September 27, 2016 By Saa Matthias D. BENDU*
As we pay attention to cliques and gansterism, we should also not lose sight of the increase in violence against adolescent women and girls. The emerging evil phenomenon of raping and killing young women and abandoning their nude corpse in the open, and the alarming increase in sexual penetration of girls across the country is indeed worrisome, and should be of grave concerned to us all.
Both the print and electronic media are again on a daily basis reporting issues of rape of either an adolescent woman or the sexual penetration committed against an infant girl, most times the victims are girls below the ages of eight down wards, with the perpetrators within the age bracket of 35-70 years across the country.
What is really responsible for the increase in these diabolical acts against innocent girl-children in Sierra Leone, for the past 10 years or more, is the billion dollar question?
Whether we are still been haunted by ghost of the 11 years barbaric war and/or the increased substance abuse amongst men, especially the proliferation of cheap alcohol with high alcoholic content on very Street corners in all cities, big towns and villages. Most Sierra Leoneans believe it is mere weakness by men who have lost their brain, sex maniacs who are bent on destroying our young women and girls to satisfy their uncontrollable sexual lust. Because, call girls abound in all nooks and crannies of the country!
It’s sad to know that most of this sexual violence is committed by family members, relatives or somebody very close to family. Most women, who have gone through this terrible act (rape and any form of sexual violence by family members/relatives) and have kept it secret for fear of stigmatisation by the community, are often traumatised and most times consume with hate for themselves, distrust for almost all men. We are now wallowing in complete moral decadency at present as reports about sexual penetration against children below 18 are on the increase, and there are reports from communities where people in authority, such as community leaders, pastors and imams engage in sexual activities with girls under the age of 18.
Currently, court reporters are filing reports from court which point to an increase in the dastardly act by fathers, uncles and brothers who force their own blood relations, especially underage girls, into sexual intercourse. Men from various backgrounds are involved in this weak act; teachers, sheiks (local Islamic teachers). Those who are suppose to be the moral guarantors in every society/community are also in court for sexual offences. Who are the real role models for those children, who should the children trust now?
In Njama community, Kowa Chiefdom, Moyamba District, a 35-year-old father is currently on a run for having sexual intercourse with his own 15-year-old biological daughter (incest). In Freetown, currently two pastors are in court for alleged sexual intercourse with young women, members of their congregation. In Kono district, another girl child has died as the result of rape; the perpetrator first made the two girls drunk with palm wine and dragged them into the bush, where he raped them. One of the girls later died, according to Radio Democracy 98.1 FM. This is the second time a girl child is dying as result of rap in Kono district. Another 14-year-old girl was raped by her uncle in Freetown, reports Concord Times Newspaper. The list continues.
Sadly, some have blamed women’s dress styles as attracting men and consequently causing the rape! I wonder what dress code of a five or three year old girl should influence such a raft of rape of infant girls across the country.
Rape has serious negative health effect on women, besides sexually transmitted diseases. Their dignity, self-esteem and prestige are taken away from them, a trauma that lingers long.
Sierra Leone is a signatory to CEDAW and other international conventions on the protection of the rights of women and girls. We also have the Sexual Offences Acts 2011, and laws that protect women’s and girls’ rights. However, how they are enforced is a concern to many Sierra Leoneans. What has happened to the case files of Late Hannah Bockarie, Late Sia Gbondor in Kono, the 14-year-old girl gang-raped by four boys in Kailahun?
In conclusion, as we pay attention to cliques and gansterism, we should also not lose sight of increased sexual violence against adolescent women and girls in Sierra Leone.
Saa Matthias D BENDU is National Coordinator Development Initiatives and Hope for the Vulnerable, and Director of Communication, West Africa Drug Policy Network-Sierra Leone Chapter.