Thousands of schoolgirls in Sierra Leone have been forced to undergo humiliating and degrading public pregnancy tests since the government banned pregnant girls from attending mainstream schools and taking exams, Amnesty International said on Friday.
Girls have had their breasts and stomachs felt by teachers and nurses in front of their peers and been forced to take urine tests, which has discouraged many girls from going to school, whether they are pregnant or not, according to the rights group.
A ban on pregnant girls attending school has informally existed for a decade, but it was declared a government policy in April, when schools re-opened in the wake of the Ebola outbreak.
“This humiliating and degrading treatment has led to girls taking health risks to sit exams, such as strapping down their stomachs and breasts,” Amnesty International West Africa researcher Sabrina Mahtani said.
“Pregnant girls are being blamed and shamed... as Sierra Leone moves forward from the devastating Ebola crisis, it is vital that these girls are not left behind,” Mahtani said.
Sexual violence and abusive relationships were rife in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak, and fuelled a spike in teenage pregnancies, Amnesty said in its report.