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Petition on the Ratification of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa
June 14, 2004

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At the African Union meeting in Maputo in July 2003, the AU adopted the "Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa". The Protocol offers significant potential to guarantee the rights of women. But in order to come into force it needs to be ratified by at least 15 countries and by June 2, only one country (the Comoros) had ratified it. In the coming weeks leading up to the 2004 AU summit in July, an alliance of Fahamu, Credo for Freedom of Expression & Associated Rights, Equality Now, the African Women's Development and Communication Network (Femnet) and Oxfam will be collecting signatures for the following petition to be presented at the African Union Heads of State Summit in Addis Ababa in July 2004.

To African Union Heads of State

Your Excellencies:

Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa

We the undersigned write to you regarding the ratification of the Protocol on the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa by member states of the African Union and urge your Excellencies to ensure the fast tracking of its ratification by your respective governments by the next Heads of States Summit in July 2004.

As you will recall, the Protocol was adopted in July 2003 during the Second Ordinary Session of the Heads of States held in Maputo. Its adoption was celebrated by African women, women's and human rights organizations in Africa and the diaspora as a major step towards finally securing a legal and rights framework for the protection and advancement of the human rights of African women.

However, one month before its first anniversary only 29 of the AU's 53 member states have signed the Protocol and only one (Comoros) has ratified it. This record undermines the stated intention of African governments to protect and promote the rights of all their peoples.

Many women and their families experience social, cultural and economic rights abuses and political discrimination on a daily basis. Physical violence, vulnerability to life-threatening diseases most notably HIV/AIDS, poor educational opportunities and legal barriers around rights to property combine to keep women in Africa as second class citizens as well as inhibiting their ability to contribute fully to the prosperity of the continent.

Our call for the urgent ratification of the Protocol by all countries of the African Union deserves your serious consideration. Ratification will send a clear signal that women and men can and should enjoy equal rights and responsibilities. This enjoyment, in turn, will realise benefits to the whole of the continent.

We in civil society share the dream of the Heads of States that Africa's social, economic and political well-being rests on enabling women's resourcefulness at this time. We trust therefore that you will recognize the urgency of the situation and will facilitate the speedy ratification of the Protocol thereby completing the good work that your Excellencies began in Maputo last year.

Yours Sincerely

African Women's Development & Communication Network (FEMNET)
Credo for Freedom of Expression and Associated Rights, Rotimi Sankore - Coordinator
Equality Now, Faiza Jama Mohamed - Africa Regional Director
Fahamu, Firoze Manji - Director
Oxfam GB, Irungu Houghton - Pan-African Policy Adviser

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