ECOWAS Court Sets Aside Government’s ban on Pregnant Girls

The Economic Community of West African States Court has delivered a landmark ruling calling on Government to lift the ban on Pregnant Girls from joining their counterparts in Government and Government assisted schools across the country.
The regional Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Court of Justice sitting in Abuja, Nigeria, has rejected the 2015 Government of Sierra Leone’s ban on pregnant girls from sitting exams and attending mainstream schools.
The Court had discovered 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.
The ECOWAS regional court ordered the policy to be revoked with immediate effect.
It will be recalled that On 17 May 2017, a Sierra Leonean NGO (WAVES) in partnership with Equality Now and IHRDA, filed a case before the ECOWAS Court to challenge the ban.
Amnesty had also subsequently intervened in June, 2018 to support the position of the CSOs.
The CSOs had argued that the ban imposed in 2015 by the then Minister of Education following the end of the Ebola crisis, put the rights of thousands of girls under threat.
There was no evidence to state how many girls were affected by the ban.
Martha Colomer, Amnesty International West and Central African Deputy Director Campaign, said today’s ruling is a landmark moment for the thousands of girls who have been excluded from school, and whose rights to access education without discrimination have 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”.
She underscored the fact that the ruling delivers a clear message to other African governments who have similar bans such as Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea, or may be contemplating them, that they should follow this ground-breaking ruling and take steps to allow pregnant girls access to education in line with their own human rights obligations.
“Authorities in Sierra Leone must now implement this judgment without delay.”

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