By Mohamed Fadlu Bah
On the 16 August 2019 at the Palm Beach hotel in Aberdeen, Freetown the Defence For Children International Sierra Leone, Equality Now, CWS-SL, WAVES, Women’s Partnership for Justice and Peace and other organisations urged the Government of President Julius Maada Bio to demonstrate political will to address sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) cases in Koinadugu and Falaba districts and Sierra Leone as a whole.
Hannah Yambasu of the Women against Violence and Exploitation in Society in reading a Press Statement said they wish to draw the attention of the Government on the ongoing increase in gross human rights violations that are being meted against girls in Koinadugu and Falaba districts; and that girls are being subjected to rape, resulting to teenage pregnancies and early forced marriage.
Yambasu continued that they recognise the Government’s declaration of rape as a national emergency in February this year but said that the time has come for the Government to act on its obligations to prevent, protect and punish offenders of sexual and gender based violence in Koinadugu and Falaba districts and the country as a whole and further urged Government to take its place in leading community-based interventions that protect girls from these atrocities; uphold their rights; and hold perpetrators to account.
The Press Statement, also urged the First Lady Madam Fatima Bio, to cascade the Hands off our Girls Campaign to these districts and chiefdoms so as to reach and empower vulnerable girls at the grassroots level and also called on the President to ensure that the special division for rape and sexual penetration of minors be urgently created by the Sierra Leone Police, and take steps in setting up a witness protection agency to ensure that survivors of these violations are protected from perpetrators.
Moses S. Mambu the Director of CWS-SL said that according to the statistics they are receiving close to 40 percent of girls are being violated within Koinadugu and Falaba and that they have noticed that there has been an increase in rape, sexual abuse and sexual violence and early marriage in these two districts and in the Western Area that is affecting women and girls.
The Executive Director of Defence for Children International Sierra Leone, Abdul Manaff Kemokai ,commended the Government for taking the bold step in expressing commitment to end sexual violence but emphasised that there should be consistency in ensuring that every perpetrator is brought to book and continued that victims’ protection is key underscoring that crimes are most times done within the communities of the perpetrators, the victims and the witnesses.
The Coordinator for Girl 2 Girl Empowerment Movement, Aminata Koroma, said information collected from the Rainbow Centre states that since January to July there were over 1,966 registered victims of rape and sexual violence of which the Western Area has 47 percent and second is the North where Falaba is located. She stated that 67 percent of the victims are below the age of 17 years and that they don’t know how many of these victims are pregnant which will lead to many of the victims dropping out of school.
Among other speakers was Gladys G. Gbappy-Boima of Women’s Partnership for Justice and Peace who also emphasised that there is need for Government to demonstrate political will to address sexual and gender based violence in Koinadugu and Falaba districts and Sierra Leone as a whole.