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close this bookWomen's Rights are Human Rights - A review of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR, 2000, 36 p.)
View the documentSpecial Rapporteur on Violence against Women
View the documentIntegrating the Gender Perspective into the Work of the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies
View the documentNew General Comment of the Human Rights Committee Concerning Gender Equality1
View the documentGender Related Dimensions of Racial Discrimination: General Recommendation1
View the documentOptional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 10 December 1999
View the documentJoint statement by the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Ms. Angela E.V. King, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson, at the occasion of the opening for signature of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women - 10 December 1999
View the documentLe Projet de Protocole a la Charte Africaine des Droits de l'Homme et des Peuples relatif aux Droits de la Femme en Afrique

Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women

The post of Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences, was created by CHR resolution 1994/45. Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy (Sri Lanka), was appointed to the position and continues to serve as Special Rapporteur.

The Special Rapporteur's mandate is based on the substantive analysis of violence against women contained within the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

According to Article 2 of the Declaration, violence against women encompasses, but is not limited to, physical, sexual and psychological violence, which occurs:

(1) In the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation

(2) In the community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution

(3) Perpetrated or condoned by the state, including during times of armed conflict.

As of April 2000, the Special Rapporteur has produced eight thematic reports1:

(1) Preliminary survey of all forms of violence against women, E/CN.4/1995/42, issued on 22 November 1994;

(2) Violence in the family, E/CN.4/1996/53, issued on 5 February 1996;

(3) Violence in the community, E/CN.4/1997/47, issued on 12 February 1997;

(4) Violence by the state and during armed conflict, E/CN.4/1998/54, issued on 26 January 1998;

(5) An assessment of state responses to domestic violence, E/CN.4/1999/68, issued on 10 March 1999;

(6) Policies and practices that impact women's reproductive rights and contribute to, cause or constitute violence against women, E/CN.4/1999/68/Add.4, issued on 21 January 1999;

(7) Economic and social policy and its impact on violence against women, E/CN.4/2000/68/Add.5, 24 February 2000;

(8) Trafficking in women, women's migration and violence against women, E/CN.4/2000/68, issued on 29 February 2000.

1 Copies of the Special Rapporteur's reports, as well as model domestic violence legislation (E/CN.4/1996/53/Add.2, issued on 2 February 1996) and communications to and from governments are available on the OHCHR website (

Integrating the Gender Perspective into the Work of the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies

At the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 the international community urged treaty monitoring bodies to include the status of women and the human rights of women in their deliberations and findings, making use of gender-specific data. The Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing reiterated the importance of the work of the human rights treaty bodies and their role in the achievement of gender equality and refined the conclusions of the Vienna Conference with regard to these bodies. The Platform for Action adopted at Beijing stated, “If the goal of full realization of human rights for all is to be achieved, international human rights instruments must be applied in such a way as to take more clearly into consideration the systemic and systematic nature of discrimination against women that gender analysis has clearly indicated”. It also called on human rights treaty bodies to ensure “the implementation of the recommendations of the World Conference on Human Rights for the full integration and mainstreaming of the human rights of women”.

In September 1997, the eighth meeting of the chairpersons of human rights treaty bodies invited the Division for the Advancement of Women to prepare a background paper analysing the measures that had been and should be taken by the treaty bodies in response to the recommendations of these Conferences to integrate a gender perspective into their work.

The review was based on analysis of the consideration of States parties' reports submitted to these bodies during the period 1993-1998. No attempt was made to consider the work of the treaty bodies under the various communications procedures, but progress in integrating gender issues into the special procedures of individual treaty bodies, such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination's early “warning procedure” or the Committee against Torture's inquiry procedure was assessed. The interaction of these treaty bodies with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was reviewed in the paper, and suggestions were made for additional action to ensure further integration of a gender perspective into the work of all the treaty bodies.

Overall, the review indicated that significant progress had been made by each of the five treaty bodies in the integration of gender into their work. Despite the progress in mainstreaming gender revealed in the review of the work of these five treaty bodies in the five years since the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the review also indicated that more remains to be done. Certainly, these bodies had tried to take account of the situation of women within the framework of guarantees of equality and non-discrimination in the enjoyment of human rights. They have also focused on situations that are specific to women, in particular their vulnerability to gender-based violence.

The principle recommendation is that treaty bodies should consider making explicit commitments to integrating a gender perspective into their work and should continue to discuss the relevance of gender in international human rights law and take systematic steps to integrate gender perspectives in their work.

It is encouraging to see that as the special session on Beijing plus five approaches, three of the treaty bodies have adopted general comments or recommendations on gender concerns. The Human Rights Committe's general comment 28 on equality of rights between women and men updates its earlier general comment on that topic adopted in 1981, and the CERD's general recommendation on the gender-related dimensions of racial discrimination respond to a number of the recommendations made in the study and represent further progress in the commitment to gender mainstreaming by all parts of the United Nations system. Last year, CEDAW addressed women's access to health services in its General Recommendation 24 on the right to health.

Jane Connors*

* Chief, Women's Rights Unit. Division for the Advancement of Women.

New General Comment of the Human Rights Committee Concerning Gender Equality1

1 The text is available on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights ( or may be obtained from any United Nations office or UNDP under the symbol: CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.10.

In March 2000, the Human Rights Committee adopted a comprehensive new General Comment on gender equality, which thoroughly updated its earlier General Comment on article 3 (adopted in 1981). The new General Comment takes into account the Committee's experience - both in the context of its evolving case-law under the Optional Protocol and of the examination of initial and periodic reports submitted by States parties pursuant to article 40 of the Covenant. The Committee also considered normative developments in other expert UN Committees as well as the jurisprudence of regional Commissions and Courts of Human Rights. General Comment No. 28 spells out what this core provision of the Covenant entails and what information States parties are expected to provide in their reports.

Gender equality is an overarching principle that applies to the enjoyment of all rights: civil, cultural, economic, political and social. The Human Rights Committee is very clear that the right to gender equality is not merely a right to non-discrimination. Affirmative action is required. States parties are under an obligation to take all necessary steps to enable every person to enjoy the rights provided for in the Covenant “on an equal basis and in their totality” (para. 2). Such steps include “the removal of obstacles to the equal enjoyment of such rights, the education of the population and of state officials in human rights and the adjustment of domestic legislation so as to give effect to the undertaking set forth in the Covenant. The State party must not only adopt measures of protection, but also positive measures in all areas so as to achieve the effective and equal empowerment of women. States parties “must provide information regarding the actual role of women in society so that the Committee may ascertain what measures, in addition to legislative provisions, have been or should be taken to give effect to these obligations.” (para. 3)

The far-reaching implications of the General Comment are evident in the light of the explicit reference that States parties must prohibit discrimination on the ground of sex and “put an end to discriminatory actions both in the public and the private sector” (para. 4). In its concluding observations following the examination of the reports from States parties, the Committee has put increasing emphasis on the need to adopt appropriate measures to combat discrimination by non-State actors.

The Committee is keenly aware that “inequality in the enjoyment of rights by women throughout the world is deeply embedded in tradition, history and culture, including religious attitudes” (para. 5). Indeed, the subordinate role of women in some countries is illustrated by the tragic incidence of pre-natal sex selection and the abortion of female foetuses.

Bearing in mind that women are particularly vulnerable in times of internal or international armed conflicts, States parties must take special measures to protect women from rape, abduction and other forms of gender-based violence (para. 8). The Committee's draft general comment No. 29 on states of emergency (currently under discussion) specifically focuses on this matter.

When reporting on the right to life, States parties should provide data on birth rates and on pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths of women. Gender-disaggregated date should be provided on infant mortality rates. Moreover, “States parties should give information on any measures taken by the State to help women prevent unwanted pregnancies, and to ensure that they do not have to undertake life-threatening clandestine abortions” (para. 10).

To assess compliance with article 7 (prohibition of torture and ill-treatment) of the Covenant, as well as with article 24 (special protection of children), the Committee must receive information on national laws and practice with regard to domestic and other types of violence against women, including rape, on access to safe abortion for women who have become pregnant as a result of rape, and on measures to prevent forced abortion or forced sterilization. “In States where the practice of genital mutilation exists, information on its extent and on measures to eliminate it should be provided” (para. 11).

In the recent past the Committee has devoted increasing attention to the problem of trafficking of women and children and forced prostitution. In its lists of issues sent to States parties in preparation for the discussion of their reports, the Committee frequently formulates a question concerning this issue and requests information “on measures taken to protect women and children, including foreign women and children, from slavery, disguised inter alia as domestic or other kinds of personal service” (para. 12).

With regard to freedom of movement, States parties are expected to provide information on any legal provision or any practice restricting women's equal rights, including legal or de facto requirements, such as consent of a third party to the issuance of a passport or other type of travel documents to an adult woman (para. 16). This issue was also addressed in paragraphs 6 and 18 of the Committee's General Comment No. 27 on freedom of movement.

Access to justice as spelled out in article 14 of the Covenant is not always enjoyed by women on equal terms with men. “In particular States parties should inform the Committee whether there are legal provisions preventing women from direct and autonomous access to the courts (Case No. 202/1986, Ato del Avellanal v. Peru, Views adopted on 28 October 1988); whether women may give evidence as witnesses on the same terms as men; and whether measures are taken to ensure women equal access to legal aid, in particular in family matters” (para. 18).

The right of everyone under article 16 of the Covenant to be recognized everywhere as a person before the law is particularly pertinent for women, who often see it curtailed by reason of sex or marital status, “This right implies that the capacity of women to own property, to enter into a contract or to exercise other civil rights may not be restricted on the basis of marital status or any other discriminatory ground. It also implies that women may not be treated as objects to be given together with the property of the deceased husband to his family” (para. 19).

Interference with women's right to enjoy privacy and other rights protected by article 17 is a growing concern, as, for example, “where there is a requirement for the husband's authorization to make a decision in regard to sterilization or where States impose a legal duty upon doctors and other health personnel to report cases of women who have undergone abortion. Women's privacy may also be interfered with by private actors, such as employers who request a pregnancy test before hiring a woman” (para. 20).

As the publication and dissemination of obscene and pornographic material portraying women as objects of violence is likely to promote such treatment, States parties are called upon to provide information about legal measures to restrict the publication or dissemination of such material (para. 22).

The right to marriage, which is the subject of General Comment No. 19 (1990), entails equality of men and women to enter marriage only with their free and full consent. “Many factors may prevent women from being able to make the decision to marry freely. One factor relates to the minimum age for marriage. That age should be set by the State on the basis of equal criteria for men and women. These criteria should ensure women's capacity to make an informed and uncoerced decision. A second factor in some States may be that either by statutory or customary law a guardian, who is generally male, consents to the marriage instead of the woman herself” (para. 23). The existence of social attitudes which tend to marginalize women victims of rape and which put pressure on them to agree to marriage are incompatible with a woman's right under article 23 of the Covenant. “A woman's free and full consent to marriage may also be undermined by laws which allow the rapist to have his criminal responsibility extinguished or mitigated if he marries the victim” (para. 24). The Committee notes further that polygamy violates the dignity of women and should be abolished wherever it continues to exist.

Equality during marriage implies that husband and wife should participate equally in responsibility and authority within the family (para. 25). States must also ensure equality in regard to the dissolution of marriage, which excludes the possibility of repudiation (para. 26).

The obligation to protect children applies equally to boys and to girls. States parties are called upon to eradicate all cultural or religious practices which jeopardize the freedom and well-being of female children, and submit disaggregated data in this respect (para. 28).

Affirmative action is particularly necessary in connection with the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs. The Committee requires States parties to provide statistical information on the percentage of women in publicly elected offices including the legislature as well as in high-ranking civil service positions and the judiciary (para. 29).

Article 26 sets forth the right to equality before the law and freedom from discrimination and “requires States parties to act against discrimination by public and private agencies in all fields” (para. 31). Pursuant to the Committee's case law under the Optional Protocol, non-discrimination is an autonomous right that extends well beyond the prohibition of discrimination in respect of the other articles of the Covenant, and beyond the categories of civil and political rights. Indeed, discrimination in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights is also prohibited, as illustrated by the Committee's Views with respect to social security legislation - Case No. 172/1984, Broeks v. The Netherlands (Views adopted on 9 April 1987), Case No. 182/1984, Zwaan de Vries v. The Netherlands (Views adopted 9 April 1987), as well as in the area of citizenship or rights of non-citizens in a country - Case No. 35/1978, Aumeeruddy-Cziffra et al. v. Mauritius (Views adopted on 9 April 1981).

Moreover, the commission of so-called “honour crimes”, which remain unpunished, constitutes a serious violation of the Covenant and in particular of articles 6,14 and 26. Laws which impose more severe penalties on women than on men for adultery or other offences also violate the requirement of equal treatment (para. 31).

Alfred de Zayas

Gender Related Dimensions of Racial Discrimination: General Recommendation1

1 The text is available on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights ( and can be obtained under the symbol: CERD/C/56/Misc.21/Rev.3.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination adopted at its 56th session General Recommendation 25 on Gender Related Dimensions of Racial Discrimination

“Recognizing that some forms of racial discrimination have a unique and specific impact on women, the Committee will endeavour in its work to take into account gender factors or issues which may be inter-linked with racial discrimination. The Committee believes that its practices in this regard would benefit from developing, in conjunction with the States Parties, a more systematic and consistent approach to evaluating and monitoring racial discrimination against women, as well as the disadvantages, obstacles and difficulties women face in the full exercise and enjoyment of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights on grounds of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin”.

“Accordingly, the Committee, when examining forms of racial discrimination, intends to enhance its efforts to integrate gender perspectives, incorporate gender analysis, and encourage the use of gender-inclusive language in its sessional working methods, including its review of reports submitted by States Parties, concluding observations, early warning mechanisms and urgent action procedures, and general recommendations”.

“Noting that reports submitted by States Parties often do not contain specific or sufficient information on the implementation of the Convention with respect to women, States Parties are requested to describe, as far as possible in quantitative and qualitative terms, factors affecting and difficulties experienced in ensuring for women the equal enjoyment, free from racial discrimination, of rights under the Convention. Data which has been categorized by race or ethnic origin, and which is then disaggregated by gender within those racial or ethnic groups, will allow the States Parties and the Committee to identify, compare and take steps to remedy forms of racial discrimination against women that may otherwise go unnoticed and unaddressed”.

Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 10 December 1999

On 6 October 1999, the General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The Protocol was opened for signature, ratification and accession at a signing ceremony on 10 December 1999. As of 5 April 2000, 34 States had signed the Optional Protocol. Ten ratifications are needed for its entry into force and it is expected that the special session of the General Assembly on the Beijing plus five Conference will provide a conducive framework for ratification.

The Optional Protocol contains two procedures: a communications and an inquiry procedure, with both procedures modelled on comparable existing procedures, but at the same time reflecting the progressive development of international law as reflected in the practice of the treaty bodies which implement those procedures. Accordingly, article 5 of the Optional Protocol explicitly provides for interim measures between the receipt of a communication and before a determination on its merits. Although this is not spelled out in the first Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, interim measures are now established as part of the practice of the Human Rights Committee under that Protocol. Short-term and long-term follow-up mechanisms to the Committee's views and recommendations on a communication, now a standard feature in the practice of the Human Rights Committee are also reflected in article 7 of the Optional Protocol. Innovations in the Optional Protocol include its articles 11 and 13 requiring States parties to ensure: that individuals under their jurisdiction are not subjected to ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of accessing the procedures in the Protocol; that the procedures of the Protocol are widely understood; and that individuals have ready access to the Committee's decisions concerning the Protocol, particularly in regard to matters involving the State party. Article 17 explicitly states that no reservations shall be permitted to the Optional Protocol, although States may “opt-out” of the inquiry procedure.

Joint statement by the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Ms. Angela E.V. King, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson, at the occasion of the opening for signature of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women - 10 December 1999

The principle of the equal rights of women and men is one of the pillars of the United Nations. This principle is reflected in the Charter of the United Nations, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all subsequent major international human rights instruments. It is elaborated in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women - the Women's Convention - which codifies women's right to non-discrimination and equality with men. The Convention establishes that women and men are equally entitled to the full enjoyment and exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil and any other field.

Several international human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention against Torture and other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, have procedures allowing individuals or groups of individuals to submit claims of alleged violations of rights protected under these instruments to independent expert bodies, once domestic remedies have been exhausted. Procedures for expert bodies to undertake inquiries into situations of alleged grave or serious violations of rights also exist. While these mechanisms are available to women and men alike, women have rarely used them to seek redress for violations of their rights.

Governments committed themselves at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna (1993) and at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995) to work for the establishment of a mechanism on a right to petition under the Women's Convention. The Optional Protocol that is being opened for signature today, Human Rights Day 1999, is the concrete realization of this promise of governments to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights of the women of the world.

The significance of this new instrument for the protection and promotion of the human rights of women cannot be overstated. The Convention has now joined the ranks of those instruments that offer individuals and groups of individuals who are victims of human rights violations, an international forum to seek redress for their grievances. But in addition to providing an international remedy for violations of women's rights, the Optional Protocol will act as an incentive for governments to take a fresh look at the means of redress that are currently available to women at the domestic level. This is perhaps the most important contribution of the Optional Protocol. It is action at the national level which will create the environment in which women and girls are able to enjoy all their human rights fully and where their grievances will be addressed with the efficiency and speed they deserve.

We are deeply encouraged by the fact that governments, after only four negotiation sessions, adopted the Optional Protocol by consensus. This signals their acceptance of the vision of universal human rights for women as well as men. The support and encouragement, but also the firm insistence of nongovernmental organizations and women's groups from around the world that the Vienna and Beijing commitments be honoured, have been invaluable in nurturing the process along to its successful conclusion.

We urge governments to ratify the Optional Protocol without delay so that the required ten ratifications can be obtained to enable it to enter into force. Having been part of the process that led to this celebratory moment, we pledge to support this new procedure so that it may become a useful and effective addition to our inventory of tools for the protection, promotion, and defence of the human rights of women.

Le Projet de Protocole a la Charte Africaine des Droits de l'Homme et des Peuples relatif aux Droits de la Femme en Afrique


Lorsque la Charte africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples (ci-apr la Charte) a adopten 1981, deux critiques majeures ont ses, relatives es limites. La premi critique portait sur l'absence d'une Cour dans le mnisme de mise en oeuvre de la Charte et la deuxi concernait ses lacunes sur la protection garantie aux femmes1. En effet, l'article 18, paragraphe 3, de la Charte se contente de prescrire 'Etat partie de “veiller 'mination de toute discrimination contre la femme et d'assurer la protection des droits de la femme et de l'enfant tels que stipuldans les darations et conventions internationales.” Il ressort de ce renvoi aux instruments universels que la Charte n'a pas pris en compte les probls spfiques qui se posent aux femmes africaines, en dehors de ceux qu'elles partagent avec les autres femmes du monde. Ces probls sont nombreux, notamment: l'incapacitn mati successorale2; les pratiques discriminatoires en mati matrimoniale (polygamie; mariages forcet levirat); les pratiques traditionnelles de mutilations gtales; la banalisation des violences conjugales3; la division inle du travail agricole et domestique; l'inlit'accau pouvoir politique et aux ressources nomiques. Pourtant, tout le monde s'accorde econnae le rde premier plan jouar les femmes africaines ces dernis ann, notamment dans le cadre du dloppement de la culture de la paix dans un continent en proie aux conflits et de la survie sociale, en cette pode de marasme nomique4.

1. Voir ELMADMAD, K., “Les droits de la femme dans la Charte africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples”, Afrique 2000 n° 14, ao93, pp. 21-37 et KOIS, L., “Article 18 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights: A Progressive Approach to Women's Human Rights”, East African Journal of Peace and Human Rights, vol. 3(1), 1997, pp. 92-114.

2. Voir notamment Centre africain pour la dcratie et les des des droits de l'homme. Les femmes et le droit successoral en Afrique. Etudes de cas du Kenya et du Sgal/Women and Inheritance Laws in Africa. Case Studios in Kenya and Senegal, Banjul, New Type Press, 1998.

3. Voir Center for Women's Global Leadership, Gender Violence and Women's Human Rights in Africa, New Brunswick, Rutgers, 1994.

4. Voir KUENYEHIA, A., “50 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Rights of Women in Africa”, Africa Legal Aid. juillet-septembre 1998, p. 7; Best Practices in Peace Building and Non-Violent Conflict Resolution. Some Documented African Women's Peace Initiatives, UNHCR/UNESCO/UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/UNIFEM, Vernier, ATAR Roto Presse, 1997 et L'Autre Afrique n° 100, spal Femmes, intitul#147;Meilleures que les hommes?”, 13-26 octobre 1999.

Confortpar un mouvement progressiste catalysar la Confnce de Beijing de septembre 1995 sur les femmes et assisten cela notamment par le Haut Commissariat des Nations Unies aux droits de l'homme (projet RAF/96/AH/30, Addendum), la Commission africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples (ci-apr la Commission africaine) est en train d'borer un projet de Protocole a Charte relatif aux droits de la femme en Afrique, pour pallier les insuffisances relev ci-dessus. Le but de la prnte de est d'examiner le contenu de ce projet en vue de drminer sa contribution au droit international des droits de l'homme, en cas d'adoption. Avant de procr ette analyse, il convient toutefois de rappeler succintement le processus de son boration.

Le but de la prnte de est d'examiner le contenu du projet de protocole tel qu'adopt la, 26 session de la Commission africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples tenue igali (Rwanda) en novembre 1999, en vue de drminer sa contribution ntuelle au droit international des droits de l'homme, en cas d'adoption. Avant de procr ette analyse, il convient toutefois de se pencher au prable sur le processus de son boration.


Gr 'action concertd'organisations non gouvernementales, notamment la Commission internationale de juristes (CIJ), l'organisation “Femme, droit et dloppement en Afrique” (FEDDAF/WILDAF) et le Centre africain de la dcratie et des des des droits de l'homme de Banjul, et des snaires internationaux ont organissur les droits des femmes en Afrique, en oite cooption et/ou sous les auspices de la Commission africaine. Il importe de mentionner spalement l'organisation, en novembre 1994 akar, du Forum des ONGs, dans le cadre de la Confnce prratoire de la ron Afrique en vue de la Confnce de Beijing et la tenue en mars 1995 omdu Snaire sur “la Charte africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples et les droits de la femme africaine”. Parmi les points examinpar le Snaire de Lomigurait le th relatif a Charte comme instrument de protection des droits de la femme en Afrique. Evoquant la question du rdes coutumes dans le d de ces droits, le professeur Kivutha Kibwana de l'Universite Nairobi a notamment estimue:

“La Charte accorde une place de choix aux coutumes et aux valeurs traditionnelles (art. 18, 22, 27, 29 para. 7 et 61). Seul l'article 29 (7) reconnaque toutes les valeurs culturelles africaines ne sont pas positives. Les coutumes, les valeurs traditionnelles et le droit coutumier sont les premiers facteurs qui ont contribuu d de leurs droits aux femmes africaines. Les dispositions relatives aux coutumes et a culture doivent e att pour s'assurer que seules les valeurs positives sont impos. Les nouvelles constitutions en Afrique commencent e pencher ouvertement sur la question de la culture en reconnaissant le fait qu'elle comporte aussi bien des aspects positifs que ntifs.”5

5. Commission africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples, “Rapport du Snaire sur la Charte africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples et les droits de la femme africaine”, doc. ACHPR/RTP/SACAW/XVIII, octobre 1995, p. 10 et, pour le texte original de l'auteur, KIBWANA, K., Empowering the African Woman: A Study of the Protection of Women's Rights under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and A Proposal Regarding the Development of a Charter on the Rights of the African Woman, p. 9 (document isposition chez l'auteur).

Les participants au Snaire de Lomnt recommand'adoption par l'OUA d'un Protocole (additionnel ou facultatif) a Charte relatif aux droits de la femme et la nomination par la Commission africaine d'un Rapporteur spal sur les droits de la femme. La dsion prise par la Commission d'appliquer cette double recommandation a entnpar la Confnce des chefs d'Etat et de gouvernement de l'OUA en juin 1995. Comme suite ette approbation, la Commission africaine a institun son sein un Groupe de travail sur le Protocole a Charte relatif aux droits de la femme en Afrique, sous la coordination du Commissaire E.V.O. Dankwa (Ghana). Le Groupe de travail a tenu sa premi session sur le projet de Protocole anjul du 26 au 28 janvier 1998. Au cours de cette session, ont examinnotamment la question de la nomination du Rapporteur spal sur les droits de la femme et l'avant-projet du Protocole6. Sur proposition du Groupe de travail, la Commission a proc a nomination de Mme. Julienne Ondziel-Gnelenga (Congo-Brazzaville), lement membre de la Commission, en cette qualitL'boration du projet de Protocole est un des aspects du mandat du Rapporteur spal7, assistans cette te par le Groupe de travail.

6. Commission africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples, “Rapport de la premi rion du Groupe de travail sur le Protocole a Charte africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples relatif aux droits de la femme africaine”, doc/OS/58 (XXIV), octobre 1998.

7. Centre canadien d'de et de cooption internationale (CECI), Projet Promotion des droits et renforcement du pouvoir des femmes sgalaises (PDPF), A Rapport gral de l'Atelier sur le projet de Protocole additionnel a Charte africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples, relatif aux droits des femmes, tenu akar le 27 ao98”, annexe IV, p. 4.

Faute de moyens financiers, le Groupe de travail n'a pu se rir pendant plus d'une ann Compte tenu de l'importance du projet, le Haut Commissariat des Nations Unies aux droits de l'homme a rgi son concours financier, d consenti au titre du projet de cooption technique avec la Commission africaine, aux activitdu Groupe de travail. Celui-ci a pu ainsi, gr et apport, tenir sa deuxi rion akar en juin 1999. Le Groupe de travail a tenu sa troisi et derni rion igali en novembre 1999, en marge des travaux de la 26 session ordinaire de la Commission africaine, et a adoptnitivement le projet de Protocole.


Le projet de Protocole adopte une “option prrentielle”8 pour la promotion et la protection des droits de la femme en Afrique. Il introduit en effet une dualites normes dans le syst de la Charte, comme il ressort de l'analyse tant du prbule que du dispositif du projet.

8. Terme empruntar l'auteur gr. Dom Helder Camara, ancien Archeve de Recife (Brl), ddmment, qui prt une doctrine de justice sociale fondsur l'option prrentielle pour les pauvres.

A. Le prbule

Parmi les instruments auxquels se rrent les auteurs du projet de Protocole, il convient de mentionner, d'une part, les instruments interdisant les discriminations 'rd des femmes et prescrivant leur mination (Daration universelle des droits de l'homme; Pactes internationaux relatifs aux droits civils et politiques, et aux droits nomiques, sociaux et culturels; articles 2 et 18 de la Charte africaine; Convention internationale sur l'mination de toutes les formes de discrimination 'rd des femmes) et, d'autre part, les instruments qui prescrivent ou recommandent l'adoption de mesures concrs visant morer la condition des femmes : Plans d'action adoptpar les Confnces des Nations Unies sur l'environnement et le dloppement (Rio de Janeiro, 1992); sur les droits de l'homme (Vienne, 1993); sur la population et le dloppement (Le Caire, 1994); sur le dloppement social (Copenhague, 1995) et sur les femmes (Dakar, 1994 et Beijing, septembre 1995). Cette double rrence es instruments contraignants et programmatoires drmine la structure dualiste du dispositif du projet de Protocole, qui comporte des dispositions prohibitives/protectrices et incitatives/promotionnelles.

B. Dispositions prohibitives/protectrices

Se fondant sur les principes corrtifs de l'litt de la non-discrimination contenus 'article 2 de la Charte, le projet de Protocole prescrit:

- la jouissance et l'exercice par les femmes, en toute litvec les hommes, des droits humains et libertfondamentales dans tous les domaines (article 1er);

- la contribution des femmes, galitvec les hommes, a prrvation des traditions respectueuses des droits de la femme fond sur les principes de l'litde la dignitde la justice et de la dcratie (article 2);

- l'interdiction de la peine de mort pour une femme enceinte; de la traite des femmes sous toutes ses formes; de l'exploitation de la prostitution des femmes; des expences mcales ou scientifiques sur les femmes sans leur consentement; l'mination par tous les moyens des pratiques culturelles et/ou traditionnelles qui portent atteinte 'intithysique et/ou morale des femmes et des filles et qui sont contraires aux normes internationales reconnues (gavage, mutilations gtales, infibulations, etc.); la protection des femmes contre les viols et toutes autres violences sexuelles et leur ression comme crimes de guerre dans de situations de conflit armarticle 5);

- l'interdiction du mariage forcl'interdiction de la polygamie, sauf consentement explicite des conjoints et le droit pour la femme marid'acqur des biens propres et de les gr, ainsi que l'lites droits avec le mari en cas de communautes biens (article 7);

- l'lites droits vis-is des enfants et des biens communs acquis pendant le mariage en cas de divorce et d'annulation de mariage, qui doivent e prononcen justice, ou de sration de corps (article 8);

- l'interdiction des violences contre les femmes et la ression de celles-ci (article 13);

- l'interdiction de faire subir a veuve des traitements inhumains, humiliants et dadants et le droit pour la veuve d'hter des biens de son mari (article 9);

- le droit d'accdes femmes a santcomportant le droit de maiser leur fnditle droit de dder de leur maternitle droit de dder de l'espacement des naissances; le droit du choix de toutes les modes de contraception; le droit de se protr contre les maladies sexuellement transmissibles et le droit d'e informur son t de santt sur l't de sante son partenaire (article 16, paragraphe 1).

En outre, le projet de Protocole prit une protection spale pour les femmes de troisi et les femmes ayant un handicap, compte tenu de leurs besoins physiques et moraux (article 6). Il engage les Etats parties ssurer une protection effective des femmes et des enfants en pode d'urgence et de conflit armussi qu'aux femmes et enfants dac'inteur de leur propre territoire ou rgien provenance des pays voisins (article 12, paragraphe 3).

Pour ter que l'litt la non-discrimination ainsi consacr ne demeurent formelles, le projet de Protocole prescrit aux Etats parties de prendre des mesures nssaires a promotion des droits des femmes.

C. Dispositions incitatives/promotionnelles

Ces dispositions se rapportent 'obligation faite aux Etats parties de prendre des mesures nssaires pour:

- inter la dimension “femme” dans les politiques de dloppement (article 3);

- faciliter l'accdes femmes aux services et 'aide judiciaires, ainsi qu''information juridique (article 8);

- miner les discriminations dans le domaine de l'cation et toute rrence es stotypes perpant cette discrimination dans les manuels scolaires et les programmes d'enseignement; promouvoir l'alphabsation des femmes, l'accgratuit des filles 'enseignement secondaire, ainsi que l'octroi de bourses d'de et effet et la formation professionnelle des femmes et des filles (articles 4 et 14);

- promouvoir la participation paritaire des femmes et/ou des filles a vie politique (article 11) et aux programmes et activitde prntion, de gestion et de rlution des conflits, d'cation a paix et d'assistance humanitaire aux plans national, ronal et international (article 12);

- promouvoir l'lit'acc'emploi (article 15); favoriser l'accdes femmes aux services de sant des cobordables et es distances raisonnables et aux services pret post-nataux et nutritionnels pendant la grossesse et la pode d'allaitement et protr les droits reproductifs des femmes particuliment en cas de viol ou d'inceste (article 16, paragraphe 2);

- favoriser l'accdes femmes 'eau potable, aux sources d'rgie domestique, a terre et aux moyens de production alimentaire et l'blissement des systs d'approvisionnement et de stockage adats en vue de leur sritlimentaire (article 17);

- favoriser la jouissance et l'exercice effectifs par les femmes du droit n logement adat, gr 'accn logement social adat (article 18); du droit n environnement culturel positif (article 19); du droit n environnement sain (article 20) et du droit au dloppement (article 21).


Concernant spalement le droit au dloppement, le projet de Protocole dispose 'article 21, paragraphe 2:

“Les Etats parties au prnt Protocole s'engagent rendre toutes les mesures appropri pour:

a) permettre aux femmes de participer librement et ous les niveaux de dsion a conception et a mise en œuvre des politiques et programmes de dloppement;

b) faciliter l'accdes femmes a terre et garantir leur droit de propri quel que soit leur statut matrimonial;

c) faciliter l'accdes femmes au crt et aux ressources financis, nomiques et naturelles;

d) prendre en compte les indicateurs de dloppement humain spfiques aux femmes dans l'boration des politiques de dloppement;

e) veiller e que les effets ntifs de la mise en oeuvre des programmes et politiques commerciales, tels que la mondialisation, soient minimis'rd des femmes.”

Les rcteurs de la Charte africaine avaient d innovn consacrant, au plan conventionnel, le droit au dloppement. Les rcteurs du projet de Protocole rdivent en prescrivant aux Etats d'inter la dimension du genre9 dans la mise en oeuvre du droit au dloppement. Ce faisant, ils donnent ette obligation une base juridique plus solide que celle en vigueur au sein des Nations Unies.

9. D'aprles Conclusions 1997/2 du Conseil nomique et social, approuv par l'Assemblgrale des Nations Unies (A/52/3, chapitre IV, paragraphe 4): “Meanstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women's as well as men's concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve equality.”

D. Statut actuel du projet

Aprson adoption par la Commission africaine a session de Kigali en novembre 1999, le texte du projet a soumis par le Prdent de la Commission au Secrriat gral de l'OUA pour action et suivi. Le Bureau des affaires juridiques de l'OUA, qui est rattachu cabinet du Secrire gral, a saisi cette occasion pour porter a connaissance de la Commission l'existence d'un autre projet, initiar la Division des droits de la femme de l'OUA, relatif 'boration d'un projet de Convention sur l'mination de toutes les formes de pratiques affectant les droits fondamentaux des femmes et des filles. Le Bureau des affaires juridiques et la Commission sont tombd'accord pour que ce dernier projet puisse e intu projet de protocole d adopt Kigali10. La Commission poursuivra donc l'boration du projet, en veillant ne plus grande coordination avec les autres institutions susmentionn. Aprl'adoption d'un texte unique et harmonisle projet devra e soumis aux Etats membres pour commentaires et sera finalisar les experts gouvernementaux avant sa soumission pour adoption a Confnce des chefs d'Etat et de gouvernement de l'OUA.

10. Drafting Process of the Draft Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, DOC/OS (XXVII)/159b, African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, 27th Ordinary Session, 27 April-11 May 2000, Algiers (Algeria).


Aprles dloppements normatifs risavec l'adoption du Protocole a Charte relatif a crion d'une Cour africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples11, les Etats africains poursuivent leurs efforts pour l'amoration de la Charte. Les travaux visant actuellement 'adoption d'un Protocole relatif aux droits de la femme en Afrique sont importants itre. En effet, l'adoption de ce texte permettra de combler les lacunes de la Charte en la mati et d'inter les dloppements normatifs intervenus entre-temps au plan universel, tout particuliment depuis la tenue des Confnces mondiales de Vienne de 1993 sur les droits de l'homme et de Beijing de 1995 sur les femmes. Ces deux Confnces, auxquelles les Etats africains ont pris une part active, ont reconnu et consacres droits des femmes comme droits humains universels, inalibles, interdndants et indivisibles et recommandux Etats de prendre des mesures concrs visant ccorder une plus grande attention aux droits humains des femmes afin d'miner toutes les formes de discrimination et de violence fond sur le sexe exerc contre les femmes.

11. Voir la contribution de l'auteur sur le Protocole crt la Cour africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples dans le num d'automne 1998 de cette Revue, pp. 27-30.

En adoptant ce projet de Protocole, les Etats africains feront d'une pierre deux coups: contribuer au renforcement du syst ronal africain de promotion et de protection des droits de l'homme et des peuples et au dloppement du droit international des droits de l'homme par la consation conventionnelle de la dimension du genre, sur fond des normes prescrivant des actions de discrimination positive en faveur des femmes en Afrique. En assistant la Commission africaine dans ses travaux relatifs au projet de Protocole, le Haut Commissariat des Nations Unies aux droits de l'homme a contribuositivement e processus. Paraphrasant une maxime fort rndue en Afrique, “quer une femme, c'est quer une nation”, nous pouvons conduire que “promouvoir et protr les droits de la femme en Afrique, c'est promouvoir et protr les droits de l'homme et des peuples”.

Mutoy Mubiala