Welcome to Sister Namibia’s newest project: Mapping Maputo 2022! The Maputo Protocol, or the Protocol on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights On the Rights of Women in Africa, is an instrument adopted by the African Union in 2003 as with the goal of guaranteeing the rights of women in Africa.
As of May 2022, it has been signed and ratified by 42 countries, and signed by nine countries. Only three countries have not signed the protocol: Botswana, Egypt and Morocco. Check out this handy tracker of the ratifications compiled by the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights coalition (SOAWR) here.
While Namibia has signed and ratified the document, it has rarely been publically discussed in the 18 years since, even though the Maputo Protocol is full of the kind of commitments that directly speak to the needs of women and gender nonconforming people in this country. Some of the goals of the protocol include eliminating dicrimination against women and harmful practices, ensuring that women are equal partners in marriage, ensuring access to education and economic participation, and creating special protections for elderly women and women with disabilities.
We will be looking at the articles of the Maputo Protocol that address health and reproductive rights and the prevention of violence against women, specifically. The big question that we’re asking this year is: what are some of the commitments our leaders have made by signing the Maputo Protocol, and what has been done to keep those promises? We want to explore whether the silence around this protocol necessarily means inaction. And, most importantly, who do we look to when it comes time to take stock of the protocol, for both accountability and recognition?
FAQs about the Maputo Protocol
When did Namibia sign the protocol?
Namibia signed the protocol on 9 December 2003, and ratified the document on 11 August 2004.
Is the Maputo Protocol legally binding?
No, but it does require that member states submit regular reports on the measures (including legislation) that have been taken to implement the protocol.
What is the difference between signing, ratifying and implementing?
Ratifying basically means agreeing to the principles and goals of the document, but the commitment to actually implement the instrument is not guaranteed. Countries are able to ratify the protocol and demonstrate their support, while also placing reservations on certain aspects. Namibia, for example, has reservations on requirements that all marriages be recorded in order to be recognised by law, until legislation on the recording and registration of customary marriages is enacted.
Once the document has been signed and ratified, a country is obliged to abide by and be held to the standards contained within.
Has the protocol been used successfully to secure women and children’s rights in Africa?
Yes! The Maputo Protocol might not be legally binding, but signing and ratifying the document definitely holds weight, and it has been mobilised on many different occasions across the continent. Here are some of the landmark cases across the continent that have made reference to the protocol.
How has it been used in Namibia?
That’s what we want to find out! We’re spending this year looking at potential spaces for using the protocol, and seeing what work has already been done. We also plan to look at some of the commitments included in the document and connect them to some of the activities and rights that we demand from our leadership.