particularly, as may be seen in other constitutions in Francophone Africa, the 1990 Benin Constitution included explicit reference to international human rights instruments, among which is the African Charter. However, the 1990 Constitution went further to make all duties and rights of the African Charter part of the fundamental law. In a more singular way, the full text of the African Charter is annexed to the 1990 Constitution in a 'copy-paste' style. Notably, the new 1990 Constitution entrusted the Constitutional Court of Benin with competence to adjudicate cases of human rights violations. As a consequence, the abundant human rights jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court of Benin is the expression of Benin's attachment to rights and duties contained in the African Charter. This attachment has also positively impacted on Benin's adherence to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in African (the Women's Protocol).

Internationally, Benin's duty to give effect to its obligations under both the African Charter and Women's Protocol lies in the President of the Republic who negotiates, signs, and ratifies treaties on behalf of the country. For effectiveness, the President may delegate some of his multiple constitutional functions to members of the cabinet. Benin has a Ministry of Justice and Human Rights which serves as the 'focal point' of the state in responding to and upholding Benin's responsibilities under international human rights instruments including the African Charter and the Women's Protocol. The Directorate of Human Rights within the Ministry is in charge of drafting and submitting various reports to international treaty-monitoring bodies such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (the African Commission). With regards to the Women's Protocol, the Directorate of Women and Gender Affairs within the Ministry of Family is in charge of preparing the report which is then included in the country's human rights report drafted by the Ministry of Justice. The process involves many other governmental and non-governmental organisations. State agents responsible for communicating with the African Commission are of the view that the institutionalisation of the state's responsibilities in relation to the African Charter and the Women's Protocol has raised the seriousness about Benin's international human rights obligations.

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