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Sierra Leone News: A call for action on the 16 Days of Activism to end sexual violence against children and adolescent girls

James Sulaiman Fofanah Executive Director Rainbo Initiative

James Sulaiman Fofanah Executive Director Rainbo Initiative

According to the 2015 Sierra Leone population census, children and adolescents under-19 make up 53% of the total population; 54% of them male and 52% female. This is more than half of the population of Sierra Leone. The question is how much progress have we made as a nation to protect and respond to issues of Sexual Gender Based Violence against these children and adolescents? I guess there is no straight answer to this question and that is why a group of organizations known as the Community of Practice on Violence Against Women and Girls have come together to develop a call for action during the global 16 Days of Activism to Leave no one behind and end sexual violence against women and girls. The 16 Days of activism begins on 25th November, the international day for the elimination of violence against women and ends on December 10th, International Human Rights Day.
Gender-based violence (GBV) affects men and women but females are usually the target because of unequal power relationships between men and women. GBV can be sexual, physical, emotional and economic and can be caused by intimate partners, family and community members or strangers.
A 2011 Concern Worldwide study in Sierra Leone shows that 18% of girls experience rape and 30% of these cases are school related. The 2015 records of the Family Support Unit (FSU) of the Sierra Leone Police shows that 2,501 cases of rape were reported with 96% under 18 years of age.
The 2017 Rainbo Center records (a local non-government organization providing FREE medical care services for GBV survivors) also shows a significant number of sexual assault and rape cases reported with 1,685 from January to August 2017. Over 95% of these sexual assault and rape cases are children and adolescents aged under 20 years with 16% of the same total under 10 years of age, and almost all of them female. (Over 25% of sexual assault cases received at the Rainbo Center 11-20 years old). Often the rape leads to teenage pregnancy unsafe abortion, sometimes death, school dropouts, STI infections, HIV and early marriage.
Most parents of GBV survivors find it difficult to bear the costs of medication and prosecution of GBV cases. In 2016, Rainbo Centre records shows out of the 55% cases that were registered in court only 2% had successful prosecution. Issues with poor prosecution of cases in court includes inadequate evidence for prosecution of cases, perpetrators not turning up in court when the cases are called for proceedings and inadequate forensic details on the medical report due to the lack of a forensic lab in country to ascertain DNA evidence needed to attain justice.
The Community of Practice therefore calls for ACTION NOW from the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children Affairs, Ministry of Health and Sanitation and Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Local Government to facilitate the full implementation of the below policies and mandates:
1.The Sexual Offences Act of 2012, Section 39, to increase access to free confidential and quality health care for children, adolescent girls and women survivors of sexual violence
2.To establish and make functional Interim Care Centres for children and adolescents across the country to provide protection services in the prevention and response to Gender-based Violence.
3.To amend the Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act 2007 to be in line with the 2007 Child Rights Act to end early marriage in the country.
For this 16 Days of Activism campaign, I would like to call on every Sierra Leonean to join hands in the fight to eliminate sexual gender-based violence against children, women and adolescent girls, starting with you.
Thursday November 29, 2017.

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