President Julius Maada Bio on Thursday said gender-based violence is still a challenge and called upon all Sierra Leoneans to work together to address the menace in the country.
While addressing Sierra Leone at the State Opening of Parliament the president noted that “the fight against the various forms of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) is still a challenge that requires all hands on deck with drastic actions in order to reverse the ugly trend.”
Sierra Leone enacted the Sexual Offenses Act on 28 August 2012. The act makes provision for various categories of sexual offences and covers persons with mental disabilities, children and married women. It prohibits forced sex in marital relationships. It protects children, especially the girl child, from abuse by teachers, religious and traditional leaders. The law introduces stiff minimum sentences for offenders, raising minimum jail sentences from two years to between five and fifteen years.
The government has recently declared rape a national emergency and sexual penetration of minors punishable by life imprisonment.
The president noted that cases of sexual penetration and rape continue to pose serious threat to women and girls. He disclosed that reported sexual penetration cases increased from 2,549 in 2017 to 2,726 in 2018 and rape from 103 in 2017 to 205 in 2018, but said with the recent actions taken by his government, including the proclamation of a State of Emergency on rape, coupled with the cooperation of other stakeholders, he hope to reverse the trend.
The president said with ongoing collaboration among security and Intelligence agencies, and the community, there has been great improvement in the general security situation throughout the country.
Section 20 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone adopted in 1991, and amended in 2013, includes the following provisions: No person shall be subject to any form of torture or any punishment or other treatment which is inhuman or degrading.
Unfortunately, women and girls in Sierra Leone are seldom protected from abuse and violations.
According to UNWOMEN, Lifetime Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence – 45 %, physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence in the last 12 months – 29 % , Child Marriage at 39 %, and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting at 90 %..