Rights for women in the African Union: The Maputo Protocol
It is widely believed that comprehensive rights for women and structures for their empowerment is in proportion to a nation’s level of development. People often generalize on this basis, and claim that the best provisions for women, and the most accommodating rights for women only come about in developed nations. While education and a more developed, a less patriarchal bent of mind might be necessary for the formation of women’s rights, it is not always directly proportional to what we believe to be the “development” of a nation. The Maputo Protocol is proof of how constructive rights can be realized and can be formed even in the developing nations.
The Maputo Protocol is actually called the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. It was finally drafted by the African Union after a lot of lobbying which was done by various independent, non-governmental bodies and other fringe societies based on women’s welfare. The Protocol came about after a number of these organizations felt the need for a more consolidated protocol which would address most of the issues suffered by women living in various countries of Africa. Finally, the African Union adopted the protocol on the 11th of July, 2003, and a number of African nations came together to ratify it and to sign, and asked to keep in mind the different rights mentioned for women in the protocol.
Women is Africa mostly face what other women all over the globe do, which is rampant patriarchy, misogyny, unequal treatment, patronization, marginalization, and the lack of appreciation. Apart from still being considered to be child-bearing vessels, women are also objectified all over the globe. But what is so special about the Maputo Protocol is that apart from addressing these common issues, it also addresses the more specific ones, such as female genital mutilation, food security for women from troubled countries within the Union, and the clashes which female empowerment faces with outdated tradition.
The protocol was a very significant step by the African Union to realize and admit to the fact that women in most of the African countries are treated very unfairly, and that a lot of these issues need to be addressed and tackled head-on, instead of hoping for them to go away after a point. The Protocol that way, is very detailed, and it covers a number of topics which are very wide-ranging in their scope. Instead of demanding only basic rights, the Maputo Protocol goes on to assert the female population’s right to equality.
The protocol demands that all women be allowed political participation without being discriminated against. Measures should be provided to make sure that all women be treated as equals to men, and that they get sufficient participation in decisions involving socio-political changes. The protocol also accounts for elderly women, and the provisions which should be made for them, a facet which very few people choose to address. Because of the unrest in various African countries, the protocol also talks about provisions which should be bestowed upon women when a conflict is at hand, and especially when it involves arms and ammunition.
The Maputo Protocol is a big step forward for the African union, and more than money or military prowess, it is a true sign of the real development which is going on in the continent.