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20110201 The Rights of Women With Disabilities in Africa


20110201 The Rights of Women With Disabilities in Africa.
Does the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa Offer Any Hope?

At the time of the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter) in 1981, women’s rights were not a priority in Africa. Apart from an insertion of broad provisions pertaining to equality and freedom from discrimination, and their association with children’s rights under article 68, the African Charter did not really focus on women’s rights. However, this shortcoming was corrected in 2003 by the adoption of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (African Women’s Protocol) which came into force in 2005. Article 23 of the African Women’s Protocol provides for “Special Protection of Women with Disabilities.” Nevertheless, given that women with disabilities suffer double discrimination, both for being women and for living with a disability, and given that women with disabilities face particular difficulties in gaining access to education, employment and health care and are generally victims of violence and sexual abuse, is it enough to address their plight in a single provision of the protocol? This question is important as it investigates the extent to which the African Women’s Protocol can be useful in protecting women with disabilities on the African continent.
The aim of this paper is to analyze how women with disabilities can fully benefit from the legal framework afforded to African women by the African Women’s Protocol. The paper argues that the challenges faced by
women with disabilities are huge and therefore should not be confined to a single provision, especially if disabled women’s rights are to be addressed efficiently. The Paper presents the situation of women with disabilities in Africa, discusses the implications of having a stand-alone provision on the rights of women with disabilities, and makes use of the guidelines for States’ reporting under the African Women’s Protocol with special attention to reporting on “Special Protection of Women with Disabilities” (article 23) to demonstrate the added value of having many and more explicit provisions on the rights of women with disabilities.