The Women's Rights Unit team took part in a two day 'drafting' workshop organised jointly by the Ministry of Justice, Gambia and the Centre for Human Rights (the Centre) from 28 to 29 May 2018. The workshop was held at the NANA conference hall in Serrekunda, the Gambia.
A total of 42 participants attended the workshop. The participants consisted of representatives from Government Ministries as well as Civil Society Organisations. Participants were also members of a newly formed task team that had been set up for the purposes of drafting state reports on all the treaties that the Gambia is party to. The Gambia has ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (the African Charter) in June 1983 and The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) in May 2005. By virtue of its ratification of these instruments, the Gambia has expressed commitment to the obligation under Article 62 of the African Charter and Article 26(1) of the Maputo Protocol to submit a report every two years to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission). This report should be made up of two parts; Part A on the African Charter and Part B on the Maputo Protocol.
The last time the Gambia reported to the African Commission was in 1994. However, the Gambian Government currently in the process of drafting a state party report for consideration by the African Commission. The Women’s Rights Unit was invited by the Ministry of Justice specifically to offer technical support on the drafting and finalisation of the current draft report. The Centre was represented by Professor Hansungule, Musu Bako Sawo and Ade Johnson.
The workshop began with an overview of the current draft report shared by Ms Maltida Mendy. a state advocate from the Ministry of Justice, The Gambia. Thereafter, a presentation was given on the African Charter. In this presentation, significant emphasis was laid on the principles, themes, guidelines and measures of safeguards. This included a focus on how to draft Part A of the report paying particular attention to the three groups of rights namely; Civil and Political Rights, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as Group Rights.
On the day two, presentations focused on the Maputo Protocol. In discussing the Maputo Protocol, effort was made to deliberate on each article in the Maputo Protocol especially in relation to the Gambia’s local context. This engagement provoked contentions on women’s rights issues. Some of these issues included debates especially in relation to Article 6 (c) on marriage; issues on polygamy, equal rights in marriage between men and women which seemed to be in contradiction to Islamic injunctions. With polygamy, the debate was on the basis that although the Maputo Protocol did not expressly prohibit polygamy, the fact that monogamy is encouraged was contentious. In addition, questions were raised in relation to Article 5 (b) on female genital mutilation and whether the presence of the law in the Gambia was sufficient to curb or eliminate the harmful practice. A few participants also questioned the rationale behind Article 10(3), the obligation on state parties to reduce military expenditure in favour of promotion of the welfare of women.
These debates precipitated a session aimed at engaging with the participants on certain peculiar local issues that deal with the realisation of rights particularly for women in the Gambia. A final session involved sharing the guidelines to be considered when drafting Part B on the Maputo Protocol. Emphasis was laid on the factors that should be considered to when drafting a state report. To end the workshop, participants ‘attention was drawn briefly to the specific techniques required in the art of drafting, writing, researching of the state report as well as the expectations when making presentations before the African Commission.
At the end of the workshop, there was significant commitment expressed particularly by the team at the Ministry of Justice to continue the drafting process in its efforts to ensure the Gambia fulfils its reporting obligations not only on Part A (the African Charter) but also on Part B (Maputo Protocol). The Centre will continue to work closely with the task team and the Ministry of Justice, assist the Gambia in finalising its report to the African Commission in accordance to the state reporting guidelines.