Inaugural Lecture: Prof Annika Rudman

Violations of women’s human rights are rampant on the African continent, said Prof Annika Rudman of the Department of Public Law at Stellenbosch University on Thursday (26 October 2017). She delivered her inaugural lecture in the Old Main Building on the Stellenbosch campus.

Rudman said millions of African women who suffer from discrimination, violence and oppression have no access to regional and international human rights institutions. They also lack access to resources, knowledge, legal aid and proficient legal representation, she added.

Rudman said women’s rights must be implemented because the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW committee) stipulates that the right of access to justice for women is a fundamental element of the rule of law and essential to the realisation of women’s human rights everywhere.

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Prof E Cloete (Vice Rector), Prof A Rudman and Prof N Smit (Dean)

She pointed out, however, that despite the CEDAW committee and other legal instruments such as the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), women’s rights are not properly implemented.

The Maputo Protocol  – adopted by the Assembly of the African Union (AU) in 2003 and entered into force in November 2005 – is a comprehensive treaty that prohibits all forms of discrimination, harmful cultural practices and domestic violence against women and girls. It also prescribes rights to property and inheritance and contains civil and political as well as socio-economic rights. To date, it has been ratified by 39 of the 55 AU member states and has been in force for a period of ten years or longer in 24 of these states.

Rudman said even though the ratification of the Maputo Protocol has been relatively successful, “the invisibility of women’s rights in the decisions and judgments of the treaty bodies set up to protect women’s rights on the African continent is glaring.”

She highlighted the need for a specialised committee to monitor the application of the Maputo Protocol in the protection of women’s rights.

​“There is no specialised women’s rights institution in Africa that can put the spotlight on issues of women and to bring their claims of human rights violations to the forefront,” she said.

“A specialised women’s rights institution would serve as a receiver of litigation and as a driver of implementation, with the potential of increasing women’s access to justice and providing important insight into the Maputo Protocol.”

“Establishing a Committee on the Rights of Women in Africa would strengthen the protection of the rights in the Maputo Protocol. A specialised institution would honour women’s rights.”

Rudman argued that treaty bodies would only be able to interpret and apply women’s human rights law if women have reasonable access to these bodies.

She said the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights could be altered or improved to support the domestic implementation and enforcement of the Maputo Protocol and the rule of law.

Article by A Basson / Photo by A Jordaan

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