Sierra Leone News: Amnesty Supports Pregnant Schoolgirls Case Challenged in ECOWAS Court

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Various courts have already found that such bans violate the rights of women and girls to be treated equally

Sierra Leone’s ban on pregnant school girls attending schools and taking exams is being challenged by Amnesty International and two non-governmental organisations ahead of a hearing at the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice.

Amnesty joined forces with Equality Now and WAVES stating in a Tuesday press release that the ban, which was imposed by Sierra Leone’s former Minister of Education in 2015 following the Ebola crisis, was in conflict to the right to education without discrimination.

“Courts from South Africa, Zimbabwe to Colombia have already found that such bans violate the rights of women and girls to be treated equally and to receive education,” said Lucy Claridge, Director of Strategic Litigation at Amnesty International.

“This case represents the first time that a regional court in Africa has considered the issue. It, therefore, has the potential to impact the situation of pregnant girls outside of Sierra Leone and even beyond the ECOWAS community,” added Claridge.

In May 2018, Sierra Leonean NGO (WAVES) in partnership with Equality Now and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, filed a case before the ECOWAS Court challenging the ban.

The court, meanwhile, has granted permission for Amnesty International to intervene as amicus curiae (“friend of the court”), to provide it with further information on how other international, regional and national bodies have treated policies that, like those in Sierra Leone, restrict the rights of pregnant girls to education, non-discrimination, bodily integrity and freedom from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

Amnesty International has joined a legal case brought by two non-governmental organizations, Equality Now and WAVES, to challenge the Sierra Leonean government’s ban on pregnant girls attending mainstream schools and sitting exams, the organization said today.

The announcement was made ahead of a hearing at the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice on 27 June 2019, where the case was initially filed in May 2018.

“We at Amnesty International believe this ban clearly conflicts with the right to education without discrimination, according to international and regional standards,” said Lucy Claridge, Director of Strategic Litigation at Amnesty International.

“Courts from South Africa, Zimbabwe to Colombia have already found that such bans violate the rights of women and girls to be treated equally and to receive education. This case represents the first time that a regional court in Africa has considered the issue. It therefore has the potential to impact the situation of pregnant girls outside of Sierra Leone and even beyond the ECOWAS community.”

Amnesty International has documented how the ban, which was imposed after the Ebola crisis in 2015 by Sierra Leone’s then Minister of Education, put the rights of thousands of girls under threat.

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