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Burundireversingschoolpregnancybannotenoughtoprotectgirls-campaigners

Equality Now
Equality Now Equality Now
8mo International Story
Burundi reversing school pregnancy ban not enough to protect girls - campaigners

Campaigners say tens of thousands of girls in Africa are ostracised or shamed for becoming pregnant every year, despite most having no sex education.

By Nita Bhalla, Thomson Reuters Foundation

NAIROBI, July 31 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Burundi's rollback on banning pregnant girls and expectant teen fathers from attending school is a victory for child rights, but steps must be taken to curb sexual exploitation and teen pregnancies, campaigners said on Tuesday.

Burundi's education ministry on Friday reversed a month-old policy under which pregnant teens and young mothers, as well as the boys who made them pregnant, no longer had the right to be part of the formal education system.

The ministry did not give a reason for lifting last month's ban, which had sparked widespread criticism from rights groups who said it was retrogressive.

"Burundi's u-turn on its recent ban against pregnant students and teenage mothers who are in school is welcome," said Elin Martinez, child rights researcher with Human Rights Watch, calling the ban "highly damaging" to thousands of students.

"The government should take this opportunity to develop a sound policy that fully supports teenage mothers to return to school, whilst ensuring it adequately tackles the root causes of teenage pregnancies."

(Above: Burundi government announces ban July 4th )

Forty percent of victims of physical or sexual violence are teenage girls in Burundi. About 11 percent of girls aged 15-19 are sexually active, while 7 percent have had at least one child, says theUnited Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Campaigners say tens of thousands of girls in Africa are ostracised or shamed for becoming pregnant every year, despite most having no sex education. Many such cases involve rape.

Yet in some countries such as Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea, they have been expelled from school in a bid to discourage adolescents from being sexually active.

Other countries such as Morocco and Sudan, apply morality laws that allow them to criminally charge adolescent girls with adultery, indecency, or extra-marital sex.

Burundi's Minister of Education Janvière Ndirahisha ordered the ban in all private and public primary and secondary schools in a letter to provincial education directors dated June 26.

The ministry then issued a statement on July 27 saying all schools would after all take girls who are victims of unintended pregnancies, and boys who made them pregnant. Government officials did not give a reason for the reversal.

Campaigners said global criticism of the ban may have pressurised authorities into making a u-turn - but added that much more needed to be done to curb the sexual exploitation of young girls and high rates of teen pregnancies.

"In many cases, girls are from low income, rural families and are exploited sexually by teachers who offer to pay their school fees, pass their exams - or even buy them basics things like sanitary pads," said Naitore Nyamu-Mathenge, a lawyer from the campaign group Equality Now.

"Burundi must look at integrating comprehensive sex education into all schools, they need to ensure girls understand what consent and exploitation is.

"They must also ensure those who sexually exploit these girls are prosecuted as it will act as a deterrent."

For details of Equality Now's current campaigns, please visit www.equalitynow.org and find us on Facebook @equalitynoworg and Twitter @equalitynow

Article originally published by Thomson Reuters Foundation, July 31, 2018

Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Claire Cozens. Credit to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org


2 replies

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  • Bethany Heinrich
    Bethany Heinrich Mogul Influencer
    8mo ago New York, NY, United States

    I've heard they are really pressing to make period-shaming a thing of the past, and that there are a few non profits working to provide pads to communities. How we can help? @Equality Now 

    I've heard they are really pressing to make period-shaming a thing of the past, and that there are a few non profits working to provide pads to communities. How we can help? @Equality Now 

    • Equality Now
      Equality Now Equality Now
      8mo ago International

      Yes, lots is being done to address the problems girls face regarding their menstruation, however, many are still struggling because they are unable to afford sanitary products. 

      Across Kenya, girls are being sexually exploited because they don't have money buy pads. Menstruation is still widely considered a taboo, and girls often stay home rather than risk embarrassing leaks and other problem caused by using uncomfortable, ineffective and unhygienic rags or other unsuitable material, and the lack of access to adequate toilet facilities. 

      We have a story about a young woman in Western Kenya who talks how this issue affects her and her friends. We'll get it up on Mogul for you to read early next week. 

      Yes, lots is being done to address the problems girls face regarding their menstruation, however, many are still struggling because they are unable to afford sanitary products. 

      Across Kenya, girls are being sexually exploited because they don't have money buy pads. Menstruation is still widely considered a taboo, and girls often stay home rather than risk embarrassing leaks and other problem caused by using uncomfortable, ineffective and unhygienic rags or other unsuitable material, and the lack of access to adequate toilet facilities. 

      We have a story about a young woman in Western Kenya who talks how this issue affects her and her friends. We'll get it up on Mogul for you to read early next week. 


Equality Now
Equality Now

Equality Now was founded in 1992 with the mission of using legal advocacy to protect and promote the human rights of women and girls. For more than 25 years, we have been using the law to create a just world for women and girls. By directing global public and media attention on individual cases [...]

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