Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- An OAU experts meeting considering the Additional Protocol to the African Charter, on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women on Thursday failed to reach a consensus on whether polygamy should be prohibited.
Experts at the meeting, which had gone smoothly during the first three days, failed to agree on article 7 section C of the draft protocol, which suggests that "polygamy shall be prohibited".
Several participants interviewed by PANA indicated that the polarisation was based on religious beliefs.
Experts from Islamic countries like Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Algeria and Tunisia objected to the article that clearly says polygamy should be prohibited.
These argued that polygamy was not prohibited in their religion and their culture.
They said that polygamy should be optional, should not be prohibited or made to be compulsory.
On the other hand, participants from Ethiopia, South Africa, Malawi, Nigeria, Zambia and Mozambique, who are predominantly Christian, openly called for polygamy to be prohibited.
other delegates took middle-of-the road positions, with some saying polygamy should be discouraged by education and not by law.
A participant who spoke to PANA on the condition of anonymity said it would be very difficult to come to consensus because there are some who were quoting the Sharia or Islamic law.
"Fighting against polygamy is fighting against Sharia," the delegate said.
Another participant said "religion is more important than consensus".
During debate on polygamy, open and concealed differences also emerged on inheritance, custody, abortion and equality of women and several other issues.
However, the adoption of other articles in the additional protocol was seen as a step forward for African women.
Seen as a breakthrough in terms of women's human rights is the article on the Right to Physical and Emotional Security (Article 4), which the experts adopted on Wednesday.
This article recognises the right of women to life, integrity and security, which is an effective measure against gender based violence, specifically violence against women.
Article 8, which deals with separation and termination of marriage, is also considered as a breakthrough.
It gives women the right to initiate legal proceedings and the right to children and property if the marriage breaks.
The right of African women to peace (Article 11) was reaffirmed thus rendering support to the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
The OAU experts endorsed the article in a bid to effectively respond to the current reality in many African countries currently faced with conflicts.
The Draft Additional Protocol on Women's Rights in Africa is intended to strengthen the protection of women's rights under the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, which lacks explicit provisions dealing with women's rights.
Opening the meeting last Monday,, the Acting OAU/AU Secretary- General Vijay S.
Makhan, reaffirmed the continental body's commitment to make gender equality and women's rights a priority during the transition to the African Union.