The Ethiopian Women Lawyer’s Association (EWLA) organised a high-level consultative workshop in Semera, Afar, with a diverse group of participants, including federal and regional government officials, members of the House of People’s Representatives, representatives from the Human Rights Commission, and various religious leaders. The workshop themed around ‘the Adoption of Family Law in the Afar Region’ provided a crucial platform for delving into the the way Islamic and Sharia law principles are being applied concerning various aspects of family law, such as marriage, divorce, maintenance, guardianship, succession, and inheritance, with a particular focus on how these principles impact women.
The primary objective of the workshop was to address the obstacles hindering the adoption of a just family law in the Afar which protects against any interpretations of Islamic and Sharia law
‘s that would deprive women and girls of the rights they are guaranteed by the Ethiopian Constitution, especially for matters such as marriage, divorce, adoption, and inheritance. Furthermore, the workshop aimed to scrutinise the practical application of these laws and cultural practices concerning women’s rights.
The discussions at the workshop revolved around assessing the existing Islamic and Sharia legal and policy frameworks and their implications for women’s rights. These encompassed considerations of deeply ingrained social and cultural norms, as well as the operational practices of Sharia Courts. The workshop highlighted the challenges women face within this legal framework and underscored the urgent need for gender equality and empowerment.
The consensus reached was that, given the deeply rooted nature of cultural and religious practices, there is a need for additional consultative workshops and training sessions, involving various religious leaders, to facilitate a constructive dialogue on gender mainstreaming and the just interpretation of religious laws.