A group of girls who had been forced to leave school when they became pregnant, Freetown, Sierra Leone, 2016
A group of girls who had been forced to leave school when they became pregnant, Freetown, Sierra Leone, 2016
Following today’s ministerial statement to overturn with immediate effect the ban on pregnant girls attending schools, Marta Colomer, Amnesty International’s Acting Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa said:
“Today we have cause to celebrate as thousands of pregnant girls across Sierra Leone will be allowed back into classes nationwide when schools reopen after COVID-19.
“This inherently discriminatory ban which was formalized for almost five years now has already deprived too many young women of their right to education, and the choice as to what future they want for themselves. It has now rightly been consigned to the history books.
Responding to news that the regional Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice has today rejected a ban imposed by Sierra Leone’s government preventing pregnant girls from sitting exams and attending mainstream school, Marta Colomer, Amnesty International West and Central Africa Acting Deputy Director Campaigns said:
“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.
“This also 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.
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.”
Following the arrest and interrogation today of activist Edmond Abu during a peaceful protest in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty International West Africa researcher, said:
“The arrest of Edmond Abu for participating in peaceful protest just months after the new government came into power shows the urgency of reforming restrictive laws on peaceful assembly. The authorities must end arbitrary arrest of protesters and uphold the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.”
“The Public Order Act 1965 is overly broad and gives too much discretion to the police. The new government claimed it was a victim of such laws and repressive policing whilst in opposition and now has a key opportunity to make history by making sure Sierra Leone’s laws on peaceful assembly are fully consistent and compatible with international human rights standards.”
Activist Edmond Abu was arrested in Freetown while participating in a protest against an increase in fuel prices. He was taken to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Headquarters and released after being interrogated.
The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today as it launched its annual assessment of human rights.
Nevertheless, the organization found that a growing movement of both first-time and seasoned activists campaigning for social justice provides real hope of reversing the slide towards oppression.
The report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, covers 159 countries and delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world today.
The security forces killed one person and seriously injured at least two others as they opened fire on protesting students in the city of Bo today, Amnesty International said.
“This bloodshed and loss of young life is a tragedy and suggests a heavy handed response by the security forces to a student protest,” said Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty International West Africa researcher.
“We urge the police to refrain from committing human rights violations and instead allow the students to safely exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
“The authorities must conduct an independent investigation to shed light on the circumstances of this killing and all injuries and, if there is sufficient evidence, ensure accountability through fair trials.”
Sierra Leone must lift a deeply discriminatory ban on visibly pregnant girls attending school and taking exams, which continues to entrench gender inequality in the country and puts thousands of teenage girls’ futures at risk, Amnesty International said today, a year on from its report on the issue.
“The prohibition on visibly pregnant girls attending mainstream schools and taking exams is hopelessly misguided, and is doing nothing to address the root causes of Sierra Leone’s high teenage pregnancy rate, which surged during the devastating Ebola crisis, and remains high despite this ban,” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
(Dakar, February 4, 2016) – Sierra Leone’s president, Ernest Bai Koroma, should sign into law a bill that would increase women’s access to safe and legal abortion, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today in a letter they and five Sierra Leonean rights groups 50/50, AdvocAid, Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, IPAS Sierra Leone, and Wi Di Uman Dem Coalition sent to President Koroma.
In December 2015, the Sierra Leonean parliament overwhelmingly passed the Safe Abortion Act 2015, which would permit access to abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, after which it would be permitted until week 24 in cases of rape, incest, or health risk to the fetus or the woman or girl. Sierra Leone’s current law, which dates from 1861, criminalizes abortion, possibly except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk.
Released 6 November 9.30am GMT 2015Right to education of thousands of girls still under threat post Ebola crisis No action to prevent humiliating physical examinations of schoolgirls in schools Failure to provide sex education, information and services including post rape health care
Thousands of pregnant girls, excluded from mainstream schools and barred from sitting upcoming exams, risk being left behind as Sierra Leone moves forward from the Ebola crisis, Amnesty International said in a report published today.
The report, Shamed and blamed: Pregnant girls’ rights at risk in Sierra Leone, reveals how the prohibition, confirmed by the government in April this year and sometimes enforced through humiliating physical checks, not only stigmatizes an estimated 10,000 girls but risks destroying their future life opportunities. With exams scheduled for 23 November, Amnesty International is calling on authorities to immediately lift the ban.
By Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty’s West Africa Researcher.
Ebola has affected every area of life in Sierra Leone, and made it even more challenging for pregnant women to get the care they desperately need. Activist Fatou Wurie talks about her personal experiences of maternal health care there.
I want to tell you about a young girl I met two years ago. I walked into a community health centre expecting to meet 50 traditional birth attendants for a training seminar. Instead, I walked into a labour ward and saw a placenta discarded on the floor. A young mother was bleeding and in tears, and her new-born baby boy was fighting against the odds to live.
The midwives in their neon pink uniforms asked me to help clean the mother up while they resuscitated the baby. I didn’t ask questions, but mechanically helped the mother clean up and calm down. The new-born was still not breathing, his airway was blocked and the small health centre did not have the equipment they needed to save his life.
Sierra Leone must immediately release, or facilitate a review by a judicial authority, 8 people detained for over three months without charge following a riot related to the Ebola outbreak, Amnesty International said today.
2 women and 6 men are detained in the capital’s maximum security prisons following their arrest last October in the Eastern region of Kono. These people are among 34 people detained after an Executive Order was issued by President Ernest Bai Koroma using his powers under the State of Emergency. 26 were later released while 8 continued to be arbitrarily detained. The detainees have no warrants or documentation supporting their detention or any release date.
Their arrests are related to a riot that occurred in Kono over a contested suspected Ebola patient who was the 90 year old grandmother of a local politician. Her family was accused of preventing health authorities to take her for an Ebola test. At least two people were shot dead during the riot, with witnesses describing how police used live rounds to disperse the crowd.
By Dr. Shobana Ananth, Health Network Coordinator and Jacqueline Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner
The Ebola epidemic is spreading rapidly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and threatens to spread further. Over 13,000 cases have been reported in eight countries this year, and almost 5,000 people have died. Current projections suggest there could be 10,000 cases—and 5,000 deaths—per week by December.
Health systems in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone were already weak from years of armed conflict. They suffer from shortages in funding, staff, a lack of health care workers, and poor infrastructure. And now they are collapsing under the strain of responding to the Ebola virus. Without financial support and increased humanitarian and medical staff, the epidemic will continue to expand and many more lives will be lost.
By Solomon Sogbandi, Director of Amnesty International Sierra Leone.
Since the first cases of Ebola were reported in March, life in Sierra Leone has changed beyond recognition.
So far, the World Health Organization has confirmed more than 5,200 Ebola cases in Sierra Leone alone and more than 13,700 across the world. More than 4,500 people have died of the disease – 1,500 in my home country.
Friends abroad often ask me what life is like here at the moment.
I can only describe it as horrifying.
Every morning, I wake up in my house in Freetown with the sound of the terrifying pictures and stories coming out of the TV and the radio. People are desperately trying, and in many cases failing, to get medical help that would make the difference between life and death. Doctors and nurses are at breaking point. Entire communities are quarantined, lacking access to sufficient food and water.