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Ban on over 700 pregnant school girls: Lands Govt in ECOWAS Court

By Mustapha Sesay

A lawsuit was yesterday 17th May, 2018 filed at the ECOWAS Court of Justice against the Government of Sierra Leone by five Civil Society Organisations on the ban placed on over seven hundreds pregnant school girls, preventing them from attempting public examinations.

 

These Civil Society Organizations include Equality Now, Women against Violence and Exploitation in Society (WAVES), Defense for Children in Sierra Leone, Graceland and Women’s Partnership for Justice and Peace (WPJP).

The action of the former Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Dr. Minkailu Bah, was described by these organisations as crime against the affected girls as his stance was not binding by law.

It is viewed that the one-man decision is a catalyst for destroying the future of many girls in the country.

According to Madam Hannah F.Y. Yambasu, the National Coordinator for Women against Violence and Exploitation in Society (WAVES), in April 2015, the Ministry of Education issued out a statement banning pregnant girls from mainstream education.

“This ban was issued out and implemented despite the fact that many of the school girls were sexually violated during the dark days of the Ebola scourge. And these girls were minors, statutorily incapable of consenting to sexual relations in the first instance,” she outlined, adding that girls were discriminated and subjected to many inhuman activities amongst their peers and their communities.

She furthered that despite numerous deliberations with different state actors in an attempt to have the ban lifted, nothing was done.

“It is now four years since the issuance of the ban, four years of young teenage girls being denied education, four years their lives being robbed; pregnant girls are being blamed and shamed and are being denied a chance to move forward with their lives, while the perpetrators walk scot-free,” she noted.

She continued saying that if no intervention is made now, girls will be dropouts, exposed to poverty and extreme violations. She said it is for this reason they have filed in a case at the ECOWAS Court of Justice on behalf of the girls to seek justice.

Speaking earlier, the Executive Director of Defense for Children Sierra Leone, Abdul Manafff Kemokia, said the campaign for government to allow pregnant girls to return to school started a year ago by some Civil Society Organizations.

He said the Sierra Leone Government has over the years signed international treaties that every girl must go to school, whether pregnant or not, according to the Child’s Right to education.

He said the government failed to protect the rights of the children and over five hundred girls under the age of eighteen years were sexually abused and molested.

He said that if the government fails to lift the ban, it will affect girls in the country and has the tendency to increase the illiteracy rate and bring more hardship to the country.

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