The Ethiopian Criminal Code criminalizes most forms of violence against women and girls including physical violence within marriage or cohabitation (Article 564), Female Genital Mutilation/ Circumcision (Articles 565-6), trafficking women (Article 597), rape (Articles 620-28), prostitution/exploitation of another for financial gain (Article 634), and early marriage (Article 648). The Criminal Code outlaws abortion, except in cases of rape or incest, risk to the life of the mother or fetus, severe or incurable disease or birth defect, a mother who is mentally or physically incapable of raising a child, or “grave and imminent danger” that can only be addressed by terminating the pregnancy.
The current family law in Ethiopia provides that there must be, inter alia, consent by both spouses to constitute a valid marriage (Article 6); respect and support between spouses (Article 49); equal rights in the management of the family (Article 50); fidelity owed by both husband and wife (Article 56). This is a substantial step forward in Ethiopian law.
Article 9 of the FDRE Constitution provides that all international treaties ratified by Ethiopia are integral parts of the law of the land. Similarly, Article 13.2 provides that fundamental rights and freedoms shall be interpreted in a manner conforming to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenants on Human Rights and International instruments adopted by Ethiopia. Ethiopia has ratified many of these treaties including ICCPR, ICESCR, and CEDAW. Article 35 of the FDRE Constitution pertains to the Rights of Women. The article provides for equal rights under the constitution, equal rights with men in marriage, entitlement to affirmative measures, protection from harmful traditional practices, the right to maternity pay, the right to consultation, property rights (including acquiring and controlling and transferring property), employment rights, and access to family planning education. It is worth noting that this article explicitly imposes an obligation and accountability on the state to protect women from violence at Article 35.4: “The State shall enforce the right of women to eliminate the influences of harmful customs. Laws, customs and practices that oppress or cause bodily or mental harm to women are prohibited.”