African WHRDs call on States to recognise and protect WHRDs


WHRDs call on African States to ensure their better recognition and protection ahead of the 56th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights in Banjul.

French version of this article can be found here.

(Banjul, The Gambia) - Women human rights defenders in Africa have called on their governments to ensure that women human rights defenders are able to work in a safe and enabling environment, provided with specific recognition and protection, and that issues of entrenched prejudice and discrimination against them are recognised and addressed. 

The International Service for Human Rights organised a panel discussion focusing on the situation of women human rights defenders in Africa during the NGO Forum preceding the 56th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

‘Women human rights defenders in Africa work within a patriarchal context and confront entrenched stereotypes. In transgressing and challenging these norms, we are subject to a range of extensive and systematic violations,' said Ms Fadzai Muparutsa from the Coalition of African Lesbians during the panel.

Drawing from recent experiences at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2015, Ms Muparutsa expressed her concerns regarding the shrinking space for the genuine inclusion, engagement and expression of women human rights defenders, particularly those working on sexual rights including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, in both international and regional decision-making spaces.

‘Prejudice exists within the very same structures that have been established to protect human rights. This must change,' said Ms Muparutsa.

Ms Tilder Kumichii from Gender Empowerment and Development highlighted the threats, intimidation and attacks that she herself has faced in the course of her work in combating domestic violence and violence against women in Cameroon. ‘Women defenders are threatened to give up their work, often by their own communities and families,’ Ms Kumichii stressed.

It was within this context that the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights in 2012 mandated its Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to engage in a study to examine the situation of women human rights defenders in the continent. The study is to be launched on 23 April 2015, during the upcoming session of the African Commission.

‘The report clearly states that ensuring effective protection for women human rights defenders in Africa requires concrete actions and effective measures from the State,' said Ms Pooja Patel, Programme Manager at ISHR, who chaired the event.

‘This report is too important to be ignored by our governments. The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights should adopt a resolution calling on African States to implement the recommendations from this report,’ urged Ms Kumichii.

The study concluded that the general legal framework for the protection of WHRDs is 'inadequate', indicating that existing laws in Africa are often incompatible with human rights standards. However, some recent developments in some African States are positive steps in the right direction.

Ms Marthe Pédan Coulibaly from the Côte d’Ivoire Coalition of Human Rights Defenders stressed the need for the protection of women human rights defenders through an effective legal framework. The Côte d’Ivoire Law on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights Defenders has a specific provision recognising women human rights defenders.

‘Article 9 of the Law marks great progress but challenges remain in terms of its implementation. There is a need for a decree to outline the modalities for its application, for instance an observatory to monitor the effective implementation of this provision,' said Ms Coulibaly.

Contact: Pooja Patel, ISHR, on



  • Africa
  • Human rights defenders
  • LGBT rights
  • Women's rights and WHRD
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
  • ACHPR Special Rapporteur on HRDs