Tradition and culture blamed for ‘injustice’ against rape victims


September 16, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie

Tradition and cultural practices continue to hinder the administration of justice for survivors and victims of rape and other forms of violence against women and girls, says Councillor Theresa Garba of Ward 05 in the Kailahun district.

While presenting a position paper on behalf of women and girls during a peaceful protest in the district against rape and sexual violence last Thursday, Ms Garba said traditional rulers are not doing enough to enforce codes and bye-laws that prescribe punishment for perpetrators of rape and gender based violence against women and girls.

She expressed grave concern that the three Gender Acts have not been effectively enforced to punish perpetrators of rape and other violence against women and girls.

“Limited technical and financial capacity hinders the operation of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs to provide comprehensive social protection needed for women and girls in the district. Medical services for GBV [gender based violence] survivors under the National Referral Protocols are not effective as most of the survivors in Kailahun depend on non-governmental organisations for support,” she said.

Councillor Garba said the Family Support Unit in the Sierra Leone Police lacks appropriate means of transportation to enable them visit hard-to-reach areas where rape or violent offences are committed, to provide timely investigation, and to arrest and prosecute perpetrators.

She revealed that Kailahun district, with a population of 409,502, has no resident magistrate to administer justice to victims of rape and violence.

She thus called on the government to ensure medical services are available free of cost to survivors of rape and GBV cases, adding that the fourteen Paramount Chiefs in the district should promulgate bye-laws against rape and GBV and ensure that perpetrators are brought to book.

Gender based violence, in particular rape, is prevalent in Sierra Leone, with Kailahun district being one of the worst hit districts. There have been reports of rape and deaths caused by rape in the district in recent weeks, thus prompting women’s groups to march, dressed in black, with calls for action against perpetrators and more protection for women and girls.