ECOWAS Court orders immediate revocation of Sierra Leonean Govt policy on pregnant girls

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THE ECOWAS Court of Justice on 12th December, 2019 ordered the Republic of Sierra Leone to ensure the immediate revocation of its four-year old ‘prohibitive’ policy banning pregnant adolescent school girls from attending schools in the country.

A three member panel of the Court also ordered the government in its judgment in a suit filed by two Non-Governmental Organisations to take steps to abolish the separate school system instituted for pregnant girls and develop strategies programmes.

In the judgment read by Justice Dupe Atoki, the Court also urged the government to undertake nation-wide campaigns focused on reversing negative societal attitudes that support the discrimination and bias against pregnant girls attending schools.

The Court directed that such strategies and programmes ‘must enable teenage mothers attend school and or the development of income-generation driven for pregnant girls’ while the government should integrate sexual and reproductive health into the school curricula to increase knowledge of family planning and contraceptive use that will support efforts to address the high

In Suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/22/18, the Women Against Violence and Exploitation and the Child Welfare Society, Sierra Leone (CWS-SL) on behalf of Pregnant Adolescent School Girls in Sierra Leone challenged the policy which barred visibly pregnant girls from attending school.

The Applicants averred that the ban of March 2015 following a pronouncement by the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, officially cemented an informal, sporadic practice into a government policy, effectively formalizing the policy.

During the hearing, Counsel to the Respondent, Mr. Oludayo Fagbemi denied the existence of a ban as purported by the plaintiff and that at no time did the Respondent implement the policy which it had disassociated itself from. He also averred that the mere statement of the Minister of Education which was based on moral grounds could not be described as a policy as it has not been incorporated into laws of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

He contended that the need for the Defendant to provide separate facilities for pregnant school girls was borne out of concern for their welfare, hygiene and the stigmatization associated with it and not discriminatory. Rather, he said that the Respondent was working to ensure that such girls continue their education as there is “ currently there is free education in Sierra Leone which covers the pregnant school girls.’

He therefore urged the Court to strike out the matter as the Plaintiff`s lacked evidence to substantiate their claims.

The name of the Child Welfare Society, Sierra Leone (CWS-SL) was struck out from the suit after the Court agreed with the government in its preliminary objection, that the society was not duly registered by the government of Sierra Leone.

– Dec. 13, 2019 @ 13:49 GMT |

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