An Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court will hold a hearing Thursday on Sierra Leone’s ban that prevents pregnant girls from attending school with their peers or sitting for their exams.
Joining in the legal case on behalf of the affected girls is Amnesty International, which received permission to file a friend of the court brief on behalf of the girls and demonstrate how their situation is handled in other countries.
“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,” said Lucy Claridge, a Director of Strategic Litigation at Amnesty International.
It’s the first case of its kind to be heard before a regional court, and therefore has the potential to impact policy in other nations beyond Sierra Leone. There are 15 nations included in ECOWAS.
The case concerning Sierra Leone was originally filed by two non-governmental organizations, Equality Now and WAVES, in May 2018.
Amnesty said it has documented how the ban, which was imposed after the 2015 Ebola crisis, violates the rights of thousands of girls seeking education.
A similar scenario is playing out in Tanzania, where rights groups are pressing for change after President John Magufuli instituted a ban on pregnant girls attending school in 2017. Tanzania’s Legal and Human Rights Centre, along with global NGO Center for Reproductive Rights, have presented an official complaint against the ban to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.