Category Archives: News

India court recognises transgender people as third gender.

India women AIDS Accountability International Transgender

India's Supreme Court has recognised transgender people as a third gender, in a landmark ruling.

"It is the right of every human being to choose their gender," it said in granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female.

It ordered the government to provide transgender people with quotas in jobs and education in line with other minorities, as well as key amenities.

According to one estimate, India has about two million transgender people.

In India, a common term used to describe transgender people, transsexuals, cross-dressers, eunuchs and transvestites is hijra.

Campaigners say they live on the fringes of society, often in poverty, ostracised because of their gender identity. Most make a living by singing and dancing or by begging and prostitution.


Rights groups say they often face huge discrimination and that sometimes hospitals refuse to admit them.

They have been forced to choose either male or female as their gender in most public spheres.

'Proud Indian'

"Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue," Justice KS Radhakrishnan, who headed the two-judge Supreme Court bench, said in his ruling on Tuesday.

"Transgenders are also citizens of India" and they must be "provided equal opportunity to grow", the court said.

"The spirit of the Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender."

The judges asked the government to treat them in line with other minorities officially categorised as "socially and economically backward", to enable them to get quotas in jobs and education.

"We are quite thrilled by the judgement," Anita Shenoy, lawyer for the petitioner National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa), told the BBC.

"The court order gives legal sanctity to the third gender. The judges said the government must make sure that they have access to medical care and other facilities like separate wards in hospitals and separate toilets," she said.

Prominent transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, who was among the petitioners in the case, welcomed the judgement, saying the community had long suffered from discrimination and ignorance in the traditionally conservative country, reports the Agence France-Presse news agency.

"Today, for the first time I feel very proud to be an Indian," Ms Tripathi told reporters outside the court in Delhi.

In 2009, India's Election Commission took a first step by allowing transgenders to choose their gender as "other" on ballot forms.

But India is not the first country to recognise a third gender. Nepal recognised a third gender as early as in 2007 when the Supreme Court ordered the government to scrap all laws that discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And last year, Bangladesh also recognised a third gender.

Tuesday's ruling comes after the Supreme Court's decision in December which criminalised gay sex by reversing a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court order which had decriminalised homosexual acts.

According to a 153-year-old colonial-era law – Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code – a same-sex relationship is an "unnatural offence" and punishable by a 10-year jail term.

Legal experts say Tuesday's judgement puts transgender people in a strange situation: on the one hand, they are now legally recognised and protected under the Constitution, but on the other hand they may be breaking the law if they have consensual gay sex.

By Yogita Limaye

15 April 2014


US and EU push Africans once more on abortion and homosexuality.


UN AIDS Accountability InternationalNEW YORK, April 11, 2014 ( – Africans are crying foul after wealthy Western countries ambushed them with a draft resolution that re-opens the troublesome issues of abortion and homosexuality in UN negotiations.


“You have set a precedent here that will not be forgotten,” said a representative from Cameroon at a briefing three weeks ago. Western countries have proposed a resolution for the annual UN Commission on Population and Development that surreptitiously endorses abortion and homosexuality, even though Africans asked to avoid those controversies.


The U.S., European and some Latin countries are increasingly insistent on homosexuality and abortion ahead of negotiations over a new UN development agenda in September, desperate to include homosexuality and abortion in future development efforts.
Africans for their part don’t want to be pressured on these issues, and have repeatedly stated that these are matters best left to countries individually.


When powerful western governments made their intentions for the resolution known, the Africans on the commission were furious.


The resolution includes references to regional agreements that touch on abortion and sexual orientation and gender identity—contentious issues that do not enjoy universal support at the United Nations. It was prepared by Uruguay, which is chairing the commission this year.


During negotiations this week the Africans repeated their position.


They don’t want a resolution to touch on substantive issues. They would rather have a resolution that defers to the UN General Assembly with regards to abortion and homosexuality in UN development policies.


In 2010 the General Assembly re-committed countries to the development policies agreed to at the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development, and clearly announced that it would not re-negotiate those policies. This year marks the 20thanniversary of the seminal development scheme that made sexual and reproductive health a UN development issue.

The Cairo conference dealt with sexual and reproductive health, but did not include homosexual rights or a right to abortion.
African countries and other developing nations are adamant, now as in 2010, that the Cairo policies should not be re-negotiated or re-interpreted to include abortion and homosexuality.


They are worried about re-opening sensitive issues like sexual rights, abortion and homosexuality. The Cairo policies could not have been adopted had they included such rights, and the issues are still controversial 20 years later.


In fact, no UN treaty or political document recognizes homosexuality or abortion as rights. The General Assembly has been conspicuously silent on these issues because so many countries still have laws that prohibit and restrict abortion as well as laws that punish sodomy.


Together with key allies in Asia and Latin America, Western countries insist that the UN framework must recognize homosexuality and abortion. It is a human rights issue to them.


The commission comes on the heels of another UN conference where Western countries had to twist arms in order to get their way with the Africans. It remains to be seen how far they are willing to go this time around.


All indications are that Western governments have invested heavily in this meeting. Several of the UN officials and government officials that negotiated the Cairo agreement 20 years ago are at UN headquarters. Abortion groups and UN agencies are also out in force raising the issue of abortion and homosexuality at every turn.


By Stefano Gennarini, J.D.
10 April 2014


Global Fund And Tiered Medicines Pricing Under Debate.



Global Fund AIDS Accountability International CCM Gemma OberthThe Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has launched an initiative with other agencies aimed at expanding global access to health products such as medicines. But the Fund has had some explaining to do about the initiative, which some say could encompass a plan to allow different prices based on national income levels.


The issue dates back to late 2013, when Global Fund Executive Director Mark Dybul’s report to the 30th Board Meeting [pdf] of the Fund (7-8 November) mentioned tiered pricing as a means to expand access.


A paragraph of the report entitled “tiered pricing to expand access,” stipulated that “As part of our [Global Fund] move to better accommodate and adjust our business model according to the different states of the development continuum, we have developed a new multi-agency initiative to help expand access to essential health commodities through a multi-tiered pricing framework.” The initiative, it said, is geared towards middle-income countries. The paragraph said the initiative is co-sponsored by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF, UNITAID, and the GAVI Alliance. It adds that the Global Fund will also be actively collaborating with the World Health Organization.


The initiative would “create a blue-ribbon Task Force of leading multidisciplinary experts, which will develop a framework for multiple pricing – and royalty tiers for health commodities to help ensure a sustainable marketplace and maximize availability across countries of all income levels.”


On 7-8 April, UNITAID and the WHO are hosting an invite-only “2014 HIV Market Forum” in Geneva, in which one one of the subjects is tiered pricing. Attendees include key players in the discussion, such as Dybul and representatives of advocacy groups, academics and others.


Global Fund Denies Tiered Pricing Focus, Others Silent


Seth Faison, head of communications for the Global Fund, told Intellectual Property Watch that, “The Global Fund does not have and will not have a tiered pricing scheme. But we are looking at a broader review of all elements that contribute to access for countries that are transitioning to middle income status.”


Contacted about their involvement in the process, potential partners remained silent. Nobody at UNDP was available to comment, and a spokesperson for GAVI said it did not have anything to say on the subject. At press time, UNICEF and the World Bank had not answered.


An official from India, meanwhile, told Intellectual Property Watch that the country “has serious concerns as tiered pricing is not an appropriate solution for ensuring access to affordable medicines.” He also said it was worrisome that governments had not been included in the process.


Draft Documents


A 6-page draft document [pdf] from the initiative, thought to be from February, analysed the current access situation, detailed a strategy for equitable access in middle-income countries (MICs), and plans to engage a task force of experts to develop a global access framework. It also included an action plan, desired outcomes, project milestones, and parameters for choosing the experts for the task force.


An apparent second version, dated 18 March, has appeared in an annex to an academic analysis.


Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) released the February draft of the document. It was titled, “Equitable Access to Essential Medicines and Vaccines: Developing a Framework for Success,” which they attributed to the Global Fund. KEI posted an analysis entitled, “Resurrecting the Ghost of Høsbjør Past: Global Fund seeks to establish global framework on tiered pricing enforced by WTO rules.”


The Global Fund confirmed to Intellectual Property Watch that what is thought to be the February version was a draft document that has been circulated with partners for discussion purposes and it includes writing from several parties.


The second draft was released by Brook Baker, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law (US) and policy analyst for Health Gap. Baker published it in the annex of his academic analysis, and the text has not been confirmed by the Global Fund.


The later version has the title is “Equitable Access to Basic Medicines, Vaccines and Diagnostics: Towards a Framework for Success [3/18/14].” In this version, the title added the word “Basic.” The paragraph on tiered pricing is entitled, “No systematic global framework on tiered pricing for essential health commodities to respond to the access dilemma.” This version drops the reference to MICs in the title, but still refers to MICs in the paragraph.


Civil Society Concerns


Members of civil society have raised concern that the text favours tiered pricing, and contains other worrisome language.


In particular, the February version of the text included a paragraph indicating that the framework “will have lasting influence and will be considered by the G20 [20 top economies], the World Trade Organization (WTO), or other relevant institutions….” Some observers noted the absence of a mention of the WHO or other global health agencies. The document further hints at an enforcement mechanism for the framework, mentioning the WTO.


The version released by Baker no longer included that mention. It just mentioned that the task force will conduct formal outreach towards institutions such as the G20 and the WTO “that may have interest in the ultimate framework proposed.”


In his analysis, Baker notes that the objectives of the task force to be established by the Global Fund are “less tiered-pricing centric, but tiered pricing is still hard-wired in as the single solution that the proponents continue to champion.” This view is shared by several civil society sources.


Several strategies are being considered in the draft documents.


The summary of the version released by Baker mentions that, “Based on economic and development analysis, as well as on a principle of tradeoffs – such a framework would identify and consider a range of access strategies acceptable to Development Partners, Multilateral Institutions, Bilateral donors, the Governments of affected countries, Civil Society and Industry.”


It goes on to say that strategies that might be considered “include licensing, technology transfers, royalties, Advanced Market Commitments, creating conditions for both innovator and generic competition, and a framework for tiered pricing; all buoyed by a firm understanding of each relevant market, policy and regulatory processes, and country environments.”


“Therefore,” it says, “a number of Development Partners (GAVI12, GFATM13, The World Bank, UNDP14, UNICEF and UNITAID) are engaging a Task Force of leading experts from the public, private and NGO sectors, to respond to the access challenge in MICs”


Support for Tiered Pricing


A WHO definition on “Differential pricing (sometimes also called tiered pricing),” states: “The sale of the same good to different buyers at different prices, with the aim of improving the affordability of drugs while generating revenue for the pharmaceutical industry. Differential pricing has reduced the cost of many anti-retroviral HIV/AIDS therapies by up to 90% in low-income countries, although they continue to be sold at market price in developed countries. There are concerns that differential pricing will result in product diversion, with cheaper drugs leaking back into wealthy countries.”


The same WHO page adds that “The terms “differential”, “tiered”, “preferential”, “discounted pricing”, and “market segmentation” are also used to describe the practice of charging lower prices in different markets. “They do not necessarily result in affordability or equitable access to a product.”


According to a paper by PharmTech, an information source from a group called Pharmaceutical Technology and Pharmaceutical Technology Europe, “Many companies use tiered pricing models, also known as differential pricing, for the distribution of their pharmaceutical products.” The paper says that the strategy of differential pricing “largely took off in 2000 with the launch of the Accelerating Access Initiative (AAI), a collaboration of global regulatory bodies, United Nations (UN) agencies, and the pharmaceutical industry.”


According to a website called Global Health Progress, the agencies participating in the AAI in 2000 were: UNAIDS, WHO, UNICEF, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Bank and seven research-based pharmaceutical companies (Abbott, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck & Co., Inc., Roche, Tibotec (an affiliate of Johnson & Johnson) and ViiV Healthcare, which combines the HIV medicines operations of GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer.


Mario Ottiglio, director for public affairs and global health policy at the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), told Intellectual Property Watch that “tiered pricing is one effective and sustainable way in which pharmaceutical companies, independently from each other, help improve access to medicines and vaccines.”


“Our members opted for tiered pricing in several cases, particularly for antiretroviral treatments for HIV/AIDS and vaccines,” Ottiglio said. “To be successful, these approaches need to thrive in strengthened health systems where funding, demand and infrastructure are reliable.”


Doubts about Tiered Pricing


However, tiered pricing has been called into question by public health advocates.


After Dybul’s report to the 30th Board Meeting of the Global Fund, civil society reacted strongly against the initiative (IPW, Public Health, 10 December 2013). Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) published a paper on 2 December. And Suerie Moon (research director and co-chair of the Forum on Global Governance for Health, Harvard Global Health Institute and Harvard School of Public Health) wrote a blog warning against “a potential retreat from the time-tested pro-generic policies.”


Another example was a 2011 study [pdf] co-authored by Moon, Elodie Jambert (MSF), Michelle Childs (MSF), and Tido von Schoen-Angerer (MSF) entitled, “A win-win solution?: A critical analysis of tiered pricing to improve access to medicines in developing countries,” and posted as a resource on a WHO resource webpage.


The study found that although tiered pricing had received widespread support from industry, policymakers, civil society and academics, “evidence and experience suggest that, in practice, tiered pricing has a number of significant drawbacks.” In particular, the study said, “tiered pricing does not necessarily imply that a price is equitable or affordable; rather, it simply means that different prices are charged to different segments of the market for the same product.”


“The business case for tiered pricing is strong,” the authors said. “When markets can be separated, adapting the product price to the consumer’s willingness or ability to pay is a profit-maximizing strategy.”


“In comparison, when markets are sufficiently large and multiple sources of production exist, robust competition has consistently proven across different therapeutic areas to result in lower prices,” they said. “Second, no clear international norm has been established for setting price tiers, nor is there a simple or satisfactory way to allocate payment for R&D costs across various developing countries.”


“Tiered pricing policies give too little decision-making power to governments,” the authors said. “Rather, tiered pricing leaves this important issue almost entirely in thehands of private companies over which populations have few means to demand accountability.”


They concluded that tiered pricing should be considered as a temporary solution in markets with very small volumes or “highly uncertain,” such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, and multisource production capacity is lacking.


MSF Takes Stance on Potential Framework


“MSF has several issues with both the process of the initiative, and the content of the proposed framework,” an MSF source told Intellectual Property Watch recently.


“The discussion on how to increase access to medicines and vaccines for patients living in middle-income countries is long overdue and very important for MSF,” she said. “However, the discussions should be lead by member states, be open to public input and take place in institutions with a wider mandate like the WHO.”


“The concern is that the framework imagined by the Global Fund favours tiered-pricing as the main solution. The framework should be looking at a broad variety of different tools,” she pointed out. It is “completely inappropriate” that global health agencies join in an industry effort to promote tiered pricing, she said, “rather than trying to ensure that all options options to facilitate affordable prices for all are on the table for governments and patients to use.”


Middle-income country patients are increasingly faced with a double burden of disease and high prices, she said, as they are affected by communicable as well as non-communicable diseases. They also are losing funding support from traditional global health donors. Those countries are now increasingly requested to contribute as donors, she said.


Competition is a much better tool than tiered pricing, she said, as it also invigorates a much-needed innovation to better respond to the needs of patients. Tiered pricing does not address the barrier that the current IP system creates to develop fixed-dose paediatric drug combinations and other innovation needs, the MSF source said.


By Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch

7 April 2014

African Leaders Challenged to Address Key Populations

AIDS Accountability Chissano ICPD

JOHANNESBURG, (SAfAIDS Media Desk) – Former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano has challenged African Leaders to ensure that their citizens access information and services that reflect  their sexual and reproductive health needs. He said this while giving a Keynote Address at aTweet@able Regional Policy Dialogue on Integrated  Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV Services for Key Populations in East and Southern Africa in Johannesburg today.


In his opening address Former President Chissano emphasised the importance of guaranteeing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for key populations in the post 2015 development agenda. He highlighted the need for leaders in various spectrums to join him in championing the rights of minority groups across the continent to access SRHR services.


President Chissano said that strategic plans of multiple countries in Africa include prioritizing key populations in the fight against HIV and AIDS and ensuring equal and easy access to SRHR services. The involvement of leaders, the community and individuals in policy suggestions will ensure that 2015 development goals are met.


The dialogue is providing  a platform for discussions on the increasing numbers of contraction and transmission of HIV within minority groups and key populations. The leaders explored how they can work together with organisations and individuals to reduce negative attitudes and encourage those in power to take charge of the protection of the rights of minority groups.


Participants to the dialogues include representatives from the South African Health ministry, MP’s from Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe,  the AU, UNAIDS, SADC, funding partners among others.


The key message being advocated for is Leadership is Protecting All. President Chissano ended his address with the words ‘’Leadership is Protecting All. Protecting All is Leadership”.


The tweetable dialogue offered a chance for participants outside the venue to join in the panel discussions on SRHR and interact with policy makers. The dialogues also provided an opportunity for minority persons to get connected with organisations and leaders; they could also learn how the others across the continent are dealing with healing, HIV/AIDS and sexual health.


Join the conversations on twitter by following us @SAfAIDS and tag us on #SRHR4kepops. Have your say.


Contact SAfAIDS Media Desk


Memorandum on Human Rights Priorities for the European Union-Africa Summit.


The European Union (EU)-Africa summit provides an important opportunity to highlight crucial human rights developments in both Africa and Europe. Progress is being made on many human rights issues in an array of countries, but daunting challenges remain. The summit agenda includes both democracy and governance and peace and security, two broad topics that include a range of human rights concerns.

Human Rights Watch is concerned by some of the negative trends, particularly in Africa regarding the respect for human rights defenders and violations of the rights to freedom of association, expression, and peaceful assembly, and in the EU in relation to the rights of migrant and asylum seekers, and discrimination and intolerance towards migrants and minorities.

This memorandum summarizes key thematic concerns, provides links to specific country information where relevant, and urges African and European member states to implement recommendations that would help address ongoing human rights violations that threaten the lives and well-being of citizens across the continent, as well as the sustainable development of numerous countries.

I. Democracy and Good Governance

Threats to Freedom of Expression, Association, and Peaceful Assembly in Africa

The proliferation of a wide range of nongovernmental organizations and independent media has been among the most important positive developments across Africa in the past two decades. Independent media, civil society activists, and nongovernmental organizations play essential roles in any democratic society, whether through investigating and reporting on government policy, exposing corruption and human rights violations, advocating for the rights of minorities and vulnerable communities, or providing health, education, and other social services.

Human rights defenders—whether individuals, groups, lawyers, or journalists—are fundamental to ensuring the ability of all people to know, understand, and enjoy their rights. They also play a key role in exposing as well as assisting those seeking redress for human rights violations. A vibrant civil society and independent media is also critical for the conduct of free and fair elections in line with international standards. Furthermore, recent events in North Africa and the Arab world demonstrate how public access to communications and Internet technology and the increasing use of social media have amplified both the appetite for information as well as the ability of individuals from all segments of society to organize and respond to developments that affect their lives and interests.

Yet these exciting trends have also provoked a backlash in a number of countries, particularly those governed by longstanding, often authoritarian leaders and ruling parties who fear and suppress independent criticism, political opposition, and peaceful public dissent. As briefly described below, the backlash has assumed a number of forms including: threats, harassment, arbitrary detention, and prosecution of human rights defenders; censorship of independent media and nongovernmental voices; the promulgation and use of laws that violate fundamental rights to freedom of expression and association; and unlawful state efforts to undermine, bar, or crack down on peaceful protests.

Harassment and Prosecution of Human Rights Defenders
Harassment, threats, arbitrary detentions, and politically motivated prosecutions of human rights defenders, including journalists, human rights activists, anti-corruption campaigners, and others have become an alarming, regular feature of too many countries in Africa.

Eritrea presents an extreme case where no independent civil society or media is permitted to operate, but other countries have shown an increasingly repressive tendency or created a hostile environment in which activists and media self-censor due to fear of heavy-handed repercussions.

In countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, journalists and human rights defenders have been the target of threats and physical attacks from state agents. In others, such as in Kenya and Somalia, unidentified assailants who may or may not be affiliated with the state are responsible for numerous acts of violence, including killings. In other countries, such as Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan, abuses usually take the form of harassment, arbitrary detentions, and prosecutions.

Many countries have used a combination of direct threats and oppressive laws and state policies to undermine human rights defenders. Rwanda’s domestic human rights movement has been almost destroyed by state intimidation, personal threats, infiltration, and administrative obstacles. In Burundithe government has often responded to the work of human rights activists and journalists by labeling them mouthpieces of the opposition. Ethiopia’s independent human rights groups have been forced to either stop working on human rights issues or dramatically curtail their activities due to increasingly repressive laws on association and restrictions on foreign funding. Equatorial Guinea also imposes excessive restrictions on the registration and operation of nongovernmental groups, and has no legally registered independent human rights groups. Sudan has shut down human rights and democracy organizations without cause, imposed burdensome registration requirements, and has used its repressive national security apparatus to monitor civil society groups and target individual activists for arrest and detention.

Harassment and arrests of human rights defenders by state security forces frequently increases in the lead-up or aftermath of national elections, as occurred in Zimbabwe in 2013. In Uganda, threats to civil society activists and the media have been linked to reporting on sensitive issues like corruption, oil, land or President Yoweri Museveni’s eventual succession. The Ugandan government’s raids on theDaily Monitor, a leading newspaper, and other media in May 2013 was a clear example of the severity of politically motivated attacks against the media. Uganda’s ruling party uses a wide range of tactics to stifle critical reporting, from occasional physical violence to threats, harassment, bureaucratic interference, and trumped-up criminal charges against journalists. This was particularly apparent during political unrest in September 2009 and prior to the February 2011 elections.

In certain countries, such as Cameroonand Uganda, activists working on the rights of vulnerable minorities—such as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)—have had workshops shut down and faced particular threats. In Zambia, an HIV/AIDS activist is currently on trial simply for suggesting in a TV interview that decriminalizing same-sex conduct would help facilitate HIV outreach to sexual minorities. Recent laws criminalizing homosexuality in Nigeria and Uganda present a worrying trend that could also have significant impact on human rights activism and advocacy more broadly given the wide latitude of the legislation. In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law on January 7, 2014, the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill. It is a sweeping and dangerous piece of legislation that criminalizes public displays of affection between same-sex couples and restricts the work of organizations defending gay people and their rights. The law could lead to imprisonment solely for a person’s actual or imputed sexual orientation. People could face charges for consensual adult sexual relations in private; advocacy of LGBT rights; or public expression of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The terms “same-sex marriage” and “civil union” are so broadly defined in the law that they include virtually any form of same-sex cohabitation.

Mainstream human rights organizations in Nigeria could be threatened for opposing the law, and have said they fear speaking out about it. Funders or supporters of LGBT rights and related work in Nigeria could also face increased scrutiny under the law. The law will hinder public health efforts to work on HIV and could criminalize programs funded by major donors that provide education on HIV prevention and health for men who have sex with men.

In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law on February 24, 2014. The new law not only increases the penalty for same-sex conduct to up to life imprisonment, but creates a raft of new and vague criminal offenses that violate the rights to freedom of expression and association among others. The “attempt to commit homosexuality” now incurs a penalty of seven years as does “aiding and abetting” homosexuality. A person who “keeps a house, room, set of rooms, or place of any kind for purposes of homosexuality” also faces seven years’ imprisonment. Because the law also criminalizes the “promotion” of homosexuality, a person could now go to prison simply for expressing a peaceful opinion. Local and international nongovernmental organizations doing legitimate human rights advocacy could now be at risk of criminal sentencing of up to seven years. Public health promotion and prevention efforts targeting “at risk” groups might have to be curtailed, and health educators and healthcare providers could face criminal prosecution under the same provision.

Human Rights Watch urges African and EU representatives participating in the summit to call for and support:
• Thorough investigations of any cases of harassment, threats, or violence against human rights defenders and other civil society activists, and violations of their rights to free expression, association and assembly. Those responsible for such abuses should be held accountable, regardless of position or rank.
• Uganda and Nigeria to take immediate steps to suspend implementation and repeal discriminatory legislation and take substantive steps to ensure all laws comply with their international human rights obligations.
• Thorough reviews of the impact of the Ugandan and Nigerian laws on all EU-supported development projects and programs, particularly taking time to ensure that objectives can be met without a) exposing implementing partners, project employees or beneficiaries to possible criminal prosecution under the laws, and b) discrimination or discriminatory provision of services.

Abusive Laws Regulating the Media and Civil Society
Journalists in Africa are frequently arrested and prosecuted under a variety of laws for doing their work as reporters in violation of international protections for free expression and media freedom. Ethiopia’s prosecution of at least 13 journalists under its counterterrorism law has been a particularly sinister misuse of domestic legislation. More often, countries seeking to limit the independent media introduce specific media legislation. A media law adopted in Burundi in June 2013 undermines the protection of sources, limits subjects on which journalists may report, imposes new fines for media found in violation of the law, and requires journalists to have a minimum level of education and professional experience. Following a legal challenge by the Burundian Union of Journalists, the Constitutional Court ruled in January 2014 that certain articles of the media law were unconstitutional. This provides an opportunity for the Burundian government to not only modify those articles, but ensure that the law as a whole respects journalistic freedom and protects Burundi’s vibrant independent media. Kenya is currently considering legislation that could give authorities a broad remit to censor media and limit foreign funding of nongovernmental organizations.

In Rwanda, where journalists have faced years of intimidation, media laws adopted in 2013 appeared to increase the scope for independent journalism, but a range of other laws have been used to silence media criticism. After several journalists were arrested and convicted in connection with their articles, most Rwandan journalists do not dare investigate or report on human rights abuses by the state or comment on politically sensitive issues.

Criminal defamation laws remain a concern across a number of African countries, particularly Angola, where the country’s most prominent anti-corruption campaigner, Rafael Marques de Morais, has been subjected to nine defamation lawsuits in the last year. Yet civil defamation laws can also be problematic. For example, by allowing damage awards in defamation cases that are far beyond the ability of most Liberian newspapers to pay—and mandating imprisonment for non-payment—Liberian law makes imprisonment the likely outcome of many civil defamation cases, which creates a serious chilling effect on journalism.

Public order and information laws are also frequently used to curtail independent media and civil society activities and public demonstrations on governance issues. For instance the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Public Order Security Act in Zimbabweand the recently passed Public Order Management Bill in Ugandahave been or may be used in this way. Even South Africa, widely considered to be one of the most liberal media environments on the continent, has passed a controversial Protection of State Information Bill, known as the “Secrecy Bill,” which could limit protection for journalists and whistleblowers seeking to report information that is in the public interest.

Yet the picture is not entirely bleak. A growing number of African countries, such as Sierra Leone, have passed or are in the process of passing freedom of information laws that could play a crucial role in improving government transparency, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.
Human Rights Watch urges African and EU representatives participating in the summit to:
• Call for the repeal or amendment of legislation that restricts freedom of expression and association, including provisions that limit foreign funding, impose arbitrary or intrusive requirements on the ability of nongovernmental organizations to function, or limit the types of lawful activity that organizations can undertake.
• Support legislation, such as freedom of information laws and other legislation that promotes the rights to freedom of information, expression and association.

Crackdowns on Peaceful Protests
Restrictions on freedom of expression and association are often coupled with crackdowns on public protests. Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Angola, to name a few, have seen public demonstrations in the past few years on a variety of issues, often linked to public concerns over corruption, accountability or state failure to respect human rights and account for violations.

The situation in Burundi is becoming increasingly tense, with repeated confrontations between opposition party members, on the one hand, and the police and the government on the other. Government and police have obstructed opposition party meetings and disrupted demonstrations and other activities. In February, the government attempted to impose pro-ruling party leaders on the opposition party UPRONA, prompting the resignation of all three UPRONA ministers and effectively splitting the party into two. In March, violent clashes between the police and members of the MSD opposition party led to arrests, injuries, and a suspension of the MSD. In March, 69 MSD members were charged in connection with their alleged role in a confrontation with the police. After a summary trial that lasted just one day, and with no time to prepare their defense, 21 were sentenced to life imprisonment, and 34 to various other prison terms.

Sudan’s violent repression of protests in Khartoum and other cities and towns in September 2013 resulted in 170 deaths of protesters and the detention of hundreds. Sudanese security forces arbitrarily detained and tortured peaceful protesters in 2011 and 2012. The Angolan government has responded to periodic protests by a youth movement and war veterans with regular arbitrary detentions and the use of unnecessary or excessive force by security forces. In a similar fashion, the Zimbabwe security forces have quashed peaceful protests with excessive force and arbitrary arrests and detention. Protests by members of the Muslim community in Ethiopia have been met with excessive force, beatings, and detentions, a pattern replicated in Uganda, which has seen several protest movements quashed by abusive police and other security forces.

The EU-Africa summit should:
• Stress that the right to peaceful assembly is a fundamental right embodied in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international human rights law.
• Condemn the unnecessary or excessive use of force by security forces in response to protests.
• Call on the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights to investigate serious situations in which state security forces have used excessive force against protesters, including most recently in Sudan.

II. Peace and Security

The rapid escalation of conflicts in the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan over the past several months demonstrates the unintended consequences of decades of repression, weak institutions, corruption, and the legacy of impunity in some African countries.

In South Sudan, conflict erupted in December 2013 between pro-government and opposition forces, and has included massive abuses against civilians. The violence has taken on dangerous ethnic overtones across the country and reflects South Sudan’s legacy of impunity for mass crimes during years of civil war. Human Rights Watch has urged both parties to end abuses and ensure justice for crimes against civilians as a key step toward lasting peace.

The African Union (AU) responded in late December by establishing a Commission of Inquiry into the human rights violations and abuses committed. The Commission is set to begin work in April. Human Rights Watch and other international and South Sudanese groups have called on the AU to ensure the Commission be effective, credible, impartial, and independent, that it be staffed with relevant forensic investigators and human rights experts, and that it make public its findings. The EU, which has also pledged to support accountability, should extend support to the AU’s Commission.

With regard to the CAR, to their credit, both the EU and AU responded by pledging or deploying troops in a very insecure and dangerous situation. Those responses have been much appreciated by residents of CAR and the humanitarian actors working to address the massive crisis there.

Human Rights Watch has been documenting abuses in the CAR for the past year and has observed that the presence of the peacekeepers has deterred some violence. In other cases, however, we have seen troops abandon their neutrality and get drawn into the conflict between the Seleka and anti-balaka forces. In some instances, Chadian peacekeeping troops have facilitated the movement of armed Seleka leaders—complicit in grave abuses—to areas where the Seleka can regroup. We have urged the AU to rein in these rogue forces and prevent them from allowing the Seleka to prey on civilians.

Human Rights Watch has also repeatedly called for the augmentation of African and European peacekeeping in CAR, particularly with the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force that can help stabilize the divided nation, prevent further abuses, and help rebuild tattered institutions. Until that force is on the ground, the AU peacekeeping force, known as MISCA, and the French Sangaris need to take immediate additional measures to provide greater security, including actively patrolling areas vulnerable to violence, especially those where minority Muslim populations remain. In the wake of the Seleka collapse, thousands of Muslim residents have fled to the neighboring countries of Chad,Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Remaining Muslim residents are at extreme risk of violence, either in their homes or on the streets, in Bangui or in more remote locations, such as the south western region. There is an urgent need for more peacekeepers and more resources to contend with this human rights and humanitarian catastrophe.

African and EU representatives at the summit should:
• Call on all the warring parties in South Sudan to protect civilians and civilian property;
• Ensure that the South Sudan Commission of Inquiry is effective, credible, impartial, and independent, that it is staffed with competent forensic investigators and human rights experts, and that it makes its findings public.
• Urgently support the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force in the CAR and expedite the deployment of EU forces in the interim.

Africa and International Justice

In 2014, the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide acts as a sober reminder that ensuring accountability for international crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide remains one of the most urgent issues on the continent. The EU-Africa summit comes at a time of intense challenges for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Africa. The election of ICC suspects Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto as Kenya’s president and deputy president has generated renewed backlash to the ICC from the AU and some African leaders. The EU-Africa summit is an important moment for African ICC member states to affirm support for the court.

The ICC has its flaws, but it is a crucial court of last resort. Its reach should be expanded, not hindered. Ideally, domestic courts will have the capacity and willingness to ensure justice when serious crimes in violation of international law are committed, but in many cases the judiciary in countries where such crimes are perpetrated is weak. Regional courts have also faced difficulty in their judgments being respected or continuing to operate after taking independent decisions.

There are double standards in the application of international justice: some powerful countries have not joined the ICC and the Security Council has used its power to refer situations to the ICC inconsistently. But justice should not be denied where it is possible because it is not yet possible everywhere. African governments should press for justice wherever the worst crimes are committed, such as in Syria, but not hinder the prospects for justice in Africa. As has been shown in countries such as Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya, impunity tends to foster renewed crimes.

A 2013 AU summit decision calls for immunity for sitting officials before international courts. This is contrary to the very core of the ICC’s Rome Statute, which considers the official capacity of those responsible for grave crimes to be irrelevant. This has been a cornerstone of international law since the post-World War II trials at Nuremberg, and is included in the statutes of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

The EU-Africa summit should:
• Reaffirm the importance of the ICC in bringing to justice those responsible for the gravest international crimes that cannot be prosecuted in domestic courts.

The Rights of Asylum Seekers and Migrants in the EU

The approach of the EU and its member states to migration and asylum is too often characterized by an emphasis on migration control and border enforcement at the expense of the rights of migrants and asylum seekers, including the right to seek asylum.

Deaths at Sea
The death of over 500 people in October 2013 in two shipwrecks off the Italian island of Lampedusa rightly focused the EU’s attention on boat migration in the Mediterranean. That same month Italy launched an ongoing naval search and rescue operation called Mare Nostrum that has rescued over 14,000 people by mid-March 2014. In December 2013, the Council of the EU endorsed recommendations developed by a specially created task force on short and medium-term measures to limit the loss of life of migrants and asylum seekers at sea.

Human Rights Watch is concerned that many of the EU’s proposed policy responses, though framed in terms of saving lives, reflect the EU’s preoccupation with border enforcement through an emphasis on preventing departure and barring entry. This can be seen in the focus on increased border surveillance—primarily through the launch of EUROSUR, a platform for information sharing among EU countries for the purpose of detecting irregular migratory movements—cooperation with countries of origin and of transit, including joint naval patrols, and a crackdown on people smuggling. The debate has revived longstanding disputes among EU member states about responsibilities for rescue operations, for determining where those rescued should be disembarked, and for processing migrants and asylum seekers.

Enhanced efforts to save lives at sea should go hand-in-hand with respect for other fundamental rights, such as the right to seek asylum and protection against torture and ill-treatment. Human Rights Watch recommends the EU to take the following steps:
• Ensure that increased surveillance of the Mediterranean, including through implementation of EUROSUR, is focused on the paramount duty of rescue at sea, on the basis of a broad definition of distress and a presumption that all intercepted or rescued persons will be taken to the closest safe port of call in an EU country;
• Adopt binding rules to avoid disputes about disembarkation points to ensure that migrants are taken promptly to a safe port of call and given access to asylum, including in situations where the rescue is conducted by private vessels;
• Develop orderly and legal entry mechanisms for asylum seekers; and
• Ensure that immigration cooperation with sending and transit countries is subject to clear and enforceable human rights safeguards.

Access to Asylum
While the EU has moved towards harmonization of asylum procedures and reception standards across the Union, including with the adoption in June 2013 of an asylum package, asylum seekers face gaps in protection in a number of member states. Despite reforms in Greece, asylum seekers there continue to encounter serious obstacles accessing the asylum system, a large backlog in processing cases, and inadequate reception conditions or prolonged detention in sometimes abusive conditions. Asylum seekers in Bulgaria also face poor reception and detention conditions, as well as summary returns to Turkey without proper procedures and excessive use of force by border police. Italy has largely failed to implement a long-term approach for asylum seekers and refugees, adopting instead short-lived “emergency plans” that do not guarantee consistent, adequate standards of treatment, conditions, and access to asylum.

Summary expulsions from the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla to Morocco are also a problem, raising concerns that persons in need of international protection are being denied access to asylum procedures and other protections, and that both asylum seekers and irregular migrants are returned without due process to the risk of abuse at the hands of Moroccan security forces. Fifteen migrants drowned on February 6, 2014, while swimming to Ceuta amid serious concerns that the actions of the Spanish Guardia Civil, including firing rubber bullets and teargas at the water, contributed to the deaths.

Recent reform of EU directives brought certain improvements to common EU standards, but the common rules provide broad grounds for detention of asylum seekers, do not obligate member states to provide free legal assistance at first instance, and fail to exempt especially vulnerable asylum seekers, including torture survivors and unaccompanied children, from accelerated procedures. Maltahas a virtually automatic detention policy for up to 18 months, while asylum seekers in Greece may also be held in detention for up to 18 months if they apply for asylum after being detained for irregular migration.

Accelerated procedures at borders, including asylum hearings, are inherently unsuitable for complex cases, and make it difficult for individuals to present medical or other evidence of their need for international protection. Human Rights Watch has documented how such procedures put unaccompanied children at risk of expedited removal from France and fast-track women victims of sexual violence in the United Kingdom into detention and denial of protection.

Asylum seekers as well as unaccompanied children also face transfers between EU countries under the Dublin regulation or bilateral agreements. The Dublin regulation requires as a general rule that the first EU country of entry be responsible for assessing asylum claims, and allows member states to return anyone to the first EU country they entered even if that first country lacks a fully functioning asylum system and adequate reception conditions, or otherwise offers less protection. Recent reforms to the regulation have improved safeguards, including by requiring member states to assess the risk of inhuman or degrading treatment before transfer to another EU country. Concerns remain that theDublin system does not properly weigh the variety of factors that might connect an asylum seeker to one state over another, including wider family relations, community ties, language, as well as personal preference of the applicant. Human Rights Watch has also documented how Italy bypasses the Dublin regulation entirely through summary returns to Greece of adult asylum seekers and unaccompanied children who stow away on ferries from Greece to Italy.

We urge the EU-Africa summit to reaffirm the importance of access to fair and effective asylum procedures and decent reception conditions. EU institutions should monitor and enforce, including through infringement proceedings, full compliance with EU asylum regulations. EU member states should consider further reforming the Dublin regulation. Detention of asylum seekers should be used only as a last resort and for the shortest time possible, and EU countries should not detain unaccompanied children and families with children, but rather provide them with safe reception accommodation.

Discrimination and Intolerance in the EU

Discrimination and intolerance against minorities, including Muslims and Roma, and migrants is a serious concern across the EU. Comprehensive data compiled by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, judgments by the European Court of Human Rights, assessments by UN treaty bodies and experts, as well as numerous NGO reports, including by Human Rights Watch, all point to persistent hostility and discrimination against certain groups.

Despite binding international and regional norms on combating hate crimes, numerous EU countries lack robust legislation and machinery to adequately address violence based on ethnic or racial prejudice. Human Rights Watch has documented the failure of police and the judiciary in ItalyandGreece to investigate, prosecute, and punish appropriately xenophobic attacks against migrants and minorities, and the inadequacy of state response to hate crimes in Germany.

The use of unlawful ethnic profiling by law enforcement affects minorities and migrants in EU countries. In France, overly broad grounds for police stops and the lack of clear guidelines leads to repeated and abusive identity checks targeting blacks and Arabs, violating anti-discrimination norms and undermining police-community relations. In Greece, Athens police conduct abusive stops and searches based on ethnic profiling and have detained tens of thousands of people, including many legal migrants, in an ongoing police operation to crack down on irregular migration.

While Muslims in the EU face discrimination in a variety of spheres, Muslim women have been particularly singled out by measures aimed at curbing the wearing of the Muslim headscarf and the full-face veil. Some countries, including France and Germany (in eight out of sixteen states), prohibit civil servants, including teachers, from wearing religious symbols. Franceand Belgium have adopted laws prohibiting the concealment of one’s face in public. In all these cases, parliamentary debates have made it clear that Muslim religious dress is the principal target of such bans. Comparable nationwide bans have been proposed in a variety of other countries, including Italy, the United Kingdom, and Denmark, while a number of municipalities in Spain and Italy already have, or are contemplating, local bans.

The situation for Roma, Europe’s largest ethnic minority, is particularly alarming. The EU collectively recognizes that the persistent discrimination and marginalization require intervention, and has developed a strategy and funding to that end. But in practice Roma migrants from Eastern Europe face forced eviction and expulsion in Franceand Italy. Further east, in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, the situation is even more alarming, with little progress toward ending forced evictions and housing and school segregation (also a problem in Greece), despite hundreds of millions of euros in EU funding and binding rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

We encourage participants in the EU-Africa summit to engage in a frank discussion about discrimination and intolerance in the EU. EU member states and institutions should take steps to ensure robust response to hate crimes, to prohibit explicitly the use of ethnic profiling by law enforcement, and implement fully strategies to address deep and widespread discrimination against Roma. EU institutions should affirm the fundamental rights to freedom from discrimination, freedom of religion, and the right to autonomy of Muslim women.

Human Rights Enforcement in the EU

The Treaty on European Union states that the EU is founded on respect for human rights. As outlined in the EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy—adopted by the Council of the EU in June 2012—this means both ensuring that the Union’s relations with other countries are founded on respect for human rights, and ensuring rights for everyone are respected within the Union itself. Yet EU institutions have failed to respond adequately to some of the most pressing human rights concerns inside the EU, including abusive laws and practices by some member states.

The European Commission has the power to bring infringement proceedings against member states when they fail to apply correctly and adequately EU law, including in relation to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is binding on EU member states when they are applying EU law. Ultimately such proceedings can lead to judgments by the European Court of Justice and sanctions. While the Commission has sought to use infringement proceedings in some cases involving human rights, it is has been reluctant to use human rights as the basis. Its decision-making and criteria have been opaque, and it has sometimes accepted cosmetic changes as sufficient to halt proceedings. The Commission has also been hesitant to confront member states on their human rights records in its annual report.

The European Parliament has been more outspoken on occasion and has played an important role in scrutinizing EU legislation and challenging EU policy on human rights. But political and national allegiances have sometimes blunted the Parliament’s effectiveness.

The response of the Council of the EU has been particularly disappointing. It has established a Working Party on Fundamental Rights and Free Movement of Persons (FREMP), where member state officials can discuss human rights challenges and possible EU action in response to violations by member states. But the work of FREMP has in fact been largely confined to negotiating EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights and no meaningful engagement with civil society has been established. Faced with systematic efforts by the Hungarian government to undermine the rule of law and human rights, for example, and the failure of member states to respect their obligation to investigate complicity in acts of torture and enforced disappearances in the context of the CIA rendition program, the Council has been silent.

The Council acknowledged for the first time, in June 2013, the need to do more to address human rights violations within the EU, and called on the Commission to “take forward the debate … on the possible need for and shape of a collaborative and systematic method to tackle these issues.”
In March 2014, the European Commission announced a new “rule of law mechanism” that would allow it to challenge member states over “systematic threats to the rule of law” that nonetheless fall short of the threshold for action under article 7 of the Treaty on European Union, the EU’s most powerful (but never used) enforcement tool. Though a welcome signal of the Commission’s pledge to act when fundamental values come under threat, concerns remain that the new mechanism does little to overcome the lack of political will that obstructs genuine human rights enforcement in the EU.

Human Rights Watch calls on the EU to heed the detailed recommendations of the Human Rights and Democracy Network, a platform of 48 organizations of which Human Rights Watch is a coordinating member, to improve scrutiny of and accountability for human rights violations within EU borders. These recommendations were set out in an August 2013 statement. The EU should define a more comprehensive internal human rights strategy that mirrors its external strategic framework, and devise a corresponding action plan to guide collective EU action. All EU institutions, including the Commission, the Parliament, and the Council should embrace an ambitious mandate to deploy effectively existing institutional arrangements to promote and protect the full range of rights within the EU, including a willingness to hold individual member states to account when they violate human rights.

Children and Armed Conflict

In the majority of countries with armed conflicts around the world, national armed forces or armed groups have used schools for military purposes, with devastating consequences for the safety and well-being of children and their right to education.

Across Africa, schools have been used for military purposes in at least nine countries since 2005: Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan. For example, in Congo, armed forces occupied and used schools in Katanga and North and South Kivu in 2013. In South Sudan in 2012, troops used at least 18 schools, affecting approximately 13,000 children. The cost to repair damage cause by such use was around US$67,000 per school.

Good policies and practices have emerged in both Africa and Europe to protect schools from military use. In South Sudan, a 2012 order of the army deputy chief of staff “unconditionally prohibited” forces from “occupying schools, interfering with or disrupting school classes or activities, or using school facilities for any purpose.” In Cote d’Ivoire, nongovernmental organizations shared information on military use of schools with UN peacekeepers, who then advocated with state and non-state actors to leave occupied schools. In Ireland, the Defence Act states that military manoeuvers and encampments cannot interfere with schools or school grounds. In the United Kingdom, the Manual on the Law of Armed Conflict prohibits the use of education institutions for purposes likely to expose it to damage, unless there is no feasible alternative.

As of March 2014, the following AU and EU member states have expressed their support for the process of finalizing the Draft Lucens Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, which urge armed forces to refrain from using schools and provide six guidelines for good practice: Austria, Croatia, Finland, France, Lithuania, Portugal, Senegal, Slovenia, South Sudan, and Sweden.

The EU-Africa summit should:
• Urge efforts to reduce the harm to children and schools during armed conflict, and support the process of the Draft Lucens Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.

Women’s Human Rights

Human Rights Watch has documented a range of human rights abuses against women and girls in both the EU, for example in Hungaryand Belgium, and in Africa, such as in Somaliaand Kenya. Cooperation between the EU and Africa is particularly important and useful in three areas: ending child marriage, protecting rights of domestic workers, and ending gender-based violence in conflict.

Child Marriage
Human Rights Watch has documented the myriad of human rights abusesaround the practice of child, early and forced marriage in a number of countries, including in South Sudan. The chair of the AU, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has unequivocally statedthat “We must do away with child marriage.” The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child states that child marriage and the betrothal of girls and boys shall be prohibited and effective action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify the minimum age of marriage to be 18 years and make registration of all marriages in an official registry compulsory. The EU is currently developing a large campaign and strategy to end child marriage.

Human Rights Watch urges Africa and the EU to cooperate and to include the following recommendations in any effort to end early, child and forced marriages:
• Set and enforce the legal minimum age of marriage at 18.
• Require verification of age and the full and free consent of both spouses.
• Establish and enforce compulsory marriage registers.
• Provide sufficient training to law enforcement officials on gender discrimination, violence against women, and early, child and forced marriage specifically.
• Recognize marital rape as a criminal offense.
• Increase access to education for girls—including married girls, access to reproductive and obstetric health care for all girls and women.

Domestic Workers’ Rights
An estimated 50 to 100 million people, a vast majority of them women and girls, are employed in private homes as domestic workers. Human Rights Watch has documented abuses against domestic workers around the world, including in Moroccoand Guinea. Abuses include being grossly underpaid, extremely long work hours, no freedom of movement, and physical, sexual and psychological abuse. In July 2011, members of the International Labour Organization—governments, trade unions, and employers’ associations—voted overwhelmingly to adopt the ILO Convention No. 189 Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, which established the first global standards for the millions of domestic workers worldwide.

In Africa, good examples are starting to emerge. Both South Africa and Mauritius have ratified the convention. Zambia and Tanzania have raised the minimum wage for domestic workers. A landmark court ruling in Kenya in December 2012 placed domestic workers under the protection of the labor law, extending to them the national minimum wage and social security benefits.

The Council of the EU, the European Commission, and the European Parliament have called on EU countries to ratify the convention. To date, only Italy and Germany have done so, while Ireland and Belgium have pledged their intent to ratify. Spain has issued a royal decree that ensures domestic workers the minimum wage, maximum working week of 40 hours, and minimum daily rest periods.

Human Rights Watch urges the EU and Africa to encourage ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention and act to ensure all member countries implement the convention’s terms.

Gender-Based Violence during Armed Conflict
Human Rights Watch has documented gender-based violence in conflict in Democratic Republic of CongoCote d’IvoireSudan, and Guinea, and earlier in Bosnia and Kosovo.Most recently, Human Rights Watch has been conducting research in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, where sexual violence is pervasive, including by government soldiers and allied militia. This is due in large part to failed or non-existent state structures to protect women, particularly vulnerable groups such as internally displaced women and girls, and to ensure justice for abuses and tackle the social and economic vulnerability of women and girls. Women interviewed by Human Rights Watch described a paralyzing climate of fear, where no place was safe, and many women are vulnerable to attack, and where perpetrators attacked with impunity.

The EU has developed and adopted a comprehensive approachto the EU implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security. Individual European countries have developed their own initiatives, most notably the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative of the United Kingdom. Similarly, the AU adopted resolution 1325 unanimously in the AU Security Council in 2000. Human Rights Watch has learned that the AU is currently in the process of developing a code of conduct for its troops on sexual violence and harassment, a particularly welcome step given recent events in Somalia.

In order to curtail gender-based violence in situations of conflict, Human Rights Watch urges the EU and Africa to:
• Comprehensively address prevention, access to services, access to justice, legal reform and the overall promotion of women’s participation, equality and empowerment.
• Support the UN special representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
• Implement the full Security Council resolution 1325 agenda, including subsequent Resolutions 1820, 1888, 1890, and 1960.
• Where lacking, adopt a clear code of conduct on sexual violence and harassment for security forces and peacekeeping personnel, and ensure that regional efforts are done in coordination with already existing mechanisms to combat gender based violence.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)—adopted by a majority of African and EU countries as well as the EU itself—explicitly recognizes the importance of international cooperation in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities. Making human rights integral to development—and the post-2015 development framework in particular—would contribute to more just and inclusive development outcomes, would encourage a focus on the poorest and most marginalized communities, such as people with disabilities, and would draw attention to the underlying and systemic reasons why people with disabilities often do not receive services, resources or economic opportunities, and prompt action to address them.

With respect to legislative reform, a number of countries within the EU and Africa, including Ghana, Ireland, and Zambia, have completed or are currently engaged in mental health law reform to comply with their obligations under the CRPD. It is important to ensure that this legislation fully respects the right to legal capacity, freedom from arbitrary detention, including involuntary institutionalization, and free and informed consent.

In the case of Ghana, for example, the 2012 Mental Health Law falls short of its obligations under the CRPD and its implementation has been slow, marked by the lack of community-based mental health services and delays in setting up much-needed oversight mechanisms. People with mental disabilitiesin Ghana face serious abuses in hospitals and spiritual healing centers—so-called prayer camps—including involuntary admission and arbitrary and prolonged detention; inadequate conditions, including overcrowding and poor hygiene; forced seclusion, lack of shelter, physical and verbal abuse, and involuntary treatment, including electroconvulsive therapy. In prayer camps, people with mental disabilities are chained—sometimes outdoors—and denied food and medication and adequate shelter. Of particular concern is a March 2014 announcement that the Ghana Mental Health Authority will launch a “clean the streets operation,” designed to round up people with mental disabilities on the streets and force them into confinement in psychiatric hospitals. This amounts to the arbitrary detention of people with mental health problems for no reason other then their disability status. We are concerned that this operation may be funded through development assistance from DFID.

Human Rights Watch urges Africa and the EU to:
• Align in promoting a disability-inclusive approach to development, particularly in the post-2015 development agenda, on the basis of the CRPD principles of non-discrimination, equality, participation, and accountability.
• Pledge that development assistance will not be used to fund programs that violate the fundamental rights of people with disabilities.
• Share good practices in implementing the rights of persons with mental disabilities as articulated by the CRPD, and to promote regular and adequate oversight of both formal and informal mental health service providers.
• Pledge to reach out to disabled persons’ organizations on the national and local level, to seek their advice on disability-inclusive policies and practices.
• Review all legislation with the aim of harmonization in line with the CRPD, in consultation with the disabled persons’ organizations in each country. Those countries that have not yet ratified the CRPD and its Optional Protocol should do so as a matter of priority.

By Human Rights Wtach

31 March 2014

Kenyan women unite to increase access to maternal and child health.

AAI Kenyan women

More than 100 leaders and representatives of women’s rights organizations from across Kenya came together on 24 March in Nairobi to discuss ways to stop new HIV infections among children by 2015 and improve the health of mothers in the country.  

The women’s rights leaders meeting was co-organized by UNAIDS, UNDP, the National AIDS Control Council, the National AIDS and STI Control Programme and  the Community Advocacy and Awareness (CRAWN) Trust. The event aimed to accelerate the momentum started by the First Lady of Kenya Margaret Kenyatta through the Beyond Zero campaign—an initiative to end mother-to-child transmission and AIDS-related maternal deaths in Kenya.

Speaking at the meeting, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Jan Beagle applauded the First Lady’s personal commitment and stressed that for UNAIDS, gender equality and human rights—including sexual and reproductive health rights—are non-negotiable elements to ensure effective HIV and health responses.

Government figures show that in Kenya AIDS-related illnesses account for one in five maternal deaths and 100 000 children under the age of 5 years died from preventable causes in 2012. According to WHO figures, Kenya currently dedicates 6% of its national budget—less than half of the 15% Abuja Declaration target—to the health sector. 


“We need to leverage synergies across movements, bringing together the capacity and innovation of the AIDS response with movements to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls."
Jan Beagle, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director

“Our involvement as the women’s movement is a game changer and will catalyse actions needed to bring the necessary changes and accelerate the achievement of the Beyond Zero campaign goals.”
Daisy Amdany, CRAWN Trust Executive Director

26 March 2014 

African civil society needs to improve strategizing and organizing



It became clear from discussions at the 6th ACSHR that CSOs on the continent need to organise themselves better in order to gain meaningful and effective outcomes on ICPD at country level and during Regional Conferences. A need for CSO mapping in the continent was also expressed so as to give an indication of what the different CSOs are working on as well as to identify areas for collaboration. The lack of research and documentation of good practices was cited as a gap in that if addressed would help strengthen the work that CSOs are doing. CSOs called for government accountability and transparency in ensuring CSO inclusion in government platforms and processes pertaining to ICPD.


AIDS Accountability International (AAI) participated at the 6th ACSHR held in Cameroon –Yauonde on 03-07 February, 2014, the theme of which was “Eliminating Women and Girls Sexual Reproductive Health vulnerabilities in Africa”.


ICPD beyond 2014 and Post 2015 with specific focus on the roles for CSOs in Africa


The following issues were raised by AAI during the above plenary session and led to lively and constructive debate:


·         CSO role at country level, regional level and global level- overall role for CSOs: Opportunities and barriers;

·         Relationship between national governments and CSOs was discussed with specific attention paid to the lack of this relationship at country level and the impact thereof on implementation and sustainability of the ICPD goals;

·         Government Accountability: The need for government to create spaces and systems to enable CSO engagement with government on ICPD; and

·         Way forward: How do CSOs begin to organise themselves in influencing country positions, especially from the countries that had reservations in the adoption of the Addis Declaration in October 2013 during the ARCPD as part of the preparations for CPD 47to be held in New York from 04-07 April, 2014.


Intergenerational Youth Dialogue on ICPD beyond 2014 and Post 2015


AAI facilitated this discussion which mainly focused on youth engagement on the following:

·         Challenges faced by the youth in the continent

·         Responses needed for implementation in order to address youth challenges and their needs pertaining to the goals of ICPD and the Post 2015 developmental agenda.

·         The youth at this discussion came from the different CSOS in the continent and other delegates in attendance were from intergovernmental agencies – UNFPA , CSOs from Africa and different multi-sectors as well as implementing partners.


Outcomes of the discussion were that a need for a youth stand – alone goal was identified in order to address the youth needs in a more effective manner going forward to the Post 2015 agenda. A call was made by the youth for governments and other role payers to include them in discussions and decisions that seek to respond to their needs. The conference in its entirety provided a good networking platform for CSOs in the continent as well as a space for sharing and dissemination information. 


Collective message from feminists on Post 2015 proposes alternative models of development

newsletter march

Feminists from around the world have released a vision of the world that millions of us seek, it proposes an alternative model of development that upholds peace, security, equality and human rights for all and for the wellbeing of nature and of the planet in the coming decades.


To date more than 340 international, regional and national organizations in 143 countries have endorsed the Feminist Declaration for Post 2015, which calls for economic, social and ecological justice with a strong focus on gender. This collective message sends a clear message to all bodies, especially the United Nations to commit to a truly transformative new development agenda.


More than sixty women's, young people´s, indigenous, development, human rights, and LGBT networks contributed to the drafting of this statement and it is of use to civil society in our advocacy in the coming years.


Organised by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), the International Planned Parenthood Federation – Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR), the Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice Alliance (RESURJ), and Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), a Feminist Strategy Meeting on Post 2015 took place in Tarrytown, NYC in February 2014.


Just after the 8th session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the meeting brought together over 60 representatives of feminists and women’s rights organisations from around the world. Networks, sexual and reproductive health and rights, human rights, governance, gender, violence, peacekeeping, environment, agriculture, economic and education groups were all represented.


For more information, to view the endorsements and read the full text of the declaration, click here.


If you have not done so already, please write to to endorse.


Women want governments to act on reproductive rights


Few things, it seems, still make members of the international community more nervous and squeamish than discussions about sexual and reproductive health, particularly when it involves young people and especially when it concerns adolescent girls.

But if any progress is to be made when it comes to crafting the new post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now under discussion, diplomats, NGOs and any other actors involved will just have to get over it, according to members of the High-Level Task Force for the International Conference on Population and Development.  

In international forums, “The issues that are often bracketed are the gender issues and, among them, the most bracketed are adolescent sexual health and rights—not among boys, but among girls,” said Dr Nafis Sadik, an obstetrician-gynecologist, veteran diplomat and special adviser on policy to the executive director ofUNAIDS, the UN agency dealing with HIV/AIDS.

Sadik spoke on a panel called “Fulfilling the Promise of Gender Equality: Women, Girls and the Post-2015 Agenda” at a side event of the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) this week.

“It always makes me wonder why policy makers don’t want girls and women to make decisions about their own bodies,” said Sadik.  “If we really want to eradicate these preventable deaths, women and girls must be able to make choices for themselves,” she said, referring to maternal mortality – 800 women per day – as a result of lack of healthcare and access to modern contraception.

“These are issues the international community needs to address squarely and not sweep under the carpet” due to cultural squeamishness, she said.

She noted that the right to reproductive health was dropped from the last set of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Had that not happened, she said, “I think we’d have a different world today.”

Today’s world has an historically high number of young people and their sexual and reproductive health and rights concerns also were left out of the last MDGs, said panellist Amina Doherty, a youth advocate and member of the board of the Global Fund for Women.

That must change in the new set of SDGs, she said. “Even though we’re mobilizing, we’re here, we were invited, we see our issues are not on the agenda. We’re tired of lip service.  We’re tired of ‘youth’ being a buzzword.”

That voice is crucial for the future, said Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, a member of the High-Level Task Force for the ICPD, an independent body established in 2012 to advocate for gender equality, the empowerment of women and young people and the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all.

Acknowledging that “sexual and reproductive health and rights remain a highly controversial issue,” she noted that 16 million adolescent girls in developing countries die annually as a result of complications of pregnancy and childbirth, often as the result of early or forced marriage.  One-third of girls report that their first sexual encounter was forced on them.

“For me, it’s clear that gender equality should be a standalone goal,” said the Crown Princess on the panel.

The needs of adolescent girls were also on the mind of Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS.

He pointed out that 24 percent of young girls globally don’t know how HIV/AIDS is transmitted.  As a result, in South Africa for example, the infection rate among young men between the ages of 19 and 20 is 1 percent, compared with 16 percent for girls in the same age group.

“We will not end this epidemic if we don’t have the courage to focus on who has been left behind – women and girls,” Sidibé said.

The question, the panellists said, is whether governments have the will to make the changes that will promote gender equality and save the lives of women and girls.

“Since we know what works and what we need to do, we must just do it,” said Sadik.  “Ideology and false value systems should not stand in the way of doing the right thing.”

By Lisa Anderson

13 March 2014


Africa: Women – Experts Call for Engaging Men and Boys As Allies in Fight for Gender Equality

Key Pop

Gender equality is not just a concern for women and girls, a panel of experts gathered at the United Nations in New York stressed today, highlighting the need to engage men and boys as allies and agents of change in this global struggle.


"Gender equality isn't just a women's issue. It is an issue for all. It is a rights issue because women's rights are human rights," declared Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), as she kicked off an event on the margins of the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women.


"Working with men and boys, transforming masculinity and traditional perceptions of manhood must be part of the gender equality agenda," she added.


Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted a new campaign launched by UN Women last week on the occasion of International Women's Day called #HeforShe, in which men all over the world are being encouraged to speak out against the inequalities faced by women and girls.


Speaking directly to men and boys during the launch, she called on them to take a stand, to speak out and take action for their sisters, mothers, daughters and partners. "Because silence and inaction of good men conspire against women," she stated.


Today's event, organized by Switzerland and Brazil, focused particularly on engaging men and boys to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which call for the reduction of extreme poverty and other global ills by 2015 – for women and girls. MDG 3 is specifically targeted to gender equality and the empowerment of women.


"Persistent gender inequalities and discrimination of women and girls are a major obstacle to sustainable development, including poverty eradication and economic growth," said Benno Bättig, Secretary-General of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland and moderator of the discussion.


MDG 3 gave women's issues some visibility, he noted, however it is silent on several key gender issues, such as violence against women and women's unequal participation in decision-making. To address not only the symptoms but the very root causes of discrimination against women and girls, Switzerland supported a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women's empowerment in the post-2015 development agenda.


"To overcome structural impediments to full gender equality, gender roles and relations must be transformed," said Mr. Bättig. "And this transformation not only concerns women and girls, it requires the active involvement of men and boys."


He added that while the engagement of men as allies has received little attention so far, it can have significant benefits for women and children, as well as for men themselves in contributing to the full achievement of all the MDGs.


The Swiss Government supports a project called "the part-time man" that promotes flexible working hours and conditions that allow men to spend more time with the family and giving women more time for their careers.


"Furthermore, our experience has shown that in societies where social norms and family honour are prevailing factors, a positive change in women's social status is only possible when men's attitudes change," Mr. Bättig stated. "We thus have to work with men and boys as strategic allies and partners to achieve gender equality."


Bafana Khumalo, of the South Africa-based gender equality organization Sonke Gender Justice, highlighted the engagement of men and boys as a means to try to limit the spread of HIV and promote women's empowerment.


He highlighted Sonke's flagship campaign, known as "One Man Can," which has proven to be an effective way to change the HIV and gender-related behaviours and attitudes of men and women. It also contributes to the decrease in the use of violence by men against women, reduces the number of sexual partners, and increases their use of condoms, testing and services.


Sonke's framework for engaging men and boys emphasizes three critical perspectives, he noted. These are involving men and boys as agents of change; engaging men and boys as equal partners; and treating men and boys as clients, so they can access and utilize services relating to their sexual and reproductive health rights.


Also highlighting the need to view men and boys as agents of change was Oswaldo Montoya from Nicaragua, the Global Coordinator for MenEngage, who also stressed the importance of offering men and boys opportunities to help them "step out of the masculinity box" and providing them with safe spaces to do so.


"I would like to propose to men and boys: forget about masculinity, embrace your humanity," he stated.


Mr. Montoya also encouraged UN Women to appoint a focal point to advance the important work being done with men and boys and to engage more of them in the pursuit of gender equality.


Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Brazil's Ambassador to the UN, said that gender should be taken to refer to both women and girls, and men and boys. "When we discuss gender, we generally miss the reality of men and boys, their potential contribution to the empowerment of women and girls and their own gender-related specificities and vulnerabilities.


"Fully addressing all dimensions of gender inequality is a task that each and every one of us has to take very seriously – rich and poor, North and South, government and non-governmental organizations, government and private sector, men and women."


A "sobering reminder" of the comparatively unfavourable situation of women in the world, he pointed out, is that out of the 193 Member States of the UN, only 8 have women serving as President and 13 as Head of Government.


"I am convinced that it is truly revolutionary to bring men and boys on board on the discussions on overcoming gender inequality," Mr. Patriota said. "As we acknowledge that mainstream and rigid concepts of masculinity and femininity reinforce unequal and vertical power relations between men and women, we also help to accelerate progress on gender equality…


"It is time for men to join forces and enhance their role in helping to achieve a more egalitarian society. This is a win for women, a win for men and a win for our common humanity."


12 March 2014