African women 'ahead as lawmakers, but face violence'

2017-03-08 18:03
File: AFP

File: AFP

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

New York - African women have made significant progress including higher female participation in many legislatures than in Britain and the United States — but women on the continent also face "daunting" challenges in high rates of sexual violence, maternal mortality and HIV infections, said a report released on Tuesday.

Across the continent, the report said, constitutions, laws and policies enshrine the principle of equality and non-discrimination and economic, social and cultural rights for women.

However, gaps in legislation and policies as well as a lack of implementation and enforcement reinforce discrimination against women, it said. For example, the report said Burundi, Guinea, Congo, Kenya, Mali, Sudan and Tanzania "all have family and personal codes that discriminate against women in issues of marriage" and only five countries in Africa have an absolute prohibition on marriage for girls under age 18.

Released ahead of International Women's Day on Wednesday, the report by the UN human rights office, UN Women and the African Union special investigator on women's rights makes a series of recommendations to promote gender equality.

The UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein warned in a message Tuesday that "in too many countries, we are now seeing a backlash against women's rights, a backlash that hurts us all".

Controlling and limiting women's decisions 

He pointed to recent rollbacks on legislation in many parts of the world aimed at "controlling and limiting women's decisions over their bodies and lives", fueled by a view that a woman's role should be limited to reproduction and the family.

In Burundi, Zeid said, "a law on violence against women is progressive in many ways as it criminalises marital rape and prohibits harmful practices. However, the law also pins the blame on a woman who suffers gender-based violence for her "indecent dress" or "immoral behaviour".

On the plus side, the report on "Women's Rights in Africa" said that "women are more economically active in Africa particularly as farmers, workers and entrepreneurs than anywhere else in the world."

"They perform the majority of agricultural activities, and in some countries make up some 70% of employees," it said.

In legislatures, women have a higher rate of participation, with Rwanda ranked No. 1 in the world at 63.8%, and Senegal and South Africa in the top 10, the report said.

Domestic violence 

"Fifteen African countries rank ahead of France and the United Kingdom, 24 rank ahead of the United States and 42 rank ahead of Japan," it said.

On the minus said, the report said more than one in three women in Africa have experienced either physical or sexual violence, or both, from an intimate partner or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lifetime.

"On the continent, in six countries there is no legal protection for women against domestic violence," it said, citing Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Lesotho, Mali and Niger.

In 2013, the report said African women and girls accounted for 62%, or 179 000, of all global deaths from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. But it also cited newer World Health Organization statistics, which say 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have reduced maternal death rates to just under 550 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015 from about 999 deaths in 1990.

While African countries have made "significant progress" in combatting new HIV infections, the report said, the continent is still dealing with high numbers of women who are living with HIV, the report said. "Statistics indicate that women have remained at a much higher risk of HIV infection than men, the highest rates of new infections are among young women," it said.

Read more on:    africa  |  women's rights

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


How to open a beer bottle without an opener

Do the right thing and never be thirsty again…


You won't want to miss...

WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…
WATCH: Conor McGregor: Notorious the trailer
Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.