Sierra Leone women yet again have another reason to eulogise the President of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. This time over his act to ensure that a critical obstacle to equality of women was removed from the country’s citizenship laws. Parliament has yesterday July 5th 2017 passed into Law the bill sent to them by Executive arm which now grants all Sierra Leone women the right to give citizenship to their children no matter in which country the child is born.
Prior to yesterday, any child born of a Sierra Leone woman outside of the country could not get Sierra Leone citizenship unless the father was also a Sierra Leonean. This had caused many Sierra Leone women in the Diaspora to have children who could not carry Sierra Leone passports simply because they had those children for non-Sierra Leonean men in the diaspora.
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Ironically, the gender bias in the law was so bad that Sierra Leonean men could automatically give Sierra Leone citizenship to their children born with foreign women in Diaspora. Such children could hold Sierra Leone passports.
Awareness Times has learnt that when the grave injustice was brought to his attention, it so much bothered the President that he had his Attorney General amend the law and send it to Parliament to correct the gender bias. This has now been successfully done yesterday.
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It is a fact that Sierra Leone women have enjoyed unprecedented levels of promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment under the leadership of H.E. President Ernest Bai Koroma’s APC-led government.
This streak of recognising the equality of women and men is said to have been imbibed by the President from his late mother who as an educated and assertive woman influenced her son to respect the intellectual and other equalities of the two sexes. Although interestingly, she passed away exactly 5 years ago on 6th July 2012, her great influence on her son’s gender equality leadership style, has not dwindled.
This has been evidenced throughout the second term in office of the President wherein though his mother was no more, he has continued to make a remarkable mark in the annals of women’s empowerment in Sierra Leone.
During his second term in office, the transformation of the gender landscape in the country has been one of the huge successes of this APC led government. What used to be seen as an impossibility in the past is now taken for granted as very normal.
Please see below for the News Report from Parliament
Parliament Enacts into Law the Citizenship Amendment Act 2017
The Parliament of Sierra Leone on Wednesday 5th July 2017 amended the bill entitled “The Citizenship Amendment Act 2017”.
The bill amends the Citizenship Act of 1973 to take into consideration the amendment made to the Citizenship Act in 2006 providing for citizenship by birth to be granted through the mother.
Presenting the Bill to Parliament, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Pallo Conteh, submitted that “for far too long our female folks have not been captured in the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2006”. He said section 5 of the Act (of 1973) was to be repealed and replaced by the following new section; “Every person born outside Sierra Leone on or after the nineteenth day of April 1971 of a father or mother who was or would but for the death of the person, have been a citizen of Sierra Leone by birth….”
He informed Parliament that, the object of the Bill is to amend section 5 of the Citizenship Act of 1973 to take into cognizance the amendment made to the Citizenship Act in 2006, wherein citizenship by birth can now be granted directly through the mother. He said the new clause proposes the insertion of the word “mother” to take into consideration the 2006 amendment.
In her contribution on the amendment, Hon. Jariatu Smith welcomed the initiative of government in giving the right to Sierra Leonean women who have children with foreign fathers to become Sierra Leoneans, whilst Hon. PC Bai Kurr Kanagbaro Sankah III, referred to the amendment as “clean”. He called on the Internal Affairs Ministry and the Immigration Department to address the issue of people who have Sierra Leonean Passports but are not Sierra Leoneans.
In concluding the debate, both the Majority Leader, Hon. Leonard Fofanah and the Acting Minority Leader, Hon Sidie Tunis welcomed the idea of government in accepting children of Sierra Leonean women with foreign fathers that are now Sierra Leoneans. Both Leaders pleaded with the Internal Affairs Ministry to address the issue of Sierra Leone Passports in the hands of foreigners.
After the Bill had gone through the first, second and third readings, it was finally passed into law.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.