Summary: This report extracts mentions of children's rights issues in the reports of all UN Treaty Bodies and their follow-up procedures. This does not include the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child which are available here: http://www.crin.org/resources/treaties/index.asp
Please note that the language may have been edited in places for the purpose of clarity.
- UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
- UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
- UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- UN Human Rights Committee
- UN Committee against Torture
- UN Committee on Migrant Workers
- UN Committee on Enforced Disappearance
Reviewed on 22 March 2001.
The Committee regretted that Sierra Leone had not responded to its invitation to participate in the meeting and to furnish relevant information
Last reported: 19 February 2014
Concluding Observations issued: 10 March 2014
Issues raised and recommendations given:
Stereotypes and harmful practices: The Committee notes with concern: The lack of information on steps taken to address adverse traditional stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in society and, particularly, in the family, and the persistence of patriarchal norms that reinforce male dominance especially among rural communities; The continued prevalence of FGM as well as at the lack of legal prohibition of this harmful practice and the rejection of a provision criminalizing child FGM during the adoption of the Child Rights Act, despite the memorandum of understanding signed between the ‘Soweis’, local chiefs and civil society organizations on the banning of child female genital mutilation (FGM) throughout the country; The existence of a legal provision in the Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act that allows child marriage subject to parental consent. (Para. 18)
The Committee recommends that the State: develop a comprehensive strategy to eliminate stereotypes that discriminate against women, including by conducting awareness-raising efforts targeting the general public and the media; undertake a review of school textbooks to eliminate gender-based stereotypes; explicitly prohibit FGM and other harmful practices. To this end, it should intensify its efforts in holding consultations with civil society and women’s organizations and traditional leaders, at the provincial and local levels, with a view to fostering a dialogue on eliminating FGM and other harmful practices, and changing stereotypes, discriminatory attitudes and practices; harmonize the minimum age of marriage at 18 years, and ensure its strict implementation. (Para. 19)
Trafficking: The Committee notes with concern that the State party remains a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour. It is also concerned about the reported high incidence of internal trafficking of women and girls from rural areas. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned about the limited prosecution and conviction rates under the Anti-Trafficking Act (2005), as well as the absence of a specific action plan to implement the Act. (Para. 22)
The Committee recommends that the State party ensure the effective implementation and full enforcement of the 2005 Anti-Trafficking Act, the 2007 Child Rights Act, and the 2012 Sexual Offences Act, including by effectively prosecuting and punishing traffickers; and increase the provision of assistance and support to women victims of trafficking, as well as prevention efforts, by addressing the root causes of trafficking and improving the economic situation of women in order to eliminate their vulnerability to exploitation and traffickers. (Para. 23)
Nationality: The Committee notes with concern that women who give birth outside the country cannot transmit their Sierra Leonean nationality to their children, in violation of article 9(2) of the Convention, should they have acquired another nationality. It also notes with concern that Section 7 of the Citizenship Act (as amended in 2006) is facially discriminatory as it refers only to non-Sierra Leonean women married to Sierra Leonean male citizens for the purpose of naturalization, and not to non-Sierra Leonean men married to Sierra Leonean female citizens. (Para. 26)
The Committee urges the State party to ensure the equal rights of women and men to acquire, transfer, change or retain their nationality, and to transmit it to their children born abroad. The Committee urges the State party to amend the Citizenship Act in order bring it into full compliance with article 9 of the Convention. It further recommends that the State party consider acceding to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. (Para. 27)
Education: The Committee expresses its concern about the lower performance of girls at primary level despite the increased enrolment and completion rates of girls at the primary level of education; the low enrolment and completion rates of girls at the secondary and tertiary levels of education; the increase of sexual abuse and harassment of girls in schools and the increase in teenage pregnancies, despite the development of a Code of Ethics for Teachers, and the negative impact of harmful traditional practices such as early and forced marriages on girls’ education, and barriers impeding pregnant girls’ and young mothers’ access to education; and the continued practice of corporal punishment in schools. (Para. 28)
The Committee recommends that the State party: Improve the educational infrastructure, especially in rural areas, and raise awareness of the importance of education as a human right and a basis for the empowerment of women; Ensure equal access for women and girls to all levels of education and retain more girls in school, and intensify its efforts in reducing geographical disparities in access to education; Ensure that sexual abuse and harassment in school are adequately addressed and punished, and effectively implement the National Strategy for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy (2013) as well as the Teachers Code of Ethics, and remove all barriers to school attendance by pregnant girls and young mothers; Integrate age-appropriate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights into school curricula, including comprehensive sex education for adolescent girls and boys covering responsible sexual behaviour and the prevention of early pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS; Explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in all settings. (Para. 29)
Health: The Committee notes with concern: The low contraceptive use (12.1%) and limited access to modern contraceptives and information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, including the right of women to autonomous decision-making about their health; Regional and socio-economic disparities in women’s and girl’s access to sexual and reproductive health services, including skilled birth attendance and adequate ante-natal and post-natal care, affecting mainly rural women, women in the Northern province, poor women, and women with low levels of education; The fact that the law on abortion criminalizes the procedure without providing any exception, the high incidence of sexual violence and unwanted pregnancies resulting in unsafe abortions which account for 13% of maternal mortality, and delays in adopting the Abortion Bill which decriminalizes the termination of pregnancy based on various socio-economic grounds; The high incidence of vesico-vaginal fistula, including among adolescents; The lack of information on the mental health status of women in the State party. (32)
The Committee recommends that the State party: Provide effective access for women and girls to comprehensive information regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights, including on contraceptive use in order to reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancies, teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortions, and ensure that modern contraceptives are available and affordable for all women; Enhance women’s access to health-care facilities and skilled birth attendance, post-natal and maternal care, especially in rural areas and in the Northern province; Accelerate the adoption of the Abortion Bill; Examine the link, if any, between female genital mutilation and the prevalence of vesico-vaginal fistula, in line with its previous recommendation (CEDAW/C/SLE/CO/5, para. 23), and study the causes of vesico-vaginal fistula and set targets and benchmarks with a concrete time frame for its reduction. It also recommends the continuous provision of medical and psychological assistance to women and girls affected by vesico-vaginal fistula, including through the effective implementation of the National Strategy on Fistula (2013). (Para. 33)
Marriage and family relations: The Committee reiterates its concern that under the Child Rights Act minimum age for marriage is 18 years, while under the Registration of Customary Marriages and Divorce Act, child marriage is allowed with parental consent. It is also concerned that under customary law parental consent to marriage is always required for females, whilst it can be dispensed with for males. The Committee is further concerned about the prevalence of polygamous marriages permitted under Customary Law and the Mohammedan Marriage Act and that property is distributed among the surviving widows of the deceased polygamous husband in proportion to the length of their marriage. It is further concerned at delays in adopting the Matrimonial Causes Bill and at the lack of registration of customary marriages. (Para. 40)
The Committee recommends that the State party accelerate its legal reform of marriage and family relations and eliminate all discriminatory provisions in customary law and in the Mohammedan Marriage Act, particularly those relating to marriage, divorce and inheritance. It also recommends that the State party expedite the adoption of the Matrimonial Causes Bill and ensure that it covers all types of marriages, including customary marriages, and guarantees equal rights in marriage and in the distribution of property following divorce. Lastly, the Committee recommends that the State party systematically register customary marriages. (Para. 41)
Last Reported: 17 May 2007 Concluding Observations issued: 11 June 2007
Issues raised and recommendations given:
Temporary special measures: The Committee expresses concern that temporary special measures are neither provided for in law nor used by the State party to accelerate the achievement of de facto equality between women and men in all areas of the Convention, including participation of women in political and public life (articles 7 and 8 of the Convention), education (article 10 of the Convention) and employment in the formal economy (article 11 of the Convention), where the number of women and girls remains unacceptably low. (Para. 18)
The Committee encourages the State party to establish a legislative basis for the use of temporary special measures, either in the Constitution or other appropriate legislation, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1 of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation 25. It draws the State party’s attention to the fact that such measures are part of a necessary strategy towards the accelerated achievement of substantive equality for women in all areas covered by the Convention. It urges the State party to establish concrete goals, such as quotas and timetables to accelerate achievement of substantive equality between women and men for each area. (Para. 19)
Female genital mutilation: While welcoming the awareness-raising efforts undertaken by the national machinery for the advancement of women towards ending the practice of female genital mutilation, the Committee is deeply concerned about the persistence and high incidence of this harmful practice, which is a grave violation of girls’ and women’s human rights and the State party’s obligations under the Convention. The Committee notes the serious health complications for girls and women arising out of the practice of female genital mutilation, including the high number of women suffering from vescico-vaginal fistula. (Para. 22)
The Committee urges the State party to enact without delay legislation prohibiting female genital mutilation and to ensure that offenders are prosecuted and adequately punished. It urges the State party to strengthen its awareness-raising and educational efforts, targeted at both men and women, with the support of civil society, to eliminate the practice of female genital mutilation and its underlying cultural justifications. It also encourages the State party to devise programmes for alternate sources of income for those who perform female genital mutilation as a means of livelihood. It calls on the State party to examine the link between female genital mutilation and the prevalence of vescico-vaginal fistula, to take measures to reduce the occurrence of vescico- vaginal fistula and provide medical support to those affected by it. (Para. 23)
Victims of violence, war and sexual slavery: The Committee is concerned that insufficient attention is being given to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which made specific recommendations for the rehabilitation, psychological recovery and social reintegration of girls and women victims of violence and sexual slavery during the war. It is concerned that without increased attention to those recommendations, girls and women affected by the war, and children who were born as a result of wartime rape, will remain marginalized and will not be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. (Para. 26)
The Committee urges the State party to devote resources to the implementation of the priority recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that pertain to the impact of the war on girls and women and their children so as to ensure their full rehabilitation and reintegration into society. The Committee requests the State party to work with civil society and the international donor community in those efforts. (Para. 27)
Education: The Committee is concerned about the highly negative impact of the war on the educational infrastructure, which constitutes particular obstacles for the education of girls and young women. The Committee is especially concerned about the high rate of illiteracy, which in 2004 stood at 71 per cent for girls and women in Sierra Leone, and which clearly demonstrates patterns of discrimination under article 10. The Committee notes that education is a key to the advancement of women and that the low level of education of girls and women remains among the most serious impediments to their full enjoyment of human rights and the achievement of women’s empowerment. It is also concerned about the high school dropout rate of girls, including for such reasons as pregnancy and early and forced marriage. (Para. 30)
The Committee recommends that the State party take steps to improve the educational infrastructure, especially in the rural areas, and to raise awareness of the importance of education as a human right and a basis for the empowerment of women. It recommends that the State party implement measures to ensure equal access for girls and women to all levels of education and retention of girls in school, including through temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation 25. It encourages the State party to take steps to overcome traditional attitudes that constitute obstacles to girls’ and women’s education. The Committee calls on the State party to make every effort to improve the literacy level of girls and women through the adoption of comprehensive programmes at the formal and non-formal levels, and through adult education and training. It encourages the State party to strengthen collaboration with civil society and to seek enhanced support from the international community and donor organizations to accelerate compliance with article 10 of the Convention. (Para. 31)
Maternal and infant mortality: While the Committee welcomes the efforts made by the State party and the support of the international community to reduce the incidence of maternal and infant mortality rates, it notes with concern that the maternal and infant mortality rates in Sierra Leone are among the highest in the world. It is further concerned about women’s lack of access to adequate prenatal and post-natal care and family planning information, particularly in rural areas, and the very low contraceptive prevalence rate among women and men. (Para. 34)
The Committee recommends that the State party step up its efforts to reduce the incidence of maternal and infant mortality rates. It suggests that the State party assess the actual causes of maternal mortality and set targets and benchmarks within a time frame for its reduction. It urges the State party to make every effort to raise awareness of and increase women’s access to health- care facilities and medical assistance by trained personnel, especially in rural areas and particularly in the area of post-natal care. The Committee further recommends that the State party implement programmes and policies aimed at providing effective access to contraceptives and family planning services. (Para. 35)
Rural women: The Committee is especially concerned about the precarious situation of women in rural areas, who form the majority of women in Sierra Leone and who are disproportionately affected by poverty and a lack of adequate health services, education, economic opportunities, including credit facilities, and access to justice. The Committee is concerned about the prevalence of harmful traditional practices, such as early marriages, and expresses its particular concern about the persistence of customs and traditions regarding access to land and inheritance that adversely affect women’s equality and advancement. (Para. 36)
The Committee encourages the State party to make the implementation of the Convention and promotion of gender equality an explicit component of its national development plans and policies, in particular those aimed at poverty alleviation and sustainable development. The Committee urges the State party to pay special attention to the needs of rural women and ensure that they participate in decision-making processes and have equal access to health, education, economic opportunities, including income-generation projects and credit facilities, and justice. The Committee also urges the State party to take appropriate measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against rural women with respect to land ownership and inheritance. (Para. 37)
Marriage and family relations: The Committee expresses concern that discriminatory provisions persist in customary law and the Mohammedan Marriage Act. The Committee notes, for instance, that polygamy is permitted, intestate distribution of property discriminates against women, grounds for divorce are different for women and men, and women and men are not afforded the same level of authority or guardianship over their children. The Committee is also concerned that local courts, which apply customary law, are not part of the judicial system and consequently their decisions are not subject to appeal. (Para. 38)
The Committee urges the State party, in line with its general recommendation number 21, to accelerate its reform of marriage and family relations in order to eliminate all discriminatory provisions in customary law and the Mohammedan Marriage Act, particularly in relation to marriage, divorce and inheritance, so that women and men can enjoy the same legal rights and obligations. The Committee also urges the State party to review the status of local courts and ensure that all their decisions may be appealed to a higher court. (Para. 39)
Ratified in 2010, but not yet reported
Ratified in 1996, but not yet reported.
Last reported: 18 and 19 March 2014
Concluding observations adopted: 26 March 2014
Reparations for human rights violations: In view of the gravity and scale of the human rights violations that occurred during the civil war, the Committee regrets that the Sierra Leone Reparations Programme established in 2008 does not fully guarantee all aspects of the right to adequate reparation, including full reintegration of child soldiers and psychological treatment for victims of sexual violence, and that, thus far, a significant number of victims has not received any reparations.
The Committee notes with concern that the War Victims’ Trust Fund faces serious funding constraints. It is also concerned by reports that the National Commission on Social Action had difficulties in registering victims living in remote and rural areas and a great number of victims were not registered and therefore do not qualify as beneficiaries (arts. 2, 6 and 7). (paragraph 8)
The State party should include in the Sierra Leone Reparations Programme all measures that are consistent with the right to reparation and it should also ensure that the Programme is provided with the necessary resources to carry out its functions throughout the country.
Non-discrimination: The Committee expresses its concern at discriminatory laws against women in the acquisition and transmission of nationality in respect to children that are born outside of the State party (arts. 2, 3 and 26). (paragraph 10)
The Committee recommends that the State party take immediate measures to ensure equal rights of women and men to acquire and transfer nationality.
Harmful traditional practices: The Committee is concerned by the continuing reports of harmful traditional practices, especially the practice of female genital mutilation. The Committee notes with serious concern the rejection of a proposed provision to criminalize female genital mutilation during the adoption of the Child Rights Act. The Committee regrets that impunity for perpetrators of this unlawful and harmful practice still prevails (arts. 2, 3, 7 and 26). (paragraph 12)
The State party should explicitly prohibit female genital mutilation. Furthermore, the State party should make efforts to prevent and eradicate harmful traditional practices, including female genital mutilation, by strengthening its awareness-raising and education programmes, in consultation with women’s organization and traditional leaders. In this regard, the national-level team established to develop a common perception on the issue of female genital mutilation should ensure that communities where the practice is widespread are targeted in order to bring a change in mindset.
Early marriage: The Committee notes with concern that the Registration of Customary Marriages and Divorce Act allows child marriage with parental consent. The Committee is concerned at the persistence of early marriages, especially in rural areas, and the lack of sanctions upon those responsible (arts. 3, 23 and 24). (paragraph 13)
The State party should review the Registration of Customary Marriages and Divorce Act in order to bring it in line with the Child Rights Act of 2007 and ensure the strict application of its legislation banning early marriages. It should carry out campaigns to publicize the legislation and inform girls, their parents and community leaders of the harmful effects of early marriage.
Abortion, adolescent pregnancy and maternal mortality: The Committee expresses its concern at the current general criminalization of abortion, which may oblige pregnant women to seek clandestine abortion services that endanger their lives and health. The Committee is also concerned at the persistently high incidence of adolescent pregnancy and maternal mortality, despite the State party’s prevention efforts (arts. 6 and 17). (paragraph 14)
The State party should accelerate the adoption of a bill that includes provision for exceptions to the general prohibition of abortion for therapeutic reasons and in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. The State party should ensure that reproductive health services are accessible for all women and adolescents. Furthermore, the State party should increase education and awareness-raising programmes, both formal (at schools and colleges) and informal (in the mass media), on the importance of using contraceptives and the right to reproductive health.
Corporal punishment: The Committee expresses concern about the continuing practice of corporal punishment in all settings and that it is not explicitly prohibited by law (arts. 7 and 24). (paragraph 19)
The State party should take practical steps, including through legislative measures where appropriate, to put an end to corporal punishment in all settings. It should encourage non-violent forms of discipline as alternatives to corporal punishment, and should conduct public information campaigns to raise awareness about its harmful effects.
Trafficking: The Committee is concerned about the persistence of the phenomenon of trafficking in persons in Sierra Leone. The Committee regrets the lack of specific information on prosecutions and convictions of traffickers (art. 8) (paragraph 23)
The State party should increase efforts aimed at ensuring that all perpetrators of human trafficking are brought to justice and the victims adequately compensated.
Last reported: 2 and 5th May 2014
Concluding Observations published: 15 May 2014
Torture: The Committee is concerned that torture against children is not defined in the Child Rights Act, 2007, and carries very low penalties, such as a fine or a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years. (paragraph 8)
The Committee urges the State party to specifically criminalise all acts of torture in its criminal legislation and incorporate the definition of torture, as contained in article 1 of the Convention, in its criminal law. The State party should ensure that such offences are punishable by appropriate penalties consistent to their grave nature, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 2, of the Convention. The State party should also make the necessary legislative amendments to ensure that sections 33 and 35 of the Child Rights Act are aligned to this recommendation.
Gender-based violence: The Committee remains concerned at the high prevalence of gender-based violence in the country, including rape of girls by close relatives and teachers. The Committee also notes with concern the prevalence of underreporting and ineffective investigations. (paragraph 14)
The Committee urges the State party to strengthen its efforts by:
(a) Providing the necessary resources to the Family Support Units, and extending their presence in all police stations, particularly at chiefdom level;
(b) Ensuring that all cases of violence against women and children, including sexual and domestic violence, are expeditiously and thoroughly investigated, perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions;
(c) Guaranteeing victims full access to health services, including to free medical reports, family planning and to the prevention and diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases, and ensuring that victims obtain shelter and redress, including fair and adequate compensation and the fullest possible rehabilitation;
(d) Providing training for judges, prosecutors, police officers, forensic services and health-care providers;
(e) Extending awareness-raising campaigns on gender-based violence, particularly to schools and the community at large.
Female Genital Mutilation:The Committee remains deeply concerned by the fact that this practice is not penalized and, in fact, is highly prevalent in the State party. (paragraph 15)
The Committee urges the State party to urgently: criminalise female genital mutilation, immediately adopt measures to eradicate this practice, and conduct enhanced and robust awareness raising campaigns, particularly among families and traditional leaders, of the harmful effects of this practice.
Harmful traditional practices: The Committee is concerned that section 2, paragraph 2, of the Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act, 2007, still allows child marriage subject to parental consent. (paragraph 16)
The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Overturn legislation which permits child marriage and establish the minimum marriageable age at 18 years;
(b) Strengthen its efforts to prevent and combat harmful traditional practices, particularly in rural areas, and ensure that such acts are investigated and the alleged perpetrators prosecuted and, if convicted, punishable with appropriate sanctions;
(c) Create the conditions for victims to report without fear of reprisals and provide them with reparations;
(d) Increase awareness-raising measures, alerting the public to the harmful effects of certain customs that are detrimental to women and other persons;
(e) Provide judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officials and traditional authorities with training on the strict application of the relevant legislation criminalising harmful traditional practices and other forms of violence.
Abortion: The Committee is concerned that abortion remains criminalised in all circumstances. These restrictions result in a large number of women seeking clandestine and unsafe abortions, which may account for over 10 percent of maternal deaths (paragraph 17).
The Committee recommends that the State party accelerate the review process of the Offences against the Person Act and considers providing for further exceptions to the general prohibition of abortion; in particular for cases of therapeutic abortion and pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. The State party should, in accordance with the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization, guarantee immediate and unconditional treatment for women seeking emergency medical care as a consequence of unsafe abortion. The State party should also ensure the provision of sexual and reproductive health services to women and adolescents, in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Juvenile justice: The Committee is concerned that the number of children in detention has steadily increased and that minors remain in detention for months before their cases are adjudicated. Moreover, the Committee is concerned at reports indicating that children below the age of criminal responsibility have allegedly been charged and convicted, and that children have been detained with adults, especially in police cells or when their age could not be verified. The Committee also notes with concern the insufficient number of courts in rural areas, preventing juvenile’s access to justice. (paragraph 25)
The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Introduce and use non-custodial measures for minors who are in conflict with the law and ensure that they are only detained as a last resort and for the shortest possible time;
(b) Make sure that minors who are deprived of their liberty are afforded full legal safeguards and are held separately from adults in all prisons and detention cells throughout the country;
(c) Ensure that children are not subjected to any kind of abuse on account of their vulnerabilities.
Corporal punishment: The Committee is concerned that corporal punishment has not yet been explicitly prohibited in the Child Rights Act, 2007, and is culturally entrenched and lawful in all settings, including the home, schools, day care, alternative care settings and in penal institutions. (paragraph 30)
The Committee recommends that the State party take the necessary legislative measures to explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, conduct public awareness-raising campaigns about its harmful effects, and promote positive non-violent forms of discipline as an alternative to corporal punishment.
Signed in 2000, but not yet ratified.
Signed in 2007, but not yet ratified.