August 1, 2017 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
Institutions dealing with Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) have called on the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRC-SL) to consider undertaking a national public inquiry on SGBV cases.
The call was made during a roundtable discussion organised by the commission with law enforcement agencies, civil society and non-governmental organizations at the Women and Youths Hall in Bo.
It came against the backdrop that SGBV is considered as one of the most common but serious human rights issues in Sierra Leone with scaring statistics across the country.
The 2016 National Crime Statistics revealed that the Family Support Unit of the Sierra Leone Police recorded 11,302 SGBV cases across the six police command regions.
According to the statistics, Freetown-east recorded 2,709 cases, Freetown- west-2, 354, south- 1,574, east- 2,374, north-east- 1,576 and north-west- 775 cases.
Out of the 11,362 cases, 9,135 were domestic violence, 2,149 sexual penetration with 78 recorded as rape cases.
Chairman of HRCSL, Rev. Dr. Usman Jesse Fornah, said the commission has observed that the incidences of SGBV continue to rise, while arrests and convictions of perpetrators are negligible.
He noted that the various gender laws were enacted in order to address the continued occurrence of SGBV in the country.
“However, whilst international and regional human rights instruments, protocols, declarations and resolutions adopt a stern approach towards SGBV, the application of the National frameworks are intercepted by weak structures and systems accompanied by socialized cultures that close their eyes to SGBV and in particular, violence against women,” he said.
According to him, even political will was voiced out in the form of laws, the weak institutional capacities and minimal resources to adequately investigate, prosecute, sentence as well as heal survivors, undermines the effectiveness of such laws.
He maintained that most of the cases go unpunished because they are not managed in a manner that allows for successful prosecution.
“Case preparation involves a number of stages, report by the victim to an FSU officer, taking of statements, investigation, evidence gathering and proffering accurate. Where cases are inadequately prepared for trial, the alleged perpetrator cannot be convicted. SGBV cases are criminal cases which require a high standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt,” Dr. Fornah added.
During a pre-test monitoring of the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act 2012 by HRC-SL in March-April this year, a total of twenty-seven (27) cases of sexual offences were recorded at the Lungi Government Hospital, 37 in Kabala Government Hospital and 60 in the Pujehun Government Hospital.