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‘Sexual offences are second epidemic’

…says First Lady

February 12, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

While delivering her keynote address at the launch of ‘Leh Wi Know’, a radio programme by the BBC Media Action in Sierra Leone which looks into the lives of women and girls who face injustice in the country, First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone has said that the prevalence of teenage pregnancy in the country has exponentially increased since the outbreak of Ebola, thus referring to it as the “second epidemic in Sierra Leone”.

Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma, speaking at the Sierra Lighthouse, Aberdeen yesterday, lamented reports of a surge in the rate of sexual assault, particularly against girls, in the country.

She said a national conversation on how to address the problem and provide protection and support to those women and children was imperative, and emphasised that Ebola has not been the cause but a catalyst, worsening an already pervasive problem in the country.

She urged that discussants should also remember challenges women and girls in the country face, which stretch far beyond teenage pregnancy and sexual assault, and to remember how important it is for women and girls to access information they need for support and protection.

She welcomed the ‘Leh Wi Know’ radio programme, which she reckoned would help ensure discussions about women’s and girls’ rights remain on the national agenda for years to come.

“As First Lady and advocate for women and girls, I have travelled all over the country meeting women and girls who are facing day-to-day challenges, vulnerable to violence in their homes, schools and communities subjected to forced marriage, excluded from inheritance and marginalized from political representation, but the programme will help to tackle all of that,” she noted.

She insisted that the main role of the media is to inform, educate and entertain the nation as she commended the media for their efforts in sensitising the country about the dos and don’ts of the virus.

Also speaking, BBC Media Action Country Director, George Ferguson, recalled that after the eleven years civil war in the country ‘no peace without justice’ resonated in the country.

He said after the war many crimes had been committed against women and girls, and noted that the launch of the programme was significant because it would help provide justice for women and girls across the country.

Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Mustapha Bai Attila, said society’s refusal to let women and girls be was a disturbing fact to the ministry.

He said the ministry frowns at any man who violates women’s and girls’ rights in the country, as he called on magistrates and judges to exercise their discretion and impose custodial sentence on men convicted for having perpetrated sexual violence.

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