Mauritius ratified (with reservations) the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) in June 2017. This makes 39, the countries that have ratified the Maputo Protocol. The presence of the African Human Rights Moot Court Competition in Mauritius provided an opportunity for the Women’s Rights Unit to host an all stakeholder meeting not only to celebrate this momentous step towards full realisation of women’s rights but to also reflect on the challenges that delayed ratification since signing in 2005 and lessons apparent. In addition the meeting discussed the impact of ratification of the Maputo Protocol on the lives of women and girls in Mauritius and the critical next steps post the ratification.
The Minister of Gender, Equality, Chid development and Family Welfare, Mrs Fazila Jeewa- Daureeawoo in her opening statement, noted the commitment of the government of Mauritius to securing the rights of every woman and child through the various programs run by her ministry and the impact the ratification of the Maputo Protocol will have on these efforts. The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa Commissioner Lucy Asuagbour, congratulated the government of Mauritius on Ratification of the Maputo Protocol explaining that this is a most promising indicator from the Government that they recognise the important place of women and girls. She argued that and if fully leveraged the Maputo Protocol holds enormous promise and potential to protect women and girls because of the breadth of the rights it contains and more importantly it specifically responds to the challenges and realities for women and girls in the African context. She also urged the government together with other relevant stakeholders to begin efforts towards domestication and implementation of the Maputo Protocol. She highlighted the need to harmonise current laws with the Maputo Protocol, raise awareness and visibility of the protocol at all levels of society and encouraged the state to meet their reporting obligations to the African Commission.
Congratulatory statements were made by the Centre for Human Rights and the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative in Mauritius, Mr Simon Springett. He applauded both the ratification and the hosting of the meeting as they signified a shared commitment to the elimination of discrimination against women. As such, Mr Springett reiterated the commitment of the United Nations, in efforts to provide technical expertise to the Government in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to facilitate the development of the gender framework.
Presentations on the impact of the Maputo Protocol and its compatibility with Mauritian Law were made by Commissioner Bernanrd Yeun Yeung of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, Mr Avinash Appaddoo from the Ministry of Gender, Equality, Chid development and Family Welfare and Mr Amar Roopanand from the University of Mauritius. Civil Society and other stakeholders had an opportunity to discuss the efficacy of the Maputo Protocol as a framework for securing women’s rights in a session that was facilitated by Ms Sheila Keetharuth, Special Rapporteur on the situation on the Human Rights in Eritrea. Some of the main issues discussed included the need for domestication of the Maputo Protocol and the importance of Constitutional reform to ensure the inclusion of socio-economic rights. The need for awareness raising on the provisions of the Maputo Protocol as a concerted effort by government, CSO’s, media and academia to target all segments of society was also highlighted. In addition CSO’s expressed the necessity to revisit the reservations made at ratification of the Maputo Protocol especially in relation to Article 6 (b) on child marriages. The meeting concluded with a call for CSO’s in Mauritius to apply for observer status at the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights because at present there is no organisation with such status.