By Vanessa Anyoti, YWCA of Tanzania
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) “has great potential to promote and protect human rights in the darkest corners of the world.” – Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General
The UPR was established in March 2006 and is a unique process of the Human Rights Council (HRC). The main aim of the UPR is to improve the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 United Nations (UN) Member States. Thus the UPR, is a state driven process and, reviews the human rights records of all UN member states. With support from the Human Rights Council (HRC), each state declares what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the HRC, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.
So why is the UPR important, especially to women, young women and girls? The UPR is one of the key elements of the HRC which reminds States of their responsibility to fully respect and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms. The ultimate aim is to improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur.
The result of each UPR is reflected in an “outcome report” listing the recommendations the State under review (SuR) will have to implement before the next review. The UPR is comprised of 3 key stages:
- Review of the human rights situation of the SuR;
- Implementation between two reviews (4.5 years) by the SuR of the recommendations received and the voluntary pledges made;
- Reporting at the next review on the implementation of those recommendations and pledges and on the human rights situation in the country since the previous review.
A sad reality is that gender inequality affects us all, in one form or another. Additionally, we all know from experience that the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all women and girls are not always respected. Thus, in order for us to ensure that “by 2035, 100 million young women and girls will transform power structures to create justice, gender equality and a world without violence and war; leading a sustainable YWCA movement, inclusive of all women”, we thus need to engage in the UPR process and ensure that states are aware of, report on and better the human rights situation at the ground level.
Under the UPR mechanism, the human rights situation of all UN Member States is reviewed every 4.5 years. 42 States are reviewed each year during three Working Group sessions dedicated to 14 States each. These three sessions are usually held in January/February, May/June and October/November of each year. Civil Society have the opportunity to submit a report about the state of human rights in their communities to the UPR in the form of reports, which will be used to review the country and take the floor during the adoption of the report at the HRC session. However, Civil society cannot take the floor; which means ask questions or make comments, during the review. During the compilation of the national reports states ought to consult with Civil Society organisations.
The country review takes place in a Working Group in Geneva, Switzerland, and lasts 3.5 hours. The 25th Session of the UPR took place from May 2nd till May 13th, where the United Republic of Tanzania was under review and Burundi, China and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela formed the Troika. The troika consists of three countries’ delegates assisting the review and troika members are selected by the drawing of lots among members of the Human Rights Council and from different regional groups.
“Under the customary inheritance laws of many communities in Tanzania, a widow with children inherits nothing from her husband. These laws also deny women the right to inherit clan land or to be administrators of their relatives’ estates.”1
Tanzania’s Marriage Act of 1971 sets the minimum age at 18 for boys and 15 for girls with parental consent. It also permits both girls and boys to marry at 14 with a court’s permission.2
On May 9th 2016, The United Republic of Tanzania, under the leadership of His Excellency Professer Sifuni E. Mchome, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Constitution and Legal Affairs, presented its state report to the 25th Session of the UPR. Tanzania highlighted many successes in achieving human rights. Some of the key achievements reported by Tanzanian were: on holding peaceful elections in October 2015, increasing the number of women in leadership and decisions making, and adoption of the National Human Rights Action Plan 2013-2017 which provides the national framework for the promotion and protection of human rights in the state.
The Tanzanian delegation to the 25th Session of the UPR, recognized the importance of Civil Society in ensuring that the human rights situation at the community level is improved. However, more efforts need to be undertaken to ensure that Civil Society is consulted and that there are enabling environments for civil society; particularly young women and girls to promote the human rights of all people.
Tanzania received a total of 227 recommendations from member states and supported 130 (57%), did not support 72 (32%) and deferred 25 (11%) of these recommendations. Deferred recommendations will be reported on later as they have policy implications and recommendations that were not supported, where noted to not be in line with the Tanzanian constitution, religions, customs and traditions.
So why should we be interested and involved in the UPR process? Because; CEFM; Violence against Women and Girls (VAW/g); gender inequality; rape; female genital mutilation and/or cutting (FGM/C); accesses to education, water, health care; economic justice and … (the list goes on) are human rights issues. So we should care and get involved, because we are all affected.
More information about the UPR process and when you country will be presenting can be found here: http://www.upr-info.org/en and http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx