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Re: Discriminatort Policy agaisnt Pregnant Girls in Sierra Leone
Banjul, 24 Oct 2016
The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa and Equality Now jointly seeks to bring the attention of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to the policy of the government of Sierra Leone that prevents pregnant girls from attending mainstream schools in Sierra Leone. The practice of excluding girls from mainstream schools and undertaking examinations in Sierra Leone on basis of pregnancy has been in existence for a long time and this sporadic practice was formalized in 2015 by the current administration.
The ban has not only adversely affected these girls but has created further obstacles to girls’ growth and development. The girls have lost out on many opportunities of continuing with their education. The visibly pregnant girls have been barred from undertaking their national examinations; the National Primary School Examination (NPSE) and the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) hence denying them an opportunity to continue to the next level of their education.
Not only does this policy violate the rights of the girls under articles 3, 4 and 11 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, but the Government is also not addressing the underlying causes of many of these pregnancies such as sexual exploitation; which increased during the Ebola crisis whereby girls became targeted as victims of sexual violence.
In a country where the literacy levels for women and girls are quite low, this is an injustice to not only these girls but to the entire nation. The girls have aspirations and these dreams and aspirations can only be realized if their right to education is protected and promoted. The right to education is a human right which the Government of Sierra Leone has committed to ensure for all its young people, instead of arbitrarily denying it to many girls solely on the ground that they are pregnant.
The very flawed justification for this ban that pregnant girls will negatively influence other girls in school has not only brought about untold harm to the affected girls in Sierra Leone but has also perpetrated general stigmatization of and prejudice against such girls in the wider society. The ban is discriminatory and a continued violation of the human rights of the girls.
We prepared this statement in view of the fact that Sierra Leone was meant to present its periodic report at this session. But even though the Committee has postponed this to the next session, we respectfully request the Committee to raise this issue with the government of Sierra-Leone and to urge the government of Sierra-Leone to reverse this policy and allow pregnant girls to continue with their education in a way that promotes their best interests. Additionally, the Government of Sierra Leone should put in place measures that address the prevalence of teenage pregnancy and sexual exploitation in line with Sierra-Leone’s obligations under article 27 of the Africa Children’s Charter. The Government of Sierra Leone should be at the forefront in safeguarding the human rights of girls in line with its international obligations and take all necessary measures to ensure that the right to education for girls is upheld at all times whether they are pregnant or not.