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UPR: Sierra Leone, 24th Session, 2015

United Nations Human Rights Council

Universal Periodic Review: Sierra Leone

Executive Summary

Drawing on ICAAD’s research, this submission highlights issues of structural discrimination that impact women and minorities in Sierra Leone. The research examines Sierra Leone’s compliance with its international human rights obligations on the issues of: gender equality, violence against women, discrimination against women in education, inadequate healthcare for women, harmful traditional practices, and discrimination against citizens of non-African descent.

(I) Women’s Rights Issues

  • Gender Equality 
  1. Systematic Discrimination:

 (1) Women in Sierra Leone face widespread gender-based discrimination. The government has enacted legislation to protect and promote women’s status in society. However, the lives of most women living outside the capital are subject to customary law. [i] The status of women under customary law is that of a minor.[ii] This body of law affects women’s lives in critical areas such as marriage, divorce, property and inheritance. [iii] Attempts by the central government to promote gender equality are undermined by this dual system of laws.

(2) Protection of gender equality through legislation is limited by the lack of effective mechanisms to implement such legislation.[iv] Although there is constitutional protection for civil, political, social, and economic rights of women, the rights of women continue to be violated.[v] There is a lack of efforts to promote gender equality. In fact, Sierra Leone has not adopted any measures to implement the National Gender Plan or National Action Plan.[vi]

  1. State Response

(3) The government of Sierra Leone ratified CEDAW without reservations.[vii] The country also took the significant step of enacting three laws aimed at promoting gender equality: The Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act 2007, Domestic Violence Act 2009, and Devolution of Estate Act 2007.[viii] Additionally, the Government has shown its commitment to UN Resolution 1325 by adopting a National Action Plan.[ix]

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#RaiseYourShield

On May 17, 2019, ICAAD Advisor Erin Thomas’ publication: Compacts of Free Association in FSM, RMI, and Palau: Implications for the 2023-2024 Renewal Negotiations (hrbrief.org/2019/03/compacts-of-free-association-in-fsm-rmi-and-palau-implications-for-the-2023-2...) was cited by the President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau Jr., in an op-ed published in The Hill (thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/444291-pacific-defense-pact-renewal-vital-to-the-u...). In her piece, Erin points to critical issues stakeholders have raised regarding human trafficking, adoption policies, and COFA migrant rights among other important human rights issues.

Some of the above-mentioned policy gaps span several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly 10 (reduced inequalities) and 17 (partnership for the goals). Holistically, the existing COFA agreements represent the type of inequity that SDG 10 seeks to address. SDG 17 promotes inclusive and participatory decision-making at the international, national, and local levels. Developing transparency on both sides will allow for a more equitable process and outcome for the renewal negotiations.

The issues within the existing agreements also involve SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions) and limited access to justice regarding redress for nuclear testing and environmental destruction. This impacts targets and indicators including SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 3 (good health and well-being). Finally, SDG 10 and 8’s targets for responsible migration policies are important considering the limited provisions for COFA migrants in the U.S. and U.S. territories.
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