A number of scholars have discussed the implication of the Civil Society Proclamation (CSP) in terms of realizing human rights recognized under the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE). However, the quality of attention given to the direct implication of this proclamation on women’s rights organizations and on measures that are focused on gender equality is not significant.
This article argues that the CSP of Ethiopia is and has been unconstitutional and violates the rights of women to freedom of association that is recognized under the aspirations and provisions of the FDRE Constitution. It goes beyond the rhetoric and provides a practical overview of the myriad of challenges the women’s rights movement faced in its effort to tackle down gender inequality in the country.
Section one of this article introduces an overview of the CSP. Section two presents Ethiopian women’s right to freedom of association against the provisions of the CSP, while section three discusses some practical illustrations and challenges women rights advocates and women rights organizations have faced in terms of ensuring gender equality beginning from the enactment of the proclamation in 2009. The final section discusses current developments in this regard and suggests actions on the way forward.
The Ethiopian Government adopted the Proclamation to Provide for the Registration and Regulation of Charities and Societies (CSP) in 2009. The CSP was enacted to regulate and control the activities of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). The government of Ethiopia raised three major justifications that gave rise to this proclamation. The first and main argument is that human rights work is political in nature. Hence, it should be left only for Ethiopians with no support from foreign sources including support in terms of finance. Other grounds often raised also relate to human rights organizations that were involved in the 2005 election in Ethiopia through domestic observation as well as voter and civic education. In addition to this, the government also argued there is an inappropriate use of resources by CSOs that called for a more rigid law to register, manage, and monitor these organizations through oversight and monitoring.