discrimination

Legal body joins fight for repeal of discriminatory law

It's been a long time coming but the Human Rights Commission in Zambia has finally decided that it will ignore the rantings of the opposition parties and churches and speak out against the discrimination of people on the basis of sexual orientation.

Growing up in Uganda, I had to travel over 600 kilometres from my home to find a school for the blind. But I was lucky. Most children in East Africa – indeed across the continent – who are blind, deaf or have an intellectual disability never receive a proper education. People with psychosocial disabilities are often put into treatment centres that are as good as prisons.

The Botswana Court of Appeal will issue its judgment in Ramantele v Mmusi and Others, a case challenging a customary law that only allows for men to inherit the family home.

This case is an appeal against an October 2012 High Court decision, which struck down an Ngwaketse customary law providing that the youngest son inherits the family home. The High Court held that the customary law was a violation of the right to equality guaranteed under section 3(a) of the Constitution.

“Instead of sitting at home and waiting for flowers on Valentine’s, women have chosen to rise and make demands: making clear that the gift women want is dignity, bodily autonomy, and justice. The flowers can wait,” said Talent Jumo, National Coordinator of the Katswe Sistahood.

A landmark judgement by Justice Oagile Key Dingake in the High Court of Botswana in October 2012 has been lauded as a game-changing watershed for gender rights in sub-Saharan Africa. In a remarkable decision, Dingake ruled that culture could not trump constitutional rights and made a powerful call for other judges to take a stand on gender issues.

Recent years have seen a powerful backlash against the hard-fought gains of the women's movement in many parts of the world, but particularly in southern Africa. A concerted campaign by politicians and spiritual leaders - powered by deeply sexist religious and cultural beliefs - has slowed the progress towards genuine equality and threatened to undermine many of the key achievements of the last few decades. The dreadful Traditional Courts Bill in South Africa is just one of the many ways that women's rights are currently being trampled on by powerful men playing the cultural card.

The Arab uprisings may have been sparked by a man – Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in desperation – but they will be finished by Arab women. They must be if our political revolutions stand a chance of succeeding.

There is nothing extraordinary about Mary-Joyce Doo Aphane. Nor is there anything extraordinary – in most countries – about her desire to register a newly-bought property in both her and her husband’s names. What is extraordinary is that she still couldn’t do that in Swaziland in the 21st century, despite being married in community of property. And what is even more extraordinary is that she took on the out-dated, discriminatory laws in court and won – the first time that Swaziland’s 2005 Constitution has been used as the basis to protect women’s rights.

Amnesty calls for end to homophobic attacks

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