March 3, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
As women in Sierra Leone prepare to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, Women in the Media Sierra Leone (WIMSAL) has expressed concern about the slow progress in addressing issues relating to reproductive and sexual health of women in the country.
In a press release issued yesterday, WIMSAL called on the government, particularly parliament, to expedite the process of reviewing Sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act – which criminalise all forms of abortion.
According to the organization, the aforementioned provisions are prohibitive and restrictive, and do nothing more than undermining the health and safety of many young women and girls.
“To back up its commitment to reducing unsafe abortions and maternal death, WIMSAL urges the government to legalize abortion. It is time to prioritize reproductive and sexual health in the country’s development process,” the release states.
Also, the organization urged the government to do more in protecting the rights of women and girls in the country.
“We are deeply concerned about the increasing spate of sexual violence against women and girls in Sierra Leone. Government needs to do more to fulfill its constitutional obligation of providing a safe and secure environment for all,” says WIMSAL president, Asmaa Kamara-James.
The release further notes that although the Sexual Offences Act of 2012 and the Child Rights Act of 2007 criminalise sexual violence and early marriage, respectively, there is compelling evidence to show that incidents of early marriage and sexual violence are happening at a disturbing rate.
“The current trend of violence against women is disempowering, and severely undermining the health and dignity of women and girls. The need to implement an effective and well-coordinated anti-SGBV strategy is critical, and the need for government’s leadership cannot be overemphasized,” Mrs. James added.
The release recalls that in July 2013, WIMSAL had written a petition urging key state actors to do more in curtailing the disturbing increase in violence against women, but sadly though, the situation has still not improved because, according to a 2014 crime statistics released by the Sierra Leone Police, a total of 11,358 incidents of sexual and domestic violence were reported, with 2,124 of the complaints related to child sexual abuse, while 77 incidents of rape were reported.