Students who are considered ‘visibly pregnant’ in Sierra Leone are banned from school, according to new legislation that was implemented this year.
Minister of Education Minkhalu Bah made the order, fearing that “innocent girls could be negatively affected by their pregnant peers,’ according to NPR.
The ban completely disrupts the girls’ ability to progress through school since they miss taking the exams crucial to graduation.
In a report released by Amnesty International, the girls expressed their outrage with the decision.
‘If you are pregnant, it is not the end of your life. I was pregnant when school re-opened. I was not allowed to go. If I had been allowed, I would have gone,’ one woman explains.
School legislation saw the ban as an opportunity to humiliate girls even further. Students were subjected to body searches of their breasts and forced to take pregnancy tests.
‘When they ask you sometimes, you will deny and say that you are not pregnant and they will check you to know whether it is true that you are pregnant or not. If they find out you are pregnant they will drive you out of the school because you have spoilt the name of the school,’ one girl said.
The most disgusting part of this law is that a majority of the girls who are pregnant conceived due to rape or sexual coercion. For some girls, their teacher is the perpetrator.
In May, eight organizations came together to issue a joint statement against the violating mandate.
‘Research shows that young girls seldom become pregnant by choice. Pregnancy amongst young girls is often a consequence of other rights violations, including coercion and/or sexual violence and rape, lack of information related to girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, and harmful cultural practices such as early marriage,’
But the Minister of Gender, Moijueh Kaikai, has spun #slutshaming rhetoric, claiming that it is the girls who can’t control themselves.
International attention to the issue has caused allies to find a solution. The United Kingdom and Ireland are funding an alternative system that would provide separate schools for pregnant women.
As more light is being shed on the atrocities our girls face around the world, it is important for us to stand in solidarity with our sisters who may not be afforded the same freedoms we have in America.
Michelle Obama made it clear that an injustice for one girl, threatens the safety of all girls worldwide. Her initiative #LetGirlsLearn advocates for the education of girls around the globe who are objected to sexual violations and sexist propaganda.