ECOWAS Court Adjourns Matter to May 7
March 6, 2019
By Joseph S. Margai
The ECOWAS Court of Justice, sitting in Abuja, has on Monday, 4th March, 2019, adjourned a case on the ban of pregnant girls from attending school, due to the absence of one of the judges.
A group of civil society organisations, including Women Against Violence and Exploitation in Society (WAVES), Defence for Children Sierra Leone, Graceland Sierra Leone, Women’s Partnership for Justice and Peace (WPJP) – and Equality Now on Thursday, 17th May, 2018, filed a civil suit in the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice against the Government of Sierra Leone, seeking to lift the ban on pregnant girls from attending school and writing examinations.
The controversial ban on pregnant girls was imposed by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in April 2015, during the Ebola outbreak and had been declared as a government policy.
Equality Now End Sexual Violence Programme Officer, Naitore Nyamu, said sexual violence is a widespread phenomenon among adolescents due to, among other reasons, their vulnerability.
“In Sierra Leone, many girls have been sexually violated by their teachers or someone close to them. This leads to many girls dropping out of schools,” she said.
She noted that the right to education is a pertinent right from which other rights are realised, adding that a denial of the right to education leaves girls vulnerable to numerous forms of violence.
She urged the government of Sierra Leone to identify effective approaches to protecting girls from all forms of sexual and gender based violence, noting that government has the obligation to respect, protect and fulfill all human rights of adolescent girls.
“It is imperative to address gender based violence among adolescent girls as failure to do so would have a long term effect on the victims, which is counter-productive. Research has proven that girls are at a higher risk of sexual violence and the root cause of this is the entrenched gender inequalities in the society,” she said.
She called for concerted efforts at multiple levels to address sexual and gender based violence among adolescent girls, while urging all actors advancing the rights for girls to apply a multi-sectorial approach in addressing sexual and gender based violence among girls.