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.”
Amnesty International has documented how the ban, which was imposed after the Ebola crisis in 2015 by Sierra Leone’s then Minister of Education, put the rights of thousands of girls under threat.
On 17 May 2018, a Sierra Leonean NGO (WAVES) in partnership with Equality Now and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, filed a case before the ECOWAS Court challenging Sierra Leone’s ban on pregnant girls attending school and taking exams. This will be the second hearing in the case.
The Court has granted permission for Amnesty International to intervene as amicus curiae (“friend of the court”), to provide the Court with further information on how other international, regional and national bodies have treated policies that, like those in Sierra Leone, restrict the rights of pregnant girls to education, non-discrimination, bodily integrity and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Amnesty International has submitted third party and amicus curiae interventions before in a diverse range of domestic and international courts and bodies, including the ECOWAS Court, the European Court of Human Rights and Inter-American Court of Human Rights, providing expertise on matters of international human rights law, international criminal law and international humanitarian law.