The Pivot to Africa
PARTNERSHIP FOR PREVENTION,MANAGEMENT AND CONTROL OF DRUG,SOCIAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN AFRICA
“It must be acknowledged that after Coca-Cola, Mandela has become the best known brand internationally. It means that Mandela/Madiba/Tata Mandela, or however South Africans prefer to refer to the great man, one cannot simply talk about the man without also implying the global icon that he has become” Amanda du Preez, Department of Visual Arts, University of Pretoria.
Religious groups and civil society organisations are putting continued pressure on President Joyce Banda to reconsider the Gender Equity Bill she passed in March. Certain groups have threatened to take the issue to court if parliament does not review the bill.
The President recently assented to the draft law, which seeks to empower women to participate in decision-making and development activities, ensures equal access to education, sexual reproductive health rights and prohibits sexual harassment and violence against women.
However many religious leaders and organisations are condemning the bill for sections they deem immoral. A petition against the Gender Equality Bill addressed to the President, drawn-up by Umunthu Pressure Group also claims that the draft law does not reflect the interests, aspirations and understanding of Malawians. It further asserts that Malawians were not educated and consulted on certain sections.
The primary contention lies in Section 19, which ensures the right to adequate sexual and reproductive health services as well as enshrining the right to choose whether to have children. However, some groups see this as an indirect form of legalising abortion and feel that criminalising medical practitioners for refusing to conduct family planning methods contravenes their right to freedom of religion and belief.
Emma Kaliya, a renowned Malawian gender activist differs with the group arguing, “Most notable clauses in the law are not new because they are taken from regional and international human rights treaties to which Malawi either ratifies or is a signatory.”
The sections within the bill are no different from those found in the United Nations (UN) International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), of which Malawi is a signatory. The section is also in line with the SADC Gender and Development Protocol, which demonstrates Malawi’s commitment to reaching gender equality by 2015.
CEDAW’s Article 16 states: “Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family planning relations and in particular shall ensure, on the basis of equality of men and women, the same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights.”
Many Malawian cultural and religious beliefs discriminate against women since many married women seldom have any say on the number of children they bear. Some faith groups also prohibit women from practicing any family planning methods.
The 2012 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer states that Malawi has the lowest contraceptive usage and the highest abortion rate in Southern Africa. Most abortions are unsafe and contribute to the ever-increasing maternal and infant mortality rates. Although Malawi has reduced the maternal mortality, the rate is still high with 675 women dying per 100 000 live births. Abortion complications account for 17% of these deaths.
Furthermore, having no say in sexual reproduction obstructs participation in social and economic activities, leaving many rural women economically dependent on their male counterparts. Gender activists argue that this dependency contributes to violence against women and worsens women’s overall vulnerability.
The Gender Equity Bill is therefore essential for protecting the rights of women and ensuring gender equality in the country. It further cements the existing legislation that guarantees equality, prohibits discrimination based on sex or gender, protects women from domestic violence and sexual harassment.
Thus it is difficult to see how this law does not reflect the interests, aspirations and understanding of all Malawians, especially that of women. One wonders whether those opposing the bill are falling trap to patriarchal tendencies by perceiving women’s equality as a threat to male privilege.
On the upside, local and international gender and human rights activists have hailed the country for this progressive law. In a statement signed by the National Coordinator of Coalition for Prevention of Unsafe Abortion, Chrispin Sibande assured citizens that “people who believe in real human rights and activists will respond accordingly to any attempts to fight gender equality and the Gender Law.”
Calling on the President to withdraw her signature is unspeakable. Such attempts to stifle gender equality and the advancement of women’s rights are not only retrogressive and but threaten the spirit of gender activism in the country.
I urge all gender and human rights activists to reinvigorate that spirit and start strategising on how to implement the law to ensure it benefits all women and girls especially those living in rural areas. I urge those opposing the bill to remember that there can never be human rights if women are not allowed to make their own choices.
Daud Kayisi is gender activist and freelance journalist in Malawi. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.
Daily Nation | World Wide News
AfriPOP! | is the ultimate online destination for the latest new trends in African music, African fashion, and film.
Africa is a Country | The blog that’s not about famine, Bono, or Barack Obama.
Okayafrica quite simply represents Africa’s New Wave; with more than half the population in many African nations under 25, the bright continent is currently undergoing an explosion of vibrant new music, fashion, art and political expression. Okayafrica is the multi-faceted hub capturing the spirit of this unprecedented boom in youth culture, focusing on emerging and progressive artists, blending traditional aesthetics with a futurist lifestyle. Established Okayafrica web series include the Africa In Your Earbuds mixtapes–each mix curated by a breaking, critically acclaimed artist (tUnE-yArDs, Rich Medina, BLK JKS, Saul Williams & others)–and The Roots Of, a series tracing artists’ DNA back to the continent (Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, ?uestlove and Black Thought of The Roots, Frank Ocean, Miguel, Michael K Williams, Flying Lotus and others have already participated). For its Beta launch in July 2010, Okayafrica hosted The World Cup Finale party in Prospect Park, drawing over 20,000 people for a show featuring The Roots, Talib Kweli, and six new African artists (Blitz the Ambassador, Bajah + the Dry Eye Crew, Zakee, Janka Nabay, Dragons of Zynth, and cast members of FELA!). Okayafrica’s online store launched in conjunction with The Roots’ latest release undun in December 2011, and rolled out a new curated line in September of 2012.
Started from Camerapix in 2008, A24 Media is a Pan-African online media agency that connects the rest of the world with content production resources and information from and about Africa. We represent the best of media – past, present and future.
With staff of over 40 African and international professionals, A24 Media produces feature stories, series programs, documentaries, films and photography. We have also established partnerships with top media organizations from around the globe which provide A24 Media with the finest video and still material available anywhere.
Our ability to provide quality professionals for any kind of video or photography venture in Africa, keeps A24 Media in the rolodex of media organizations everywhere. Our stringer/fixer network is, as well, expansive and cuts across all the corners of the continent.
AfricaAdapt is an independent bilingual network (French/English) focused exclusively on Africa. The Network’s aim is to facilitate the flow of climate change adaptation knowledge for sustainable livelihoods between researchers, policy makers, civil society organisations and communities who are vulnerable to climate variability and change across the continent