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HUMAN rights
The Centre for Human Rights in 2016 focused on applied research, by drawing attention to issues
of great concern to our continent, and importantly too, to the actual implementation of human rights standards in African countries. Three areas are chosen to illustrate some of the work of the Centre.
The Centre’s Disability Rights Unit hosted a conference in November 2016 under the theme, Advancing the Rights of Persons with Albinism in Africa: A Call for Action. Papers highlighted the severe nature of the stigma and discrimination faced by persons with albinism in many parts of Africa, including extreme acts of violence. More importantly, the conference also aimed to develop responses
to these human rights violations, and hosted a high-level meeting, involving the United Nations Independent Expert on the Human Rights of Persons with Albinism. The outcomes included a draft Regional Action Plan to address rights abuses against persons with albinism, and key resolutions taken to direct implementation.
The Gender Unit has been involved in number of initiatives to end violence against women and girls, and to eliminate harmful practices that women and girls have to endure. A Harmful Traditional Practices tool, for use by practitioners working to end child marriage and female genital mutilation through advocacy and litigation, was finalised in 2016. This tool was produced in partnership with Equality
Now and the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) network. The Gender Unit also carried
out research on child marriages in 10 countries in Africa to inform the elimination of child marriages, and completed the research report in 2016. The report highlights the problem of child marriages, its prevalence and impact on young girls, and discusses the policy and legal frameworks governing child marriages. It also makes concrete recommendations for ending child marriages, drawing on states’ obligations under the Maputo Protocol and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Children’s Charter), both of which stipulate the minimum age of marriage to be 18 years without exception. Following the report on child marriages, two regional and one national community dialogues on child marriages were conducted, bringing together a variety of stakeholders, and sharing the findings of the research with the countries that had participated in the research. The dialogues also provided an opportunity to develop concrete national actions to end child marriages.
The third area that illustrates the work of the Centre is its focus on the implementation of human rights and human rights norms, rather than merely their articulation. In this domain, the Centre participates in a major research project, the Human Rights Law Implementation Project (HRLIP), a collaborative project between four leading academic human rights Centres (Bristol, Essex, Middlesex and Pretoria)
and the Open Society Justice Initiative. The aim of the project is to examine the factors that impact on human rights law implementation by nine states across Europe, Africa and the Americas. It looks at selected decisions deriving from individual complaints to UN treaty bodies and selected judgments and decisions of the bodies in the three regional human rights systems.
      Ikponwosa Ero, United Nations Independent Expert.
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