A non-event: ratifying the African Women’s Rights framework in Ethiopia

Karmen Tornius*

*Corresponding author

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Ethiopia, the host of the African Union, did not ratify the African Women’s Rights framework (the Maputo Protocol) for fifteen years. While realist, liberal and constructivist scholars have theorised why countries ratify human rights treaties, this article adds to this debate by asking ‘why not?’. Based on interviews, archival material, document analysis and fieldwork in Addis Ababa, the article explores the dominant explanations for adopting human rights treaties, such as donor pressure, legitimacy, openness of a political system and normative alignment. By analysing the Ethiopian government’s decision not to ratify the Maputo Protocol on numerous occasions before finally ratifying it quietly and with a long list of reservations, the article argues that countries may adopt regional human rights treaties for different reasons than the global ones. By tracing this ‘non-event’ from the early attempts to adopt the Maputo Protocol until its ratification in 2018, the article provides an in-depth analysis of the recent history of women’s rights in Ethiopia’s complex national context, including the rise of women’s movements, closing civil space, growing authoritarianism, anti-rights rhetoric, and a government crisis that paved way for reform.
TidsskriftJournal of Eastern African Studies
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)466-488
Antal sider23
StatusUdgivet - 2023


  • African politics
  • African Union
  • Ethiopia
  • human rights ratification
  • regional governance
  • women’s rights

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