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Sierra Leone judge rules woman can become local chief

[JURIST] A judge in Sierra Leone ruled Tuesday that a woman has the right to become a regional political leader in the country. The High Court of Justice [official website] reversed a previous ban that had prevented Iye Kendor Bandabla from her birthright to compete for the position of paramount chief in her local district. The decision also upheld the 2009 Chieftaincy Act [text, PDF], which includes both gender pronouns in describing paramount chief candidate qualifications, suggesting that the legislators' intent was to allow both men and women to run for the position. Women are allowed to become chiefs in the southern regions, but traditionalists have banned women from holding the powerful position [BBC report] in rest of the country.

In December, a Sierra Leone court ruled against another woman, Elizabeth Simbiwa Sogbo-Tortu, saying that she could not become chief in her region [BBC report]. Tortu filed a complaint after traditionalists prevented her from running for the position, and she is currently pursuing a Supreme Court hearing. There is also evidence of discrimination [IRIN report] against women running for parliament, where only about 13 percent of the representatives are women. Sierra Leone has a history of human rights violations, but has been working to improve its rights record. The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website] was established ten years ago [text, PDF] in a joint endeavor by the government of Sierra Leone and the UN to provide a forum to try those responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law, committed in Sierra Leone. In November, the SCSL handed over its detention facility [JURIST report] to the Sierra Leone Prison Service in a monumental step towards the court's resolution. After upholding the sentences [JURIST report] of several former soldiers in October, and with only one remaining indictment [JURIST report] against former Liberian president Charles Taylor [JURIST news archive], the SCSL has largely fulfilled its purpose and will continue taking steps to close down.

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