African human rights groups sue Sierra Leone for upholding policy that violates the right to education of pregnant girls

Banjul, 17th May 2018: SRT grantees Equality Now and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), along with several Sierra Leonean human rights organisations, have filed a legal case at the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria, seeking to lift the ban on pregnant 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.

The 2015 Ebola crisis caused a rise in rape, abuse and poverty in Sierra Leone, which in turn triggered an increase in teenage pregnancies. The government implemented the ban just before schools reopened after the crisis, claiming that allowing pregnant girls to attend school would expose them to ridicule, stop them from doing well in class, and encourage other girls to become pregnant. IHRDA, Equality Now and their partners have been advocating for the ban to be lifted since its inception, arguing that it constitutes gender discrimination.

IHRDA Executive Director Gaye Sowe believes successful litigation of this case will serve as a precedent for other countries with similar contexts. Judy Gitau- Nkuranga of Equality Now said, ‘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’.

ECOWAS confirmed the case has been filed and has given the Sierra Leonean government 30 days to respond.
Full story from IHRDA’s website:

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