Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 July 2017
Sierra Leone is slowly catching up with 21st century standards of human rights, including the right of women to wear whatever they choose to wear – including trousers, and enter the precincts of the country’s law courts without being arrested and or assaulted by the police.
Last week the government amended the law which prevented women who give birth to a child whose father is not Sierra Leonean, from automatically passing on the mother’s natural citizenship right to that child.
Hailed as a landmark victory for women’s equality in Sierra Leone, a country where over 60% of the population are women, another announcement by the judiciary that women entering the law courts premises wearing trousers will no longer be arrested and or assaulted, may come as a shock to many outside the country – whose non-secular culture has been well document.
But what is even more shocking is the revelation by the Official Spokesperson of the Judiciary of Sierra Leone, that there is no law in the country prohibiting women wearing trousers from entering the premises of the country’s law courts.
It seems the police have been abusing their powers of arrest and detention, without any regard to the rights of women.
The announcement was made in a public statement issued by Mr. Moses Lamin Kamara, the Public Relations Officer and Official Spokesperson of the Judiciary of Sierra Leone. This is what he said:
“With immediate effect all security personnel attached to Court premises country-wide, are hereby reminded that there is no law preventing women wearing trousers, entering these premises; nor is there any law requesting them to keep their heads covered.
“Of course, who for religious or cultural reasons wish to cover their heads, are free to do so. Any security personnel who contravenes this instruction will be subjected to disciplinary measures.
“This instruction is being issued because the leadership of the Judiciary has received several complaints that women in trousers and those with their heads uncovered, have been wrongfully turned away from Court premises by security personnel.
“Driving women away for such reasons is not only discriminatory but also pointless. It often results to the increasing adjournment of cases in which such women are involved whether as witnesses, sureties or visitors.
“Further, the practice of issuing of “Lappas” by security personnel should be discontinued immediately. The practice has several health issues and is perhaps disrespectful to women.
“Notwithstanding the above, men as well as women are expected in all circumstances to dress in a manner befitting the dignity and respect due to the Courtroom and Court premises.”
Women who have suffered indignation, molestation, arrest, and in some cases assaulted by the police for not being “appropriately dressed” within the premises of the law courts, should be encouraged to sue the police for abuse of their human rights.
This is a matter that should now be taken up by human rights lawyers in the country, and women must be encouraged to come forward with their complaints without fear.