March 16, 2021
BY: MUSTAPHA SHERIFF
In February 2019, President Julius Maada Bio declared Rape and Sexual Violence as National Emergencies in Sierra Leone. Sources say that the move was a major step towards addressing rape and all forms of sexual violence in Sierra Leone. In that declaration, President Bio said that each month, hundreds of cases of rape and sexual assaults were being reported against women, girls and babies with some of the fatalities being as young as three months old and that 70% of survivors of the traumatic experience being under the age of 15. HE noted that thousands more cases of rape and sexual violence were unreported because some families and communities practice a culture of silence or indifference about sexual violence, leaving victims traumatized. “Of nearly 3,000 reported sexual assault cases, 602 of the survivors became pregnant; 7 of them contracted HIV/AIDS; 2,404 had STDs; thousands more were scarred and traumatized by the ordeal. Only 39 of these 3,000 reported cases were successfully prosecuted whilst 2,961 of the survivors of sexual violence were denied justice,” he disclosed.
You do not want to be a victim of sexual penetration and or domestic violence. It is on that note that I would fundamentally assume that you may also not wish to condone such practices because no matter how we tend to look at things, the vices that come in upholding such inhumane tendencies cannot be overstated. These are matters that society has struggled to address over the years, but there are now renewed commitments to ensure that the paradigm is shifted for the better.
Essential state and non-state documents have shown that we must not tolerate such practices in society. Paragraph 330 of the TRC recommendation reads; “Women and girls in Sierra Leone continue to be the victims of sexual violence. The Commission notes that the national laws of Sierra Leone are inadequate to deal with the prosecution of crimes of sexual violence, including rape, sexual harassment and other forms of sexual abuse. The current rules of procedure and evidence in respect of crimes of sexual violence are not only discriminatory but are also offensive to women and girls.” 333 of the recommendations say “In order to address these inadequacies, the Commission recommends that laws that link the prosecution of sexual offences to the moral character of a complainant should be repealed” This is an imperative recommendation.
The fact that such matters need to be addressed is obvious. There has to be a way we protect the dignities of our young girls and women. This is something that is of essence. It is in line with this that the regional Admin of the family support unit at the Kenema police division, Inspector Charles Luseni has on Monday 30th November, 2020 disclosed on the Kamboi agriculture radio good morning show that, the family support unit in Kenema is now more proactive to dealing with sexual offences and domestic violence cases in the Eastern Region than ever before.
Inspector Luseni said that the 2020 Sexual Offences Act is not distinct as compared to the 2019 Sexual Offences Law which he said clearly puts straight penalties for all sexual offences such as sexual penetration and all forms of sexual assaults, and that, there is now a distinct line between penalty among age bracket and compromise of all sexual offences, adding that, the 2020 Sexual Offences Law has put more seriousness on the issue, as penalties of 15 years to life imprisonment have helped reduced the increase of sexual offences and domestic violence.
The regional Admin however explained that parental neglect, economic abuse, single parenting are all reasons for sexual offences and domestic violence. According to him, over 30 reported cases of physical assaults are from men against women and girls from across the Eastern Region. The issue of domestic violence is as a result of when women get tired of husband neglect, children and of their responsibility as household heads which caused a back clash that result into dangerous reaction, noting that men do not normally report their wives due to culture and ego.
“FSU is faced with tremendous challenges because FSU’s role is more of a civilian than that of the role of policing and that is the more reason the FSU is overburdened with social issues.”
Meanwhile, FSU Kenema has built a juvenile home for children in conflict with the law and the new building will soon be officially handed over to the AIG.
Inspector Luseni added that for sexual offences and domestic violence to reduce to the lowest rate, parents should sacrifice for their children and that perpetrators should know that the law is not a respecter of man, stating that boys and girls should concentrate on their education.
Recommendation 338 of TRC “calls on community leaders to discourage the practice of accepting monetary compensation for the crimes of rape and sexual violence as an alternative to reporting the cases for criminal prosecution. Communities should be encouraged to pursue prosecutions for offenders of sex crimes.”
‘’These are serious matters that should not be treated with levity. Women and girls deserve better and that is why they should be treated with care and affection,’’ an elderly person living in the outskirts of Kenema Sierra Leone, told me.
This article is produced with support from MRCG through the ATJLF project on: “Engaging the media to change the narrative on Transitional Justice (TJ) issues in Sierra Leone.”