By KABS KANU
A very serious international offence that violates the United Nation’s principles of non-discrimination and fair treatment of women is being committed in Sierra Leone.The diplomatic and international community might not come out openly as yet to accuse the government but anybody who understands the UN’s stance against unfair treatment of women knows that certain treatments meted out to women violate international conventions in this day and age of globalized politics.
In Sierra Leone, a renowned female politician, journalist and activist, Dr. Sylvia Blyden , has been jailed under shabby prison conditions for over a month now because she dared to criticize the government’. Regardless of the issues on which she criticized the President Maada Bio SLPP Government , Dr. Blyden did nothing wrong as a bona fide citizen of the Republic and more importantly as a journalist and politician , unless of course we do not have a democratic political dispensation in the country.
The right to criticize the government is enshrined in the constitution of all democratic countries. As the focal poins of the community and guardians of socio-political and economic processes in the country, journalists have a right to criticize the government on any issue. And in exercise of this right, many Sierra Leonean journalists are writing critical articles against the Bio government on its handling of matters. How then can this government skip the other journalists and arrest and charge Dr. Sylvia Blyden for something that other journalists are doing ? Is it because she is a woman ?
Dr. Blyden ‘s crime, according to the government, that she criticized the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic . The government also contends that the noted, outspoken journalist and politician criticized the parlous prisons conditions under which the former Defence Minister , Retired Capt. Palo Conteh, who is charged with Treason, is being held.As a journalist, what is wrong with that ? Is she not part of the sociopolitical process ? Other journalists have held the same opinions, but the government did not arrest and charge them. It therefore looks like a vendetta against the female journalist and an attempt to deny her her constitutional right to participate in the political process , which should not happen.
Dr. Sylvia Blyden criticized the government in the national interest. There was nothing seditious or libelous in her opinions . She is a journalist and journalists are bound to highlight actions by their governments that violate the human and constitutional rights of citizens and foreigners living within our borders.
The United Nations had always been concerned about this kind of . Therefore unequal and unfair treatment women have been victims of from time immemorial . Therefore , on 18 December 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women ( CEDAW ) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Discrimination against women, according to the first article of CEDAW”Shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex, which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.” The Convention “Encourages the Secretary-General to implement his strategic plan of action (A/49/587) calling for an increase in the participation of women at decisionmaking levels in conflict resolution and peace processes;
Sierrra Leone, as a member of the United Nations, was a signatory of the convention and agreed to be bound by its provisions. The Bio Government cannot therefore say it is not bound by this convention which forbids discrimination against women and excluding them from the political process. State Parties to the Convention are obligated to respect all its provisions.
Two years ago, during the commemoration of the International Women’s Day , the Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Antonio Gueterres , affirmed :that “Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.”
There is no reason that Dr. Sylvia Blyden should be disempowered and treated like a pariah when all she has been doing is performing her constitutional duties as a journalist and political activist. The government has no case against Dr. Blyden and should free her unconditionally, without any more delay.
PART 2 OF THIS ARTICLE COMING.