International women’s rights organization, Equality Now, alongside its partner in Tanzania has today filed a joint case at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights against the Government of Tanzania, seeking to overturn the country’s discriminatory policy of permanently expelling pregnant girls from school and banning adolescent mothers from returning to school after giving birth.
The organisation, in a statement, said that going to court was the last resort after years of lobbying the government to overturn the ban.
A law passed in 2002 allows for the expulsion of pregnant schoolgirls. The law says the girls can be expelled and excluded from school for “offences against morality” and “wedlock”.
The Tanzanian government has not officially responded to the suit.
In the statement, the group said, “Preventing pregnant girls and adolescent mothers from attending public school denies them access to education and keeps many trapped in a cycle of poverty, exposing them to additional human rights violations including child and forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and sexual and labor exploitation.”
Tanzania has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world. UNFPA states one in four girls aged 15 to 19 in the country is either pregnant or has given birth, and the proportion has increased from 23 percent in 2010 up to 27 percent in 2015 according to Tanzania’s own government data.
Tanzania’s policy of expelling pregnant girls from primary and secondary school dates back to 1961, but the practice has escalated during the past five years because of public endorsement by senior government officials.
There is no accurate data available on the number of girls who are affected by this discriminatory ban but sources estimate that thousands are forced from education every year.
Faiza Mohamed, the Director of Equality Now’s Africa office explains: “We have advocated for more than three years for the Government of Tanzania to lift the ban on pregnant girls and adolescent mothers accessing school but without success. The African Court is our last resort and we are hopeful that the voices of these girls – many of whom are victims of sexual violence or coercion – will finally be heard.”
The landmark case was submitted to the African Court in Arusha, Tanzania, on 19 November 2020.
This comes on the eve of World Children’s Day, observed annually by the United Nations and civil society on November 20 as an opportunity to promote children’s rights and reflect on what more must be achieved. At the heart of this lies the advancement of gender equality and the creation of a more just and equitable world for girls. This cannot be achieved without ensuring access to education for all girls, wherever they are and whatever their circumstances.
“Today’s filing against the Government of Tanzania marks an important step towards the realization of the right to education for all girls in Tanzania,” said Ms. Mohamed
In March 2020, a similar regulation preventing pregnant girls from attending school was repealed in Sierra Leone. This came after Equality Now and local partners won a legal case filed against the Government of Sierra Leone at the ECOWAS Court of Justice, West Africa’s premier court, which ruled the state’s policy discriminated against girls and violated their right to equal education.
Ethiopian Forces Capture Tigray’s Capital In Final Offensive
Ethiopian forces have captured Mekelle, the Tigrayan capital.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced this in tweets on Saturday, as he said the “Tigrayan criminals” will now be hunted by the Federal Police.
Ahmed on Friday met African envoys in Addis Ababa and reiterated that civilians in the region will not be harmed in the final offensive.
“I am pleased to share that we have completed and ceased the military operations in the #Tigray region.
“Our focus now will be on rebuilding the region and providing humanitarian assistance while Federal Police apprehend the TPLF clique.”
He said the town is now under the control of National Defence Forces, as humanitarian assistance will be provided to inhabitants of the region.
Recall that Ethiopia earlier announced that a Tigrayan town, Wikro, 50km north of Mekelle has been captured.
Tigray officials are yet to react to the Prime Minister’s claims as the region has been cut off from internet and phone access.
Both forces have been at daggers drawn since the 4th of November when Ethiopia accused Tigrayan forces of attacking state properties.
Police Probe Killing of Over 45 Ugandans in Kampala Protests
The Police in Uganda have kicked off an investigation into the crackdown on protesters last week, that led to the death of over 45 people.
Supporters of the National Unity Platform presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, had protested his arrest and detention by authorities for breaching COVID-19 protocols at his campaign rallies. Local and international media reports say
the demonstrations were met with a violent crackdown by the police.
Bobi Wine has since been released and is now back on the campaign trail.
Police spokesperson, Fred Enanga, however, said that investigation into the deaths will “identify mistakes” that led to the “collateral damage”.
Meanwhile, the European Union has already called for a “full and independent” investigation into the role of the police in the death of the protesters.
The EU – in a joint statement with the diplomatic missions to Uganda from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden as well as Iceland and Norway – added that the perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions.
The statement read; “… the deaths of dozens of people amidst widespread violence marred the electoral campaign on 18th and 19th of November. We offer our sincere condolences to the families of the victims, reportedly including innocent bystanders.”
Last week, Uganda witnessed rioting, chaos as well as disproportionate use of force by security services. The Government of Uganda and its institutions have the responsibility to ensure the safety, security and dignified treatment of all citizens, including electoral candidates and their supporters, in line with national laws and Uganda’s international human rights commitments.
The statement went on to urge all political parties and electoral candidates to call upon their supporters to refrain from violence and inflammatory language, and to take firm action to end any provocation or incitement to violence or any unlawful action. All political parties, candidates and their supporters should ensure the full implementation of the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures and the relevant regulations designed to curb the spread of the virus.
The launch of a full and independent investigation into the events of 18th and 19th of November has been proposed, to ensure justice for victims and to avoid impunity for the perpetrators who must be held accountable for their actions.”
Uganda Jails Former Presidential Aspirant Three Years for Abusing Judges
Ivan Samuel Ssebadduka, a former presidential aspirant in Uganda, has been jailed three years by the country’s Supreme Court for using abusive language against the judges, including calling them a “council of fools”.
The 36-year-old was jailed for contempt of court and will spend the next three years in Uganda Government Prison Kitalya.
Ssebadduka had in September filed a petition at the Supreme Court, seeking to stop a requirement for presidential aspirants to collect nomination signatures.
He also wanted the court to suspend the coronavirus safety restrictions issued by the health ministry on the conduct of campaign rallies.
He used the offensive remarks while defending the petition before the judges.
Chief Justice Alfonse Owinyi-Dollo was quoted as saying that criticism against judges should be accurate and fair, and should not infringe on the the rights of others.
On November 11, local media reported that Ssebadduka, a week after he was summoned by the Supreme Court to explain why he shouldn’t be found guilty for contempt of court after using abusive language against Judges, followed up with more insults. He described the Justices as incompetent, saying the accusations of contempt of court are baseless because the justices can’t challenge him legally.
“We didn’t offend you or you’re so-called Supreme Court because it is not a court in the first place. It is a Council of fools…” Ssebadduka’s response to the summons read in part.
He added, “It is very unfortunate that we entrust you with the judiciary because you don’t deserve to be judges. A judge must have judgment but it is very unfortunate that you don’t have common sense, which is common”, reads his response in part.
After the ruling, Ssebadduka was immediately handcuffed by security and driven to his next home of three years.
The Supreme court decision in Uganda is final as it is the last appellate court in the country, and unless the justices choose, for some reason, to review their decision or Ssebadduka gets a presidential pardon, he will be expected to serve his entire jail term.
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