February 16, 2015 By Alusine Sesay
Executive Director of the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Ibrahim Tommy, has expressed dismay over the increase in the rate of sexual and gender-based violence cases against women across Sierra Leone.
Tommy blamed the state for allowing such a trend to continue due to lack of proper structures and support for institutions that should be championing the course of justice for victims.
“The state is encouraging violence against women to continue because there are no proper structures. We have undertaken series of awareness and victims are now coming forward to complain, but there has been no correspondence of response of law enforcement. Government is letting down victims of SGBV,” he said.
Quoting from the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) Crime Statistics for Major Offences in 2014, the CARL boss revealed that 11,358 incidents of sexual and domestic violence complaints were received by the SLP, with 2,124 of complaints related to child sexual abuse, while 77 incidents of rape were reported.
He noted that a total of 9,157 cases of domestic violence were reported, and that “of the total number of 11,358 cases, only 2,144 were brought to court, with only 255 convictions secured. No convictions were reached for the 77 reported rape cases, even though 28 of those were brought to court.”
He added: “We feel disappointed that the wheel of justice for SGBV cases is moving slowly. The National Crime Statistics issued by the SLP paints a grim picture about the country’s justice system for women and girls. Children are the most endangered species according to the report.”
He further revealed that 522, 4,452 and 7,391 cases of domestic violence were reported in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively.
“This unfortunately shows that the number of reported cases of sexual abuse and domestic violence across the country keeps increasing from year to year,” he reiterated.
Most worrying to CARL is that “the state has failed woefully to establish safe homes for victims of SGBV”, while state institutions charged with the responsibility of championing the course of justice for victims are largely underfunded and could not function properly.
“The state should invest in the justice and law enforcement institutions. There should be increase funding for the Family Support Unit of the Sierra Leone Police to enable them carry out their function in a more effective manner. The state should also be providing transport for witnesses and victims of SGBV,” he urged.
He said establishing safe homes for victims is provided for by law by virtue of the Sexual Offences Act of 2012, thus: “We are not appealing but telling the state to do things as the law stipulates. Women and girls need justice.”
The CARL executive director noted that the growing number of sexual and gender-based crimes is worrying, and even disastrous that perpetrators are either getting away with it or the wheels of justice are too slow, as he appealed with the judiciary to step up and assume the role of activist in handling SGBV cases.
He called on law enforcement and justice institutions to speed up the investigation and prosecution of two recent alleged incidents of child abuse involving a 50-year-old man who allegedly married a 12-year old girl, and that of a lawyer who had allegedly sexually penetrated and subsequently impregnated a 16-year-old girl.