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Friday 5 March 2010

Dossier of Claims: Sierra Leone

Ratify! While Sierra Leone has ratified the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) without reservations, it has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).

Respect! The Coalition of the Campaign remains particularly concerned by the fol- lowing violations of women’s rights in Sierra Leone: the persistence of discriminatory laws; violence against women; unequal status in marriage, family, and inheritance; unequal access to education, employment, decision-making, and property; and lack of access to health services.

The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the recent adoption of several laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights, including:

  • The adoption of the Domestic Violence Act in 2007, criminalising domestic violence.
  • The adoption of Registration of Customary Marriages and Divorce Act in 2007, which sets the legal age for marriage at 18, requires the consent of both parties to marriage and the registration of all marriages, empowers both spouses to acquire property and provides that gifts, payments, or dowries are non-refundable.
  • The adoption of the Devolution of Estate Act in 2007, which requires property to be equally distributed between the deceased’s spouse and children and criminalises expulsion of widows from their homes after the death of the husband.


Sierra Leone has a plural legal system consisting of statutory, customary, and religious laws. The three bodies of law create contradictions and inconsistencies particularly in the areas of marriage and family law. A Commission was created in 2007 to eliminate discriminatory measures, however, discriminatory provisions remain widespread within each source of law.

Statutory Laws
Constitution: Under section 27(4), the prohibition on discrimination does not apply with respect to adoption, marriage, divorce, burial, devolution of property on death, or other personal law issues.
Criminal Code: Abortion is criminalised. Severeal provisions discriminate against women with regard to their legal capacity. For example, a male juror must be over the age of 21, while a woman juror must be over the age of 39 (Criminal Procedure Act 1965, s.15).

Customary and Religious Laws
Islamic, Christian, and customary laws remain deeply discriminatory against women. In general, customary law governs matters of marriage, divorce, property and inher- itance. For example:
Discrimination within the family: Under customary law, women must obtain parental consent to marriage. Although prohibited by statutory law, polygamy is authorised and widely practiced under customary and Islamic. Approximately 70% of marriages take place outside of statutory law and an estimated 43% of women between the ages of 15-49 are in polygamous unions. According to customary law, women are considered perpetual minors. A woman cannot file a legal complaint without her husband’s consent.
Violence: Customary law permits the physical chastisement of women. There is no minimum age for sexual intercourse and a minor’s consent to sex is not required. Inheritance and Property: Under customary law, a woman cannot inherit her deceased husband’s property.


Discrimination in the family
Despite the adoption of the Child Rights Act and the Registration of Customary Marriages and Divorce Act in 2007, which set the legal age to marry at 18, early marriages continue to take place. In 2007, it was estimated that 62% of girls under the age of 18 were married.

• Violence
Despite the passage of the Domestic Violence Act in 2007, domestic violence against women remains widespread and is surrounded by a culture of silence, especially in the northern provinces.
Rape and sexual slavery were used as weapons of war during the civil war ending in 2002. In 2002, the government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which made specific recommendations for the rehabilitation, psychological recovery, and social reintegration of victims. However, insufficient attention has been given to the Commission’s findings and victims find themselves marginalised in society. Since the end of the war, rape and sexual violence remain highly prevalent. Although rape is criminalised (carrying a prison sentence of up to 14 years), in practice rape cases are frequently settled outside of court, in part due to insufficient training of victims’ lawyers. Families often settle by accepting monetary compensation or by forcing the victim to marry the perpetrator especially when the rape has resulted in pregnancy. A draft law on sexual violence is currently pending.
There is no law in Sierra Leone prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM), and the practice is widely condoned and even supported by politicians and community mem- bers. In 2007, it was estimated that 94% of women in Sierra Leone between the ages of 15-49 have been subjected to some form of FGM. It is practiced by all Christian and Muslim ethnic groups
Although the Anti-Trafficking Act of 2005 prohibits human trafficking, this practice remains widespread, with women and young girls as the main targets. Women and children are trafficked from the provinces to work in the capital as labourers and commercial sex workers and to the diamond areas for labour and sex work.

Obstacles to access to property
Although women constitute the majority of agricultural labourers, they do not have full access to land, which is governed by customary rules. The land generally belongs to the family and is most often administered by the male head of the household. In parts of northern and western Sierra Leone, a woman can only access land through her husband or male relatives.

Obstacles to access to education
The civil war in Sierra Leone has had a negative impact on the educational infrastruc- ture constituting a particular obstacle for the educational opportunities of girls and young women. As of 2004, 71% of women and girls were illiterate. The high dropout rate of girls can be partly explained by the prevalence of early and forced marriage and pregnancy. New laws provide for girls to return to school after giving birth, but they are seldom enforced.

Obstacles to access to employment and under-representation in political and public life
There are currently no measures in Sierra Leone to accelerate the achievement of de facto equality between women and men in political and public life, education, and employment in the formal economy and the propotion of women in each of these fields remains very low. Most illiterate women work in the informal sector and do not benefit from a social security scheme. Women remain underrepresented in political life. In 2007, 15% of Members of Parliament, 30.4% of the judiciary, and 10.5% of magistrates were women. Only 4 women held cabinet positions.

Obstacles to access to health
Healthcare services for women are woefully inadequate. Health clinics are understaffed and personnel are undertrained and often unpaid. Sierra Leone’s maternal mortality rate is the highest in the world (2,000 of 100,000), as a result of lack of access to pre- natal and post natal care, lack of contraceptive usage and family planning (only 4% of women have access to family planning services), cultural barriers, financial barriers, lack of skilled birth attendants, health issues including malaria, HIV/AIDS and unsafe abortions. The President has announced the forthcoming creation of a free medical scheme for pregnant and lactating mothers and children under 5.


  • Reform or repeal all discriminatory statutory laws in conformity with CEDAW to ensure conformity with international and regional instruments on women’s rights, including discriminatory provisions within the Constitution, Criminal Code and Family Code.
  • Harmonise statutory, customary, and religious laws in conformity with inter-national and regional instruments on women’s rights and ensure that where conflicts arise between formal legal provisions and customary law, the formal provisions prevail.
  • Strengthen other measures to protect women from violence and support victims, including by removing obstacles to victims’ access to justice; ensuring effective prosecution and punishment of offenders; implementing training for all law enforcement personnel; and establishing shelters for women victims of violence.
  • Increase efforts to ensure women’s equal access to education and employment, including measures to ensure equal access at all levels of education and by regulating the informal sector.
  • Increase women’s access to political life, including by adopting temporary special measures, such as quotas.
  • Improve access, quality, and efficiency of public health care, strengthen efforts to reduce the incidence of maternal and infant mortality, to increase knowledge of and access to affordable contraceptive methods, improve sex education and establish family planning services.
  • Adopt all necessary measures to reform or eliminate cultural practices and stereotypes that discriminate against women, including through awareness-raising programmes targeting women and men, traditional and community leaders.
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol to CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol.
  • Implement all recommendations issued by the CEDAW Committee in June 2007.


  • Focal Point: FAWE
  • CEDAW Committee recommendations, June 2007
  • CEDAW NGO Coalition Shadow Report to the CEDAW Committee, May 2007
  • Wikigender,


Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE)
FAWE is a pan-African Non-Governmental Organisation working in 32 African countries to empower girls and women through gender-responsive education. FAWE works hand-in-hand with communities, schools, civil society, NGOs and ministries to achieve gender equity and equality in education through targeted programmes which influence government policy, build public awareness.


Friday 10 July 2009


Communiqué de presse

La coalition l'Afrique pour les droits des femmes : ratifier et respecter lance un appel aux Etats n'ayant toujours pas ratifié le Protocole à la Charte africaine relatif aux droits de la femme en Afrique

english version

Le 11 juillet 2009 - Aujourd'hui le Protocole à la Charte africaine des droits de l'Homme et des peuples relatif aux droits de la femme en Afrique fêtera ses six ans. Adopté en 2003 à Maputo, Mozambique, et entré en vigueur en 2005, le Protocole a désormais été ratifié par la majorité des Etats africains qui se sont engagés à «éliminer toutes formes de discrimination à l'égard des femmes et (à) assurer la protection des droits de la femme». Cependant 26 Etats n'ont toujours pas ratifié le Protocole** .

Ce texte extrêmement important, à l'instar de la Convention des Nations unies sur l'élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination à l'égard des femmes (Convention CEDAW) ratifiée par la quasi totalité des Etats africains, offre un cadre juridique de référence pour assurer le respect des droits humains des femmes: élimination des discriminations et des pratiques néfastes; droit à la vie et à l'intégrité physique; égalité des droits en matière civile et familiale ; accès à la justice; droit de participation au processus politique; protection dans les conflits armés; droits économiques et protection sociale; droit à la santé et à la sécurité alimentaire, etc.

Convaincues que la lutte contre les discriminations et les violences à l'égard des femmes passe par la modification du cadre législatif, plus d'une centaine d'associations ont lancé, le 8 mars dernier la campagne «L'Afrique pour les droits des femmes: Ratifier et Respecter» appelant les États africains à ratifier le Protocole de Maputo et les autres instruments de protection des droits humains des femmes et à tout mettre en oeuvre pour garantir le respect de leurs dispositions.

Menée par la Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'Homme (FIDH), en coopération avec cinq organisations régionales africaines*** , cette campagne est soutenue par de nombreuses personnalités, telles les prix Nobel de la paix Mgr Desmond Tutu et Shirin Ebadi, les prix Nobel de littérature, Wole Soyinka et Nadine Gordimer, par les artistes Angélique Kidjo, Tiken Jah Fakoly et Youssou N'Dour ou encore par Mme Soyata Maiga, Rapporteure spéciale de la Commission africaine des droits de l'Homme et des peuples sur les droits des femmes en Afrique.

Toutes les organisations et personnalités signataires de la campagne vous appellent par conséquent à saisir l'occasion de l'anniversaire du Protocole à la Charte africaine sur les droits de la femme en Afrique pour le ratifier et ainsi affirmer vos engagements en faveur des droits des femmes dans vos pays.

** Algérie, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroun, Congo-Brazzaville, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypte, Erythrée, Ethiopie, Gabon, Guinée, Guinée équatoriale, Kenya, Madagascar, Maurice, Niger, Ouganda, République centrafricaine, Sao Tome et Principe, Sierra Leone, Somalie, Soudan, Swaziland, Tchad, Tunisie

*** Femmes Africa Solidarités (FAS), Women in Law in South Africa (WLSA), African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) et Women's aid Collective (WACOL)


Press Statement

The coalition of the campaign "Africa for women's rights : ratify and respect !" issues a call to states that have failed to ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa

version française

11 July 2009 - Today marks the sixth anniversary of the adoption of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. Adopted in 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique, the Protocol entered into force in 2005 and has now been ratified by the majority of African states which have thus committed themselves to “ensur(ing) that the rights of women are promoted, realised and protected”. However, 26 States have yet to ratify the Protocol** .

This Protocol, like the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Convention) which has been ratified by almost all African States, provides a legal framework of reference for ensuring respect for women's human rights: elimination of discrimination and harmful practices; right to life and to physical integrity; equality in the domain of the family and civil rights; access to justice; right to participate in the political process; protection in armed conflicts; economic rights and social protection; right to health and food security, etc.

Convinced that the fight against discrimination and violence against women requires changes to the the legal framework, on 8 March this year over one hundred organisations launched the campaign “Africa for Women's Rights: Ratify and Respect” calling on African States to ratify the Maputo Protocol and the other women's rights protection instruments and to take all necessary measures to guarantee respect of their provisions.

Initiated by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in cooperation with five African regional organisations*** , this campaign has the support of patrons including the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Literature Prize Laureates Wole Soyinka and Nadine Gordimer, the artists Angélique Kidjo, Tiken Jah Fakoly and Youssou N'Dour, as well as Ms. Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

All the organisations involved in the campaign, and the campaign's patrons, call on the Presidents of the 26 states that have not yet done so, to seize the occasion of this anniversary to ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa and thus affirm their commitments to respecting the rights of women.

** Algeria, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Niger, Saharawi Arabic Democratic Republic, Sao Tome et Principe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tunisia, Uganda

*** Femmes Africa Solidarités (FAS), Women in Law in South Africa (WLSA), African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) et Women's aid Collective (WACOL)

Monday 23 March 2009

8 March - The Campaign launched in Sierra Leone

The Focal Points of the Campaign (Women's Forum, Forum for Women Educationalists - FAWE) carried out the following actions to mark the launch of the Campaign in Sierra Leone:

- Collecting signatures from a wide category of persons including MP's, paramount chiefs, human rights activists, womens' organisations, private sector teachers, women in the security sector (police, military, prisons), students and teachers. The list contains 121 signatures so far...!

- Radio discussion on the Campaign Declaration at the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service and the Talking Drums Studio.

- Sensitised participants at the following meetings;

  • Urgent Action Fund Africa workshop on building organisations with a soul in Nairobi, Kenya - 7th March 2009
  • Debriefing Meeting on the Colloquium in Liberia held in Freetown with particular emphasis on the UN Security Council Resolution 1325-18th March 2009
  • Conference on Women, Water, Sanitation and Electricity at the British Council in Freetown. Posters displayed in strategic areas of the Council
  • National Commemoration of International Womens Day On 21st March in Kono,Eastern Region

- Sent letters to key stakeholders including; UN agencies, The World Bank, UNIFEM, UNDP, The United Nations Peace Building Mission in Sierra Leone, Line Ministries-Foreign Affairs and International cooperation, Social Welfare and, Gender and Childrens' Affairs and Finance and Economic Development.

- Distributed posters, stickers and badges to many women countrywide.

LUMICRON DIGITAL STILL CAMERA Rosaline Mcarthy, President of the Women's Forum at the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service Studio (SLBS) on 18th March,2009

LUMICRON DIGITAL STILL CAMERA Rosaline at the post colloquium meeting in the capital, Sierra Leone on 18th March

LUMICRON DIGITAL STILL CAMERA Rosaline at the post colloquium meeting

LUMICRON DIGITAL STILL CAMERA Rosaline Mcarthy and Bernadette Jojo (President of Forum for Women Educationalists - FAWE) with Haja Kadi Johnson (Producer) at the SLBS Studio

LUMICRON DIGITAL STILL CAMERA Bernadette and Rosaline at the SLBS Studio

LUMICRON DIGITAL STILL CAMERA Participants at the Advocacy Forum to mark International Womens Day on the theme "Stop Violence Against Women - unite to end maternal deaths", in Kono district, Eastern Region on the 19th to 21st March, 2009

Violences politiques en Sierra Leone: 20 blessés et plusieurs femmes violées

Vingt personnes ont été blessées et plusieurs femmes violées au cours de violents affrontements à Freetown entre les deux plus grands partis politiques de Sierra Leone, a-t-on appris de sources hospitalières, dans la capitale de ce petit pays d'Afrique de l'Ouest.

Les autorités n'ont pas confirmé le nombre de blessés ni les viols présumés. Mais elles ont annoncé que neuf personnes avaient été arrêtées après des heurts, lundi, entre les partisans du Congrès de tout le peuple (APC, formation du président Ernest Koroma) et du Parti du peuple de Sierra Leone (SLPP, au pouvoir jusqu'en 2007).

Des militants des deux partis rivaux avaient commencé à s'affronter très violemment la semaine dernière dans la ville de Gendema (est) pendant la campagne pour une élection locale. Puis la confrontation s'était étendue vendredi à la capitale. Lundi, des partisans du SLPP ont dû se barricader à l'intérieur du siège de leur parti à Freetown, la capitale, où des heurts avec des militants de l'APC ont fait une vingtaine de blessés.

Un observatoire des droits des femmes dans les médias (Winsal) a publié une déclaration exprimant sa "préoccupation concernant les viols de femmes" commis "par un groupe d'hommes non identifiés" non loin du siège du SLPP assiégé.

"Six femmes dont une femme enceinte de neuf mois, ont été admises (dans notre clinique) et se sont plaintes de fortes douleurs" a déclaré un médecin d'un établissement privé de l'ouest de la ville, le Dr Olabisi During.

Des équipes de policiers armés ont été dépêchés aux abords des locaux du SLPP et du bureau du maire de Freetown, pour effectuer des patrouilles.

Ces tensions politiques n'ont ressurgi que par intermittence en Sierra Leone depuis la fin, en 2001, de la guerre civile qui a fait quelque 120.000 morts (1991-2001).

Samedi, le vice-président sierra-léonais Sam Soumana avait temporairement interdit les émissions de deux stations de radio appartenant aux partis politiques rivaux.

Source: Le Figaro 17.03.09 Lire l'article