On November 19, 2020, the Women in Law Initiative in Vienna, Austria held the Justitia Awards for Outstanding Women in Law. The three categories of nominees are International Leaders / Lifetime Award, Women in Academia, and Young Achievers. IAWL won in two of those categories! Our founder and Executive Director, Prof. J. Jarpa Dawuni won the Women in Academia award. Our Global Advisory Board member, and founder of #HerHonorSettingtheBar Omnia Gadalla won in the Young Achievers category. IAWL is grateful to WOZA Women in Lw for the nomination and to Women in Law Vienna for recognizing the work we do to advance the work of women in law across Africa and the Diaspora. You can watch the awards ceremony HERE.
Congratulations to Judge Julia Sebutinde of the International Court of Justice.
By J. Jarpa Dawuni, Ph.D. Maame Ama Adu-Mensah The Institute of African Women in Law extends sincere congratulations to Judge Julia Sebutinde of Uganda and Judge Hanqin Xue on their well-deserved re-election to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a second term respectively. May the glass ceilings continue to shatter, one woman at a time (no, more women at a time)! Although the recent re-election of the two women judges is commendable, more work remains to be done to ensure gender parity on the ICJ bench and in other international organizations and bodies. Having one or two women assume international positions at a time cannot make up for the years of injustice done to women due to global patriarchy at all levels. The Institute for African Women in Law therefore urges the ICJ, the UN, the AU and other international bodies to realign themselves to the UN’s commitment to gender equality, and ensure that judicial selection processes to international courts meet the highest standards of equal opportunity, inclusion and diversity, while maintaining standards of merit, integrity and professionalism. We need a critical mass of women in international bodies and organizations. Women ought to be included in their masses simply because gender equality cannot wait! Judge Sebutinde’s re-election took place with three other candidates who are current members of the Court, after a single round of voting conducted simultaneously but independently by the Security Council and the General Assembly on November 11 and 12, 2020. Julia Sebutinde together with Hanqin Xue (China), the incumbent Vice-President; Peter Tomka (Slovakia) and Yuji Iwasawa (Japan) were re-elected whilst Georg Nolte (Germany) is the newest addition to the judges of the Court. The elected judges are poised to serve nine-year terms beginning from 6 February 2021. The ICJ, often touted as the “world court” is made up of 15 judges and five seats come up for election every three years. In order to be elected, a candidate must have an absolute majority in both the Security Council and the General Assembly, which often leads to much lobbying and a number of rounds of voting. On June 29, 2020, the UN Secretary-General in a communique (A/75/129–S/2020/615) listed the names of the eight final candidates; only three were women, representing 38% of the candidate list. The three women candidates were Julia Sebutinde of Uganda, Hanqin Xue of China, and Maja Seršic of Croatia. Since the establishment of the Court in 1946, only four out of its 108 judges have been women, representing a woeful 3.7%. Thus, it came as no surprise that the percentage of women on the candidate list was terribly low. Nevertheless, two out of the three women on the candidate list were elected, representing 40% of the elected candidates. A seeming milestone in gender representation in one of the most imbalanced courts with regards to gender parity. In an earlier post, the Institute for African Women in Law argued that gender diversity at the ICJ matters for the simple reason that women make up at least half of the global population; women have the qualifications and merit for international judicial positions, as such, they must be given equitable opportunities at all levels. Judge Sebutinde made history in 2012 becoming the fourth woman to be elected to the bench of the ICJ in over 60 years of the Court’s existence. She is the first African woman, having been preceded by fourteen male judges from Africa. Her re-election however was fraught with uncertainties since by common practice, the African Union endorsed the re-election bid of incumbent judges contesting for a second term, but in Judge Sebutinde’s case, the AU did not formally endorse her due to the politics of judicial appointments. Although the endorsement of the AU does not necessarily mean an automatic election, it would have been remarkably symbolic of the organization’s commitment to ensure gender equality in representation. In spite of the foregoing, Judge Sebutinde was re-elected garnering the fifth highest votes after Japan’s Yuji Iwasawa, Georg Nolte (Germany), Hanqin Xue (China) and Peter Tomka (Slovakia). The other two African contenders - Emmanuel Ugirashebuja (Rwanda) and Taoheed Olufemi Elias (Nigeria) came in sixth and seventh respectively. As a woman of African descent, Judge Sebutinde signifies various intersectionalities of race, gender, geographical location, and other identities that women from non-western societies must navigate. Her election for a second term demonstrates the increasing resilience of African women in global leadership across diverse sectors, the ICJ being one of many. It also gives her another opportunity to show the world, that women have the credentials, the integrity and the zeal to function effectively and efficiently in international positions. Thus, we wish her the very best as she begins her second term in 2021, which she has dutifully and competently performed for the past 8 years. IAWL is grateful to UN Women, Gqual Campaign and other partners who helped with the campaign for the re-election of Judge Julia Sebitunde.
Breaking the Bonds of Judicial Patriarchy at the International Court of Justice: States Must Act Now
By J. Jarpa Dawuni, Ph.D. Executive Director, Institute for African Women in Law In the words of UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, “we must urgently transform and redistribute power, if we are to safeguard our future and our planet. That is why all men should support women’s rights and gender equality. And that is why I am a proud feminist.” The recent confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court has galvanized new debates on the issue of gender and representation in high courts. What has gone largely unnoticed in popular media is the issue of women and representation in international courts. What does it take to be an international court judge—who just so happens to be a woman? Are international law and international judicial selection mechanisms equitable for all sexes? On November 11, 2020, elections will be held simultaneously by the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly to fill five judicial positions on the ICJ. In a communique issued on June 29, 2020, the UN Secretary-General listed the names of the eight final candidates—only three are women, representing 38% of the candidate list. The three women candidates are Julia Sebutinde of Uganda, Hanqin Xue of China, and Maja Seršic of Croatia. As one of the principal organs of the United Nations, member states must ensure that the selection processes at the ICJ are in line with the plethora of efforts under the UN to achieve gender equality. Gender diversity at the ICJ matters for the simple reason that women make up at least half of the global population; women have the qualifications and merit for international judicial positions, and women must be given equitable opportunities through transparent processes of nomination at the national level, and election at the international level. The bonds of global patriarchy have endured on the bench of the ICJ since it came into force in 1946. It was not until 1995 that Dame Rosalyn Higgins of Great Britain joined the bench as the first woman judge. In 2010, Judge Joan Donoghue of the United States and Judge Hanqin Xue of China both joined the bench, were soon followed by Judge Julia Sebutinde of Uganda in 2012. Each of the historic four women judges on the bench were the “first” in their region of the world. If elected to the bench of the ICJ, Maja Seršic will be the first woman from the Eastern Europe group of states to sit on the court, as compared to 14 men before her. Data source: ICJ As the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is poised to celebrate its 75th Anniversary in April 2021, it is noteworthy that historically, out of the 108 judges since the court was established, only four have been women, representing a woeful 3.7%. Currently, women represent only 20% of the 15 judges on the bench of the ICJ. Gender parity at the ICJ should be of concern to the world for the simple reason that the often dubbed “world court” remains a highly patriarchal institution, thereby prompting some international law scholars to question the legitimacy of the court. Data source: ICJ Regional blocs have work to do and attempts to diversify the bench must begin with efforts at the national and regional levels to support the nomination and election of women candidates. To date, women are yet to be elected as judges from the Latin America and Caribbean, Middle East and Eastern Europe groups. While the West Europe group has had the largest number of judges on the court (24), it has had only one woman, representing 4% of the total number of judges from that region. To date, the United Nations' principal judicial organ remains one of the most imbalanced international courts when it comes to gender parity. This historic imbalance has prompted scholars and advocacy groups to campaign for diversifying the ICJ bench. The United Nations must consider gender-sensitive processes that give due consideration to the merit of women candidates, develop independent transparent processes for nomination and election, and acknowledge the urgent need for equitable gender representation in international organizations. Gender diversity at the ICJ is a matter of urgency for the United Nations and the world.The forthcoming election is an opportunity for member states of the United Nations to affirm their commitments on gender equality. J. Jarpa Dawuni Judicial selection mechanisms to international courts remain a gendered process, and women candidates must contend with their intersecting identities and the gendered power structures in selection processes. The factors leading to these gendered processes in international law can be partly identified in the seminal work by Charlesworth et.al, which examined the general impact of hegemonic patriarchy on women’s participation in international law. With specific reference to international courts, Stéphanie Hennett-Vauchez's comparative study of women judges in Europe shows the role of shifting definitions of merit when applied to women. Other scholars such as Mackenzie et.al have examined issues arising from nomination at the domestic level and election at the international level—interlinked processes which do not always favor women. These studies and many others have demonstrated unequivocally how qualified women candidates must navigate the enduring patriarchal nature of international law. These gendered processes include shifting norms on how merit is measured, the persistence of “old boys” networks, and the political weight of powerful nation-states that often get thrown behind male candidates at the national nomination stages. The United Nations must affirm its commitments on gender equality contained in multiple legal instruments at the international level. The election of international court judges should be of concern to all members of the international community. As a principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the bench of the ICJ should symbolically reflect the world’s gender diversity. Gender diversity at the ICJ is a matter of urgency for the United Nations and the world. The forthcoming election is an opportunity for member states of the United Nations to affirm their commitments on gender equality. These commitments can be found in Goal # 5 of the UN SDGs, Article 8 of CEDAW on the right of women to participate in international organizations, and the plethora of programs undertaken by the UN to promote gender equality. The election of international court judges must be of concern to all members of the international community. The UN must reform its judicial selection processes, at the very least, by taking a cue from the gender equalizing provisions of the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC). The UN can also benefit from the strategies adopted at the African regional level in the election of judges to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR) which is currently the most gender-balanced court in the world. In electing judges to the ICJ, member states of the UN must live up to the global calls for gender equity, equality, inclusion, diversity and representation. Member-states of the United Nations must live up to their espousal of gender equality by supporting the candidature of the three women candidates in the forthcoming elections. Promoting gender diversity is simply the right thing to do. It is time to break the bonds of global patriarchy which have for so long hindered the rights of women judges to be equitably represented on the bench of the ICJ. In the words of UN Secretary-General, António Guterres when he notes “we must urgently transform and redistribute power, if we are to safeguard our future and our planet. That is why all men should support women’s rights and gender equality. And that is why I am a proud feminist.”
Press Release: Election of Judges to the International Court of Justice
Joint statement with the Gqual Campaign Washington D.C. and The Hague, November 2nd, 2020. – On 11 November 2020, during its 75th session, the UN General Assembly and the Security Council will elect 5 judges (out of 15) for a term of office of nine years, starting on 6 February 2021. There are currently 8 candidates for the election, out of which only 3 are women. The current ICJ bench is composed of 12 men and 3 women. The women are Judges Xue Hanqin (China), Joan E. Donoghue (United States) and Julia Sebutinde (Uganda). Judges Hanqin and Sebutinde are currently running for re-election. The third candidate is Maja Seršić (Croatia). The only other woman to have served as a judge since the ICJ’s establishment in 1946 is Dame Rosalynn Higgins, who served on the Court from 1995 to 2009. The ICJ, the highest global court and principal judicial organ of the United Nations, holds an embarrassing record when it comes to gender representation. As such, since its establishment in 1946, of the 108 ICJ judges who have served on the Court, only 4 have been women. Additionally, 4 women have served as ad hoc judges as compared to 113 men. According to article 2 of the Statute of the ICJ, members of the Court are to be elected, regardless of their nationality, from among persons of high moral character, who possess the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices. Article 9 requires that the General Assembly and Security Council consider the representation of the main forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems of the world. While consideration of gender diversity is not a formal requirement, the GQUAL Campaign considers that, when electing judges, the General Assembly and the Security Council must take into account gender representation on the Court in accordance with fundamental principles of international law, such as the principle of non-discrimination, the right to equality and the right of access to decision-making. These fundamental rights are envisaged in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, among other international instruments. Article 8 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), enjoins States to take measures to allow women equal opportunities to work in international organizations. Additionally, Sustainable Development Goal No. 5 urges States to include women in decision-making positions at all levels. The General Assembly recognizes in its Resolution 66/130 that women’s “active participation at all levels of decision-making is essential to the achievement of equality, sustainable development, peace and democracy”. Considering the above, the General Assembly and the Security Council have a special duty to ensure that the ICJ’s composition reflects gender diversity, taking into account that international justice is served best, is more legitimate and effective when the bodies that impart it combine, in equal terms, the perspectives of qualified, independent, and diverse people. _________________________________________________________________________________ GQUAL is a global campaign to achieve gender parity in international tribunals and monitoring bodies. On October, 2017 the campaign adopted an Action Plan that has been endorsed by State representatives, international judges, Bar Associations, and civil society. In line with the call to States in this statement, the document serves as a road map and a call for action to motivate, inspire and inform all the stakeholders involved in pursuing gender parity across international bodies. The Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) is a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC and working across the continent of Africa and the Diaspora, with the goal of building a network of women legal professionals dedicated to using the law as a tool for development. IAWL is a member of the GQUAL Campaign. Read our Open Letter to the African Union.
Open Letter to the African Union: Africa’s Opportunity to Address Gender Diversity at the ICJ
By J. Jarpa Dawuni, Ph.D. Executive Director, Institute for African Women in Law Women of Africa are increasingly demonstrating their resilience in global leadership, financial institutions, international criminal law, the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Criminal Court to name a few. But there is more that needs to be done— the November 11, 2020 elections to the bench of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) provides a unique opportunity for member-states of the African Union to once again demonstrate their support for gender equality by supporting the candidature of Judge Julia Sebutinde of Uganda—the first and only African woman to serve on that court. Currently, women represent only 20% of the judges on the bench of the ICJ. As the ICJ is poised to celebrate its 75th Anniversary in April 2021, it is noteworthy that historically, out of the 108 judges since the court was established, only four have been women. To date, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations remains the most gender-imbalanced international court in the world. This imbalance has prompted scholars and advocacy groups such as the Gender Equality Campaign (GQUAL) to engage in advocacy for diversifying the ICJ bench. On November 11, 2020, elections will be held to fill five judicial positions on the ICJ. Of the eight candidates on the ballot for this election, three are women; Julia Sebutinde of Uganda, Hanqin Xue of China, and Maja Seršic, of Croatia. In 2012, Judge Julia Sebutinde made history as the fourth woman to be elected to the bench of the ICJ in over 60 years of the Court’s existence. Judge Sebutinde’s election was remarkable for reasons beyond her gender: she was also the first woman from the continent of Africa to be elected to the ICJ, compared to the 14 African male judges who sat on that court before her. As an international judge, Judge Sebutinde’s appointment signaled the intersections of race, gender, geographical location, and other identities that women from non-western societies must navigate. Judge Sebutinde’s journey to the ICJ, was as a combination of an unwavering ambition to become an international judge, and professional experiences spanning 41 years, having served as a judge and jurist at national and international levels, including as a judge of the High Court of Uganda and the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Judge Sebutinde’s multiple and intersecting identities of race, gender, geography, as well as her professional experience are reflective of her journey to the international bench, a journey which she describes as ‘different threads that were woven into a kind of cloth, the kind of cloth that I now am’ (quoted in Judge Julia Sebutinde: An Unbreakable Cloth,” in International Courts and the African Woman Judge: Unveiled Narratives. Judge Sebutinde’s journey as the first woman from an African country to sit on the ICJ is symbolic of the increasing number of African women judges sitting on international courts since 2006. As one of the most gender-imbalanced international courts, the upcoming elections in November to fill the five vacant seats on the bench of the ICJ provides a unique opportunity for the Africa group of States to back the nomination and election of a strong candidate—who just so happens to be a woman! Judging Julia Sebutinde On Merit Judicial selection processes to international courts aspire to meet the highest standards of merit, integrity, professionalism, equal opportunity, inclusion, and diversity. Julia Sebutinde possesses a total of 41 years of experience as a judge and jurist at national, regional, and international levels. Her expertise spans public international law, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, the law of the sea, environmental law, and international criminal law. As a judge at the ICJ since 2012, Judge Sebutinde has contributed to 40 Judgments, 65 Orders of Court, and an Advisory Opinion. Besides her judicial functions, she has served on the Court's essential committees, including the Chamber of Summary Procedure, the Budgetary and Administrative Committee, and Head of the Information and Communications Technology Committee of the Court. As an incumbent judge, she has experience in the internal operations of the Court. She has initiated key internal reforms that have contributed to strengthening the ICJ internally, including internal justice for staff members and the modernization of the Court's processes. Judge Sebutinde’s knowledge and grasp of international law builds on her experiences as Judge of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) (2005-2010); and Presiding Judge of Trial Chamber 2 of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (2007-2008 and 2010-11). Judge Sebutinde’s contribution to jurisprudence is captured by international law professor Nienke Grossman when she notes; "Among Judge Sebutinde’s most noteworthy individual opinions during her time on the Special Court are a separate concurring opinion regarding “forced marriage” in the AFRC Trial and a dissenting opinion on whether to accept a late brief by defense counsel in the Taylor trial. Judge Sebutinde’s separate concurring opinion in the AFRC trial explored the legal contours of “forced marriage” and highlighted the testimony of expert witnesses on the subject. Judge Sebutinde has written many declarations and separate opinions appended to the judgments of the ICJ, thus contributing to its jurisprudence, including a separate opinion to the Chagos Advisory Opinion, in which she elaborated on the right to self-determination in the context of decolonization as having attained peremptory status (jus cogens) under customary international law, from which no derogation is permitted. Judge Sebutinde has delivered numerous papers and public lectures and holds several international awards, including two Honorary Doctorates, in recognition of her contribution to international peace and justice. Having served on the ICJ bench since 2012, Judge Sebutinde brings with her the knowledge and skills of an incumbent judge who has demonstrated that she understands the internal workings of the Court and has contributed to international law through her judicial opinions. On Process Fourteen male African judges preceded the arrival of Sebutinde as the first African woman judge at the ICJ. The practice has been for the African Union (AU) to endorse the re-election bid of incumbent judges contesting for a second term. Judge Julia Sebutinde is the first and only African woman on the Court, and the first judge whose bid for a second term has not been formally endorsed by the AU and is instead challenged by two male competitors. Years of service of African male judges Data source: ICJ, While AU endorsement does not necessarily mean an automatic election, the fact that the first woman candidate’s bid for re-election has not been endorsed by the AU, calls for further reflection on promises of gender equity in representation. The AU must honor the customary practice of supporting incumbent candidates for re-election by openly supporting the re-election bid of the incumbent candidate who just so happens to a woman. On Gender Equality Gender equality does not mean that women should be nominated or endorsed at the expense of men. The ICJ's infamous historical record as one of the most gender-imbalanced courts in the world requires deliberate action in addressing this disparity. All the former male African judges of the ICJ received the AU's endorsement, and each one served two terms (unless they died in office or voluntarily resigned). Why is the AU refusing to endorse the first and only African woman judge? The lack of endorsement by the AU should send a chilling signal to all member States, international organizations, civil society advocacy groups, women’s organizations, and all individuals interested in gender diversity, inclusion and equal opportunities for all sexes. The AU must affirm its commitments on gender equality contained in multiple legal instruments at the regional and international levels. The election of international court judges should be of concern to all members of the international community. As a principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the bench of the ICJ should symbolically reflect the world’s gender diversity. The AU must hold true to the progress within the AU system as demonstrated by the election of women judges to the ACtHPR—making it the most gender-balanced court in the world currently. In electing judges to the ICJ, the AU and individual African states have been presented with a unique opportunity to showcase to the world that qualified African women candidates have equitable and strong support from member-states of the AU to serve in international organizations. The AU must live up to its commitment to promoting gender equity, equality, inclusion, and diversity as espoused in the Maputo Protocol. The AU must continue the progress made, as seen in the number of women represented in the African Commission and the African Court (ACtHPR). The African Union must live up to its espousal of gender equality by endorsing the incumbent candidate's re-election—who has the merit, comes with a wealth of international law experience, and just so happens to be a woman!
Intersection of Gender-Based Violence and Cyber bullying in South Africa: Problem but no Solution?
Attorney Mollica Maharaj Rahman and Rahman Inc., South Africa During the Covid-19 induced lockdowns, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed what he called the second pandemic facing South Africans – that of Gender Based Violence (GBV). Many women in South Africa were not shown the basic respect and tolerance to which all people have a right, but instead, were attacked by those closest to them. To remind civil society of the GBV epidemic in South Africa, prosecutors of the Welkom Magistrate’s Court held a silent march in August (dubbed “Women’s month”) to affirm their opposition to GBV and Femicide and to assure victims that they are ready to assist. This year in South Africa we also saw how GBV can extend into the online space through cyber bullying. In this particular episode, a locally-known media personality and actor suggested in an online podcast that a victim of rape was inaccurate when recounting her version of the events leading to her rape, and that the perpetrator should be given a fair trial. While all people in South Africa do indeed have a right to a fair trial, this kind of narrative deflects from the seriousness of the rape as a crime and actually makes it more difficult for victims of rape to speak up, for fear of being victimised. GBV can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial or structural, and can be perpetrated by intimate partners, acquaintances, or strangers. In the online space, GBV includes body-shaming, threats of physical violence, and verbal abuse. The use of online channels like websites, social media, and instant chat platforms like WhatsApp make it easy for bullies to spread negative messages about women, girls, and LGBTQ+ persons. The situation becomes more upsetting when the bullying is done by social media influencers with large followings and the power to shape narratives around gender norms in society. Currently, online GBV disproportionately affects women, girls, and LGBQT+ persons in the form of body-shaming, verbal abuse, threats of physical and sexual violence, and a general enforcing of negative gender stereotypes. The impact of psychological violence can be just as significant as that of physical forms of violence, as the perpetrator subjects the victim to behaviour which may result in some form of psychological trauma, such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. What are some practical solutions? Establishing norms around social media use The lines between free speech and bullying have blurred, and some perpetrators might argue that they were simply exercising their right to freedom of speech. Currently, there is no Constitutional guidance on the appropriate use of social media platforms. As a society, we need to establish guidelines on what constitutes appropriate behaviour online. Until those norms are established, local celebrities and social media influencers can show their support by condemning inappropriate behaviours online. Protect yourself from online harassment Because social media law is in its infancy, victims of online harassment might assume that there is nothing that they can do to protect themselves online. However, by using the right channels, victims can receive protection and in some cases justice for the suffering. For example, victims can approach the SA Human Right Commission (SAHRC) and the Commission for Gender Equality for guidance. In addition, victims can report the incident at the local police station. If they are able to, victims can also report the abuse to the social media platform in question. In all examples, the victim needs verifiable proof of the bullying in the form of voice recordings, screenshots, or a record of the chat where the bullying took place. In extreme cases, the victim can receive a protection order. Protecting children Child victims of online bullying can apply for a protection order, with or without the consent from a parent or guardian. Child bullies under the age of 10 cannot be arrested, while those older than 10 years can be detained during an investigation. Tackling cyber bullying through collaboration Social media is the preferred choice of people, young and old, to keep in touch with their family, friends, network with peers, and even conduct business. As a public platform, it has the potential to raise awareness to worthy causes and unite people with a common goal. Unfortunately, some may abuse the platform by pushing a harmful agenda. By creating meaningful dialogue around its potential for good, establishing norms, and calling out bad behaviour, we can deter those with malicious intents. But, it requires a contribution from all parties – celebrities, legal aids, teachers, businesspeople, and policy makers.
Michael Addaney, Ph.D. Lecturer, University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani, Ghana. Climate change has indisputable long-term consequences on the environment, which, in turn, seriously undermine the enjoyment of human rights. The African continent is projected to be one of the hardest hit by the negative effects of climate change. The consequences of climate change are not only disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable and poorest populations, there are also disparities along gender lines. The connections between climate change, gender equality, and women’s rights are complicated and multidimensional. In contrast, most existing studies on gender and climate change action offer a narrow conception of what gender equality and women’s rights mean in the context of climate change action. By considering the thorny linkages between climate change, gender equality, and women’s rights in Africa, this article relies on the lived realities of women and geographical vulnerabilities of the African Continent to highlight that the rights of women are disproportionately undermined by the adverse impacts of climate change. The article provides options for policy and social interventions by different stakeholders to ensure that women are not further marginalized by the negative impacts of and responses to the global climate crisis. Women and the climate crisis in Africa Climate change undermines the enjoyment of human rights, such as the rights to life and security of the person; health; adequate food and water; and shelter and property. The adverse effects of climate change, however, are not equally distributed. Women, children, and minorities often bear the brunt of the impact of climate change. Joane Nagel observes that gender differences influence how men and women are impacted by climate change. These differences lead to vulnerabilities in access to resources related to recovery from climate-induced disasters, approaches to climate risks, and involvement in the political processes that shape adaptation and mitigation activities. Women across the world are more prone to poverty in comparison to men as a consequence of uneven access to economic resources, finances, and decision-making capabilities. For example, the UNDP has underscored that women in developing countries experience unequal access to resources and decision-making processes, with constrained agility in rural areas. Moreover, women experience the adverse effects of climate change differently as the prevailing circumstance weakens their adaptive capacity and resilience. On the African continent, extreme climatic events such as a heat waves, floods, and drought have distinctive gendered effects. In 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) indicated that by 2020 about 75 to 250 million people in Africa are estimated to be exposed to increased water stress; a reduction of yields from rain-fed agriculture by up to 50 percent in some regions; limitations to agricultural production including access to food; enhanced summer monsoon precipitation in West Africa; increased short rain in East Africa due to the warming of the Indian Ocean; and increased rainfall extremes of landfall cyclones on the east coast (including Madagascar). Despite being equally exposed to some of these extreme climate events, women are more vulnerable to these impacts due to the factors identified above. The stress associated with decreased access to economic and social resources combined with prevailing discriminatory practices such as exclusion from decision-making processes regarding resources and the environment are considered to be the leading factors for the increased exposure of women to the impacts of climate change. Challenges of legally protecting women’s human rights against extreme climatic events in Africa There is compelling consensus on the practical link between climate change, gender, and human rights. Unfortunately, gender issues have not been broadly considered in the international climate change negotiation process, especially in the formulation of climate change law and policy. For instance, in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, the words “gender” and “women” are not mentioned at all, resulting in little consideration of gender issues in international climate action discourse. Conversely, most prevailing characteristics that make people susceptible to climate change – such as a heavy dependence on natural resource-based livelihood activities with limited alternative livelihoods such as non-farm businesses or vocal skills – reflect the experience of women living in societies of extreme poverty. Women are generally known to play a significant role in supporting their households in realizing food and nutrition security, generating income, and improving community livelihoods and general well-being. The AU, however, has sufficient human rights-responsive provisions that are relevant in remedying the gender gaps in international and national climate change law and policy. For instance, Article 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights provides for the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the charter without distinction based on gender, race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth, or other status. The African Charter further contains provisions relating to the rights and freedoms of women, including the right to information and the right to a generally satisfactory environment. The 2003 Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) is the lex specialis when it comes to promoting and protecting the rights of women in Africa. The Maputo Protocol, in Article 2(1), obliges all state parties to combat all forms of discrimination against women through the adoption of appropriate legislative, institutional, and other measures. The Protocol consequently tasks state parties to “integrate a gender perspective in their policy decisions, legislation, development plans, programmes and activities and in all other spheres of life.” It further obligates state parties to eradicate discrimination against women in their respective jurisdictions. In the area of participation and inclusion, Article 18(2a) of the Maputo Protocol obliges state parties to take all appropriate measures to “ensure greater participation of women in the planning, management and preservation of the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources at all levels.” This applies directly to finding new sources of energy for cooking without firewood, for example. When implemented together with the right to participation in environmental decision-making, this provision can help close the gender equality gap and safeguard the rights of women in the context of climate action. Additionally, Article 19 of the Maputo Protocol provides that women have the right to sustainable development. State parties are consequently obliged to consider the needs of women in development planning activities; to enhance women’s access to and control over productive resources and to safeguard their right to property; and also to strengthen women’s access to credit, training, skills development and extension services in both rural and urban areas. This implies that during the designing and implementation of specific climate change policies, state parties are to ensure that the impact of such policies on women is duly considered and mitigated. Despite the progress made by AU law and policy in the area of gender equality, women’s rights, and climate change in Africa, bottlenecks such as deep-rooted sociocultural and religious beliefs still hinder women’s access to economic and energy resources. Policy and social interventions This submission establishes that women’s historic disadvantages including their limited access to resources, restricted rights, and repressed voice in shaping decisions make them highly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. It argues for an improved understanding of women’s and men’s knowledge, roles and abilities which will provide a solid basis for the formulation and development of climate change legislation, policy and programmes. Furthermore, women at all levels should be actively involved in integrating their priorities, skills, and knowledge in climate action at the continental and local levels. Gender-sensitive structures, guidelines, projects, and tools need to be developed at various levels for all climate change financing mechanisms. Finally, to help address the historical, political, and socioeconomic constraints faced by many women in environmental matters in Africa, gender-based criteria should be developed for climate funding allocation.
Women and Access to Environmental Justice in Nigeria
Eghosa Ekhator, Ph.D. Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Derby Introduction Historically, oil and gas exploration and production activities in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria have negatively impacted the livelihood and wellbeing of vulnerable groups, especially rural women. These activities directly affect the women’s ability to source for food, water, wood energy, and other natural resources. These resources support women’s traditional care-giving role in the society, and without access to the resources, they are more vulnerable to poverty and other broader multidimensional socio-economic challenges such as gender inequality, domestic violence, lack of financial empowerment and lack of access to quality education amongst others. As one of the most affected groups, women have been actively involved in seeking redress for the negative environmental impacts flowing from exploration and production activities in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria. They use both formal (mainly litigation) and informal (such as protests and customary processes) strategies. However, there have not been a great deal of litigation initiated to address the violations of rights and livelihoods of women in the Niger Delta. This post focuses on women-led protests in the Niger Delta region in Nigeria. Women-led protests in the Niger Delta Women have been actively involved in redressing the negative effects caused by the operations of multinational corporations (MNCs) in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria. Furthermore, environmental disasters or degradation arising from the operations of oil MNCs in the Niger Delta have impacted negatively on the livelihoods of women. In Ogoniland in the Niger Delta, the women produce most of the family’s food, but the twin pressures of land grabs and oil pollution are making it impossible for them to survive. Hence, the impacts of oil MNCs operations in the Niger Delta have considerably weakened women’s access to pollution-free farmlands and fishing waters. Furthermore, women bear the brunt of environmental injustice in Nigeria and the negative consequences of the operations of the oil MNCs have also impacted negatively on the health of women in the Niger Delta. For example, in a recent study conducted by Bruederle and Hodler which was the first academic study to explicitly link ‘environmental pollution with new-born and child mortality rates in Niger Delta’, demonstrates that children and babies in Nigeria are ‘twice as likely to die in the first month of life if their mothers were living near the oil spill before falling pregnant.’ Also, the UNEP report (2011) on Ogoniland revealed the shocking levels of oil pollution in Ogoniland in the Niger Delta caused by the operations of an oil MNC and which to date is yet to be cleaned up. Global frameworks such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reflect international minimum standards for human development outcomes in a way that suggests universal human needs and priorities. Goal 16 of the SDGs recognises the importance of access to justice. For women to enjoy environmental goods in the country, barriers to environmental justice must be eliminated. It has been contended that women suffer uniquely from environmental injustices in different parts of the world, including the United States. These unique effects have also been exemplified in the Niger Delta wherein women and children tend to bear the brunt of environmental injustices. Consequently, women have relied on different strategies (such as protests) in improving access to environmental justice in Nigeria. Notwithstanding that, women in Nigeria face state-sanctioned discriminatory practices, and economic and social barriers, they have stood up against the negative activities of the oil MNCs by protesting those activities and eventually pushing the companies to concede to some of the women’s demands. Women have relied on dramatic strategies, such as naked protests, to protest the operations of the oil MNCs in the Niger Delta and other parts of Nigeria. Protests by women is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria, and dates to the colonial era. Women-led protests have been largely successful in the Niger Delta. There have been a series of women-led protests in the Niger Delta protesting the oil-related activities and negative impacts arising from the operations of the oil MNCs in different states in the Niger Delta. This post focuses on the women-led protests in Ugborodo community in the Niger Delta. In 2002, some women in some oil-producing or oil-bearing communities took over the premises of Chevron and other oil MNCs and stripped themselves naked - which is a local shaming mechanism and in some communities can be used as means of laying curses on people and objects. Due to the women protest in Ugborodo community (located in Delta state in Nigeria) in July 2002, Chevron/Texaco was forced to declare a force majeure clause in its contracts with its exporters which led to massive losses in its revenue and this was a major factor which led to a swift resolution of the conflict. As a result of the demands made by the women protesters, in July 2002, Chevron/Texaco signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Ugborodo community. The MOU included the following: upgrading 15 members of the communities who are contract staff to permanent staff status; the employment of an individual from each of the five Ugborodo villages every year; the building of one house each for their traditional rulers of the communities, provision of vital infrastructure; and the provision of monthly allowances to the elderly and establishment of income generating initiatives among other demands. Furthermore, some of these vital infrastructure included the building of a community hospital and other community projects amongst others. Thus, the women negotiated terms that were beneficial to the larger community. Unfortunately, the MOU is yet to be fully implemented by the oil MNC. Recently, in September 2020, women in Ugborodo protested the non-implementation of some of the provisions of the MOU and alleged breach of the MOU by the oil MNC. However, it should be noted that MOUs entered between oil MNCs and communities in the Niger Delta are not legally binding contracts. Notwithstanding that MOUs are not sacrosanct, Niger Delta communities consider them to be binding and oil MNCs are expected to enforce them. Arguably, women protests have had modest but significant impacts on the various oil MNCs operating in the Niger Delta. However, some scholars have argued that the impacts of the women protests have been negligible in Nigeria. For example, Ukeje argued that “the demands of the women were essentially ‘bread-and-butter’ in nature.” Also, Oshionebo averred that ‘it is of course debatable whether such aggressive tactics [of the women] have effected substantive changes in the behaviour of TNCs.’ Notwithstanding the various criticisms of the utility of women’s protests in Nigeria, their protests have impacted other protests and actions in the country and served as inspiration for similar protests in the other parts of the world. For example, women in California protested naked, and this has become a new anti-war protest tactic. According to Turner and Brownhill(relying on Ivan Gale) women protests in the Niger Delta were the inspiration for this tactic utilised by the women in California and show how this style of protesting has become a global phenomenon. Conclusion Women have relied on different strategies (such as protests) in improving access to environmental justice in Nigeria. This post focused on the women-led protests in the Niger Delta, and contends that notwithstanding criticisms to the contrary, women-led protests have had modest but significant impacts on the various oil MNCs operating in the Niger Delta.
Owning Your Child: The Adoption Process in Ghana Made Simple
Francisca Serwaa Boateng, Esq. FSB Law Consult, Ghana The family is the basic unit of every society, and children form an important part of the family. Most people may have their own biological children, but it is also common to see people nurture and develop other children as their own through the process of adoption. Couples or individuals have different reasons for adopting children who may or may not be related to them, such as an inability to have their own children or a desire to help a specific child, for example.
Adoption is simply the process by which a person may by law become the child of another person or persons who may not be their biological parent. The person adopting a child may be a complete stranger or a relative of that child. Under the laws of Ghana, only a child under the age of 18 years may be adopted. The adopted child has all the social, cultural, emotional, and legal benefits of biological children.
People decide to adopt children for various reasons. These may include the following: i. To increase the number of one’s own children; ii. To give an orphaned child a parent/parents; iii. To help individuals and/or couples who would otherwise be unable to have children biologically; iv. To assist individuals to integrate and take care of their young relatives as part of their immediate family; and v. For altruistic purposes.
Adoption could be done according to the customary law of the persons adopting the child or under the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560) and the Adoption Rules, 2003 (C.I 42). Adoption under customary law is done at the family or community level according to the customs and traditions of the applicants. The courts are not involved in that process. However, adoption under the Children’s Act is a formal legal process that is handled by courts.
Individuals who want to adopt a child must hire a lawyer to prepare and file the necessary documents in court for an Adoption Order in respect of the child. The lawyer may file the application at the High Court, Circuit Court, or District Court (Family Tribunal, which is a simpler process) depending on the nature of the application and the parties.
For applications before the High Court and Circuit Court, the lawyer will buy a set of Originating Summons Form from the High Court for processing and filing. The set must also include the following for filing: - Statement in Support of Application for an Adoption Order; - Medical Certificate as to the Health of the Applicants; - Medical Report as to the Health of the Child; - An Affidavit of Support of the Application for Adoption Order attested before a Commissioner for Oaths or Notary Public; - Power of Attorney which enables the lawyer to represent the person adopting the child in Court if they would not be present in Ghana at the time of going to Court; and - Marriage Certificate if the applicants are a married couple as evidence of marital union between applicants. In all adoption cases, the Department of Social Welfare is an interested party. Therefore, the Department conducts investigations into the background and lifestyle of the applicants to ascertain if they are financially fit and morally capable of adopting the child. If the applicants are out of the country, their lawyer will assist the assigned Social Welfare Officer with information to prepare of the report on the investigations. The findings of the Social Welfare Department, called a Social Enquiry Report, is submitted before the Court to assist the Court in making its order for the adoption. The adoption process is guided by a strict regime of confidentiality. On the day of the adoption hearing, the proceedings are held in the Judge’s Chambers rather than in open court. Further, only the applicants, their lawyer, a Social Welfare Officer, and the Court clerk are allowed to be present. The law even allows applicants to hide their identity if they so wish. The process of adopting a child through the legal process is a simple one. Any person who has the desire to adopt a child should seek proper legal advice from a qualified lawyer to make their journey to parenthood a straightforward, cost-effective, and enjoyable experience.
Register: bit.ly/2H538tx Facebook live: Complete our survey: On October 24th, 2020 (10am US/EST/ 2pm WAT/ 3pm CAT/5pm EAT) the Institute for African Women in Law and Diverse Law present a webinar on Mentorship and Career Growth Opportunities in Law. The webinar will be an interactive forum where legal experts provide insights from their personal experiences navigating their respective professional trajectories. The panelists will be answering a series of questions and discussing issues, such as navigating different career paths, challenges that young professionals in law may face, mentorship programs that motivate law students and early career lawyers to explore a variety of career options. The discussion will be moderated by Ms. Adejoké Babington-Ashaye, a Senior Counsel at the World Bank. The panelists include; Mrs. Funke Agbor, SAN currently a partner in the shipping and Litigation Group of ASAC-LAW, Nigeria, with more than thirty years of legal experience. Ms. Linda Kasonde, a lawyer and civil rights activist, who is the founder and Executive Director of Chapter One Foundation, a foundation that promotes and protects human rights, human rights defenders, constitutionalism, the rule of law, and social justice in Zambia. Judge Monica Mugenyi, a judge of the Ugandan Court of Appeal and Presiding Judge at the East African Court of Justice. Dr. Pierre Sob, the founder and Director of Horizon Consulting International as well as the President of Africa 21, with more than twenty years of experience as a senior official in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. **Spaces are limited. Be sure to register for the webinar prior to October 24th, the registration link can be found by copying and pasting this link in your browser: bit.ly/2H538tx **Spaces are limited! You may join us on Facebook live at:
Furaha-Joy Sekai Saungweme Regional Coordinator, Africa End Sexual Harassment Initiative (AESHI) Events of a catastrophic nature whether they be public health outbreaks, civil conflict, or economic instability are often experienced by women in a manner which is very uniquely linked to gender constructs. For this reason and in response to the global pandemic, the African Union’s Women, Gender and Development (WGDD) [i] produced guidelines intended to work in partnership with COVID-19 interventions which are tailored to meet the needs of women. The UN Human Rights’ East Africa Regional Office also partnered with the African Union Commission’s Gender Directorate to produce Seven Possible Actions- Women’s Rights and COVID-19 which is described as a ‘tool that States and civil society actors can use to monitor whether Governments are meeting their obligations and duties under international human rights law.’[ii] These two initiatives are cognizant of the existing socio-economic and cultural inequalities which justify and necessitate gender focused COVID-19 strategies and because sexual and gender-based violence are unfortunately inevitable offshoots of manmade or natural disasters they both make reference to this issue. The WGDD provides nine guidelines relevant for ensuring gender equality and women empowerment during this global pandemic. The most critical guideline addressing gender-based violence falls under the ‘Impact on women’s physical and psychological integrity’ category and was developed to address increasing and alarming reports of domestic violence, child marriage and online sexual exploitations resulting from the lockdowns. Guideline recommendations include setting up hotlines, budgetary allocation, information dissemination, online counseling services, safe houses, speedy prosecutions and police support. The next guideline which is intertwined with protection and prevention of violence against women outlined in the WGDD document is the category titled ‘Impact on women’s legal protection.’ This guideline recognizes that the ‘disruptive impact of COVID-19 on existing legal, social and judicial structures means that security, justice and social services are likely to be severely curtailed, leaving limited avenues to services, safety and justice such as for survivors of Gender-Based Violence’ and therefore recommends for judicial services to remain operational, for COVID 19 laws to be enacted through a gender lens and for the implementation of provisions in relevant gender focused regional instruments such as the Maputo Protocol[iii] and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa.[iv] In a similar vein, the Seven Possible Actions- Women’s Rights and COVID-19 publication under action 3 of its 7 point action plan also noted with concern rising cases of gender based violence and reaffirmed state obligations under for example the Maputo Protocol to eradicate violence against women. It mirrors most of the WGDD guidelines addressing violence but places more emphasis on technology innovations to assist women in reporting cases and assisting victims. The guidelines and actions plans are relevant and necessary yet they seem to exist in a vacuum as more cases of violence against women and children are exposed across the continent without most victims experiencing real interventions. Such gaps are more worrisome given that the perpetrators’ of violence against women in African countries are not just limited to intimate partners but include state sponsored violence which has witnessed security forces using excessive use of force when enforcing lockdown measures; in addition politically motivated acts of violence have continued with impunity in some countries and at a time where women who are subjected to violence and sexual perversions do not even have the option of escaping the country where the harm is occurring. It is imperative for African governments and African leadership to roll out an integrated gender response to the challenges resulting from COVID-19. Parliamentary responses to violence against women and the socio-economic inequalities disproportionately affecting women and the girl-child during this period must be specifically addressed. Nigeria has been one of the first African countries to begin to work towards this goal when the President Muhammadu Buhari led government announced the immediate inauguration of a Gender-Based Violence Management Committee,[v] after growing national outrage on increased levels of GBV. The progress of this committee must be carefully monitored and should be informed by the following factors: 1. The need to make the wheel of justice more accessible to victims and at risk categories of women and children by removing barriers to reporting and hostile court settings. 2. Ensuring that legislation on violence against women is developed in manner which is evidence based, taking into account national realities. 3. Allocation of resources including budgetary considerations must be directed towards the legislative priorities enshrined in addressing vulnerable groups of women and children. 4. Holding regular consultations with female parliamentarians, women’s organizations, civic society, grassroots activists and traditional leaders on development and implementation of gender sensitive COVID 19 policy responses. 5. Engaging and constantly negotiating with frontline workers such as nurses of whom a large proportion consist of women and work towards meeting their demands for safety, living wages and compensation as opposed to firing them or criminalizing peaceful acts of protests. 6. Creation of specific institutional mechanisms to monitor implementation and for the collection of statistical data. 7. Mandatory gender awareness training of security sectors especially the police. 8. Protect women’s rights and dignity in the workplace. Finally, there must be regional and national consensus that violence against women is unacceptable and carries severe penalties. This consensus building process requires the participation of everyone in a period where no woman or girl child can claim total immunity from the dangers and various factors that increase vulnerability to GBV during COVID-19. [i] Available at
[ii] Available at
[iii] Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. Adopted by the 2nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union Maputo, 11 July 2003.
The Institute for African Women in Law is excited to release our latest project, the Pioneer African Women in Law Project (PAWLP). PAWLP is a digital archive documenting the lives and contributions of the first women in law and modern-day trailblazing women in law across Africa. This project falls under one of our focal areas— research. We have adopted a R.A.D.I.C.A.L approach in our documentation by: Restoring and preserving the historical agency of the African woman in law. Analytically appraising the contributions of the African woman in law. Demarginalizing the voices of African women in law. Intellectually centering the lived experiences of the African woman in law. Conscientiously mainstreaming the contributions of the African woman in law. Agenda setting for research on African women in law. Leading the wa for future generations of African women in law. Visit the page at: We are still accepting submissions, send as an email of interest with the name of the pioneer or trailblazer you would like to write about and we will get back to you. Email us at email@example.com.