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Sierra Leone News Horrendous violations, abuses of women in elections exposed  

Sata lives in Kailahun, the stronghold of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), while Emma lives in Port Loko the All People’s Congress (APC) political fortress. During the multi-tier elections on 7 March 2018, Sata supported the APC, while Emma, on the other hand, declared her support to the SLPP. These two women were innocently and patriotically exercising their right to choose in a multiparty democratic dispensation. Little did they know that their choices would rain a wrath of violence on them. After the elections, Sata alleges that she was raped by seven men; and properties were destroyed. Emma was insulted, robbed and beaten. These two women represent a microcosm of the extent of violence perpetrated on women during Sierra Leone’s 2018 elections. Many of these victims continue to suffer in silence while their alleged perpetrators walk free without justice being served. With funding from UN Women in Sierra Leone, the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) launched a research project to investigate the prevalence of politically-motivated violence against women during the 2018 elections. Yesterday, 17 April 2019, CARL officially launched the report titled: Women, Politics and Violence: Reflections on the 2018 Elections in Sierra Leone: A report on Women’s Experience with Violence in Politics. The report shows that while more women were willing to participate and did participate in the 2018 elections there was an increase in the acts of violence specifically targeting them.

The key findings include:

  • high levels of harassment, intimidation, and psychological abuse were reported by women in all categories of political participation;
  • activists, elected leaders, officials and voters were serious obstacles to political participation by women;
  • women reported suffering more often from emotional/psychological abuse than from any other form of violence, followed by physical and economic violence.
  • rape was recorded as the most serious form of politically-motivated violence;
  • the police showed a lack of willingness and commitment to investigate and prosecute politically-motivated violence cases in general and politically-motivated violence against women in particular;
  • a continued lack of commitment and willingness of local leaders, communities and the government in pursuing cases, bringing perpetrators to trial and providing relief to victims, plus undue delays in bringing cases to trial, proved unhelpful in addressing the politically-motivated violence against women;
  • discriminatory behaviour by men towards women was evident at the household/family level and in public, along with a limited knowledge and understanding about human rights, were key impediments to addressing gender-based violence.

Recommendations were proffered by the research. The first is that political party leaders need to work to end violence as part of political campaigns, and that political parties commit to preventing violence in campaigns and commit themselves to the peaceful exercise of democratic choice. Secondly, government must pass necessary legislation to counter politically-motivated and gender-based violence, and the police and judiciary must commit to enforcing the laws. The Government, where necessary, needs to ensure the safety of victims and the prosecution of perpetrators. Also, the Government, judicial officials and INGOs should provide training for police and especially police prosecutors and investigators on how to deal with politically-motivated gender-based violence. This would include the safeguarding of evidence and the protection of witnesses. Sata and Emma want justice and economic compensation for the property and money stolen during their attacks. Again, this is a common plea from women who were abused and intimidated during and after the 2018 elections.

OG/17/4/19

By Ophaniel Gooding

Thursday April 18, 2019

 

 

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