Some Questionable Comments on Women’s Rights from Recent African Commission Meetings

I have heard some memorable comments during both the Ordinary Session of the African Commission in Banjul a few weeks ago, and during the African Training in Senegal this week. Here are some of my favourites:

  • State Representative from Swaziland during a discussion of human rights:

“I am a big defender of women’s rights. These are the rights of my mother. These are the rights of my sisters. I love these women and will protect them. But also, Madam Chairperson [of the African Commission], these are the rights of my wives. Yes…. Wives! As you, Madam Chairperson, well know, I have a number of wives. Since I last addressed the Commission, I have taken a fifth wife. And I don’t see any of those women complaining about their rights …. (smile… wink, wink to audience)”

  • State Representative from Libya, questioning Article 56(1) of the African Charter that allows individuals who submit complaints to the Commission to remain anonymous from the State Party:

“Why should individuals have the right to remain anonymous? This just allows people to make unfounded allegations against the State. What is the purpose of anonymity? In any case, the complainant will have to provide his name to the Commission so the State can ultimately find out where he lives…”

  • State Representative from Algeria, referring to the fact that two women were sitting opposite him in a mock submission on merits (I was one of the women):

This is not fair! There are two people sitting opposite me. And they are both women! Is this some type of polygamy? We have this practice in my country.” (lots of laughing)

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About Dr Rebecca Wright

I am a criminal barrister and the Director of The Schools Consent Project, North West. I previously worked as a human rights lawyer in the Middle East and Afghanistan for 6 years and as a US corporate lawyer for a year. I have a PhD in literature (which looked at the autobiographies written by suffragettes). I taught literature in San Diego after I finished the PhD and before I went to law school in the US. I also drove buses part time for 10 years.
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