In 2009 Mali passed a law called the Family Code which regulated the rights of individuals and family, including the age of marriage and issues of inheritance. After protests from religious groups, lawmakers radically changed the law to a more socially conservative version.
In response to this law, African women's rights organizations Association pour le progrès et la défense des droits des femmes Maliennes (APDF) and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) filed a complaint before the African Court of Human and Peoples Rights. The organizations argued the law violates the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (commonly referred to as the Maputo Protocol).
The Court agreed and called on the State of Mali to amend the law to reflect standards set in the Maputo Protocol, including a minimum age of marriage being age 18 for both girls and boys and that consent for marriage be protected by law. Additionally, the Court held that the law must ensure women and natural children be entitled to inheritance. Finally, the Court concluded the Family Code maintained discriminatory practices which undermine the rights of women and children in violation of Mali’s international human rights obligations.
This is a landmark decision as it is the first time the African Court found a violation of women’s rights under international law.
Judges who issued the decision
El Hadji Guissé
Rafàa Ben Achour
Angelo V. Matusse
Ntyam O. Mengue
Tujilane R. Chizumila