IHRDA, Equality Now and partners sue Sierra Leone before ECOWAS Court for upholding policy that violates right to education of pregnant girls

Banjul, 17/05/2018 – The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), international women’s rights organisation Equality Now, and various human rights organizations in Sierra Leone have filed a legal case at the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS Court) in Abuja, Nigeria, seeking to lift the ban on pregnant school girls from attending school and sitting exams in Sierra Leone.

The case also seeks to hold the government of Sierra Leone to account for its failure to respect, protect, and fulfil the girls’ right to education.

IHRDA, Equality Now and partners have been advocating for the ban to be lifted and have repeatedly engaged with state and non-state actors to end this gender discrimination. Unfortunately, the ban remains and the violation of girls rights to education continues unabated, hence the need to litigate on the issue at the West African regional court.

This discriminatory policy came into effect in 2015 just before schools re-opened subsequent to the Ebola crisis.  The girls are being wrongly punished on multiple levels by the government, which is both denying girls access to education and failing to bring to book the perpetrators of sexual violence.

IHRDA Executive Director, Gate Sowe, believes successful litigation of this case will serve as a precedent for other countries with similar contexts.

“Today marks the beginning of the realization of rights for girls in Sierra Leone. The ECOWAS court is finally seized of the injustices suffered by girls in Sierra Leone.” Judy Gitau- Nkuranga, Equality Now.

Addressing the press in Bo district, organizations working on advancing the rights of women and girls in Sierra Leone, reiterated the need for justice for girls, who are victims of sexual exploitation and rape.

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4 March 2019: Case was to be heard, but adjourned to 7 May 2019.

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