EU to invest €500m to rehabilitate sexual violence victims


November 28, 2018

EU head of dele to Sierra Leone, Ambassador Tom Vens

Head of European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone has revealed that they have launched a multi-year initiative with an unprecedented investment of €500 million to help sexual violence victims and empower them contribute to secure more resilient, richer and freer societies.

Ambassador Tom Vens said violence against women and girls still takes place every day, in the European Union, in Sierra Leone, and elsewhere in the world, and that the incident happens regardless of social background or place – at home, work, school, and in the streets.

“In partnership with the United Nations, we have launched our Spotlight Initiative. This multi-year initiative – with an unprecedented initial investment of €500 million to help victims and empower them to contribute to more secure, more resilient, richer and freer societies,” he said.

Ambassador Vens made the statement at an event marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Freetown.

He said that for a long period, impunity, silence and stigma have allowed violence against women to be tolerated at a shocking scale, and that it was gradually changing with the recent global #metoo movement, which has contributed to drawing attention worldwide to the extent of sexual assault and harassment in societies, thus encouraging victims to speak up and defend their rights.

“But we have not yet won this battle. In Sierra Leone as well, women and girls continue to be subjected to sexual and gender-based violence with alarming regularity. Although GBV is still largely under reported, a report from the Family Support Unit of the Sierra Leone Police indicates that GBV is highly prevalent in all communities,” he said.

He noted that 10,544 cases were reported in 2017 alone, ranging from physical abuse (wife beating and torture), sexual abuse, rape of young girls, to sexual harassment and intimidation at work and schools, among a host of other vices.

He said about fifty percent of women experiencing physical violence in Sierra Leone are aged 15-19.

He stated that ninety-six percent of the total number of rape cases reported are under 18 years and that most survivors do not have appropriate medical and legal support or a safe home.

Speaking on the issue of child marriage, Ambassador Vens maintained that under-aged marriage was still largely prevalent in Sierra Leone, thus noting that most of the victims often become pregnant, drop out of school and are at higher risk of domestic violence than women who marry as adults

He expressed appreciation to the government for their commitment to tackle GBV and to take measures to empower women in politics and in society.

“The EU has in its Gender Action Plan committed to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, both in the public and private spheres, through our external actions. Lawyers, doctors, teachers and police, among others, are being trained worldwide to support victims and to prevent gender-based violence,” he concluded.