The recent ruling by the regional Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice sitting in Abuja (Nigeria) has rejected the 2015 ban imposed by Sierra Leone’s government preventing pregnant girls from sitting exams and attending mainstream school.
The Court found that the policy barring pregnant school girls from attending mainstream schools amounted to discrimination against pregnant school girls in Sierra Leone, and breached provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights and other international law instruments to which Sierra Leone is a party. It ordered the policy to be revoked with immediate effect.
Marta Colomer, Amnesty International West and Central Africa Acting Deputy Director Campaigns commented on the day of the ruling:“Today’s ruling is a landmark moment for the thousands of girls who have been excluded from school, and whose right to access education without discrimination has been violated for the past four years because of this inherently discriminatory ban.
“It is also a glimmer of hope for all those girls who if pregnant in the future will not be punished by being forced to leave school and not being able to sit exams.
On May 17, 2017, a Sierra Leone NGO (WAVES) in partnership with Equality Now and IHRDA, filed a case before the ECOWAS Court to challenge the ban. In June 2019, Amnesty International intervened as an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”).
The organisation has documented how the ban, imposed in 2015 by the then Minister of Education following the Ebola crisis, put the rights of thousands of girls under threat. It is not clear how many girls are affected by the ban. Official figures suggest three thousand, but experts mapping the situation indicate that the true figure is far higher. (Source: Amnesty Intl.)