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Sexual Violence Still on the Increase

Sexual Violence Still on the Increase

Sexual violence against women and girls was one of the main features of Sierra Leone’s ten year civil war (from March 1991 to January 2002), and remains prevalent in this country, statistics has revealed.

Mary was nine years old when her childhood abruptly ended.  Three men fed her sedatives and raped her while her mother was laundering in a stream near their home in Freetown. To the shock of Mary’s mother when she returned from the stream, she found her child lying on the ground distraught, her legs and dress stained with blood.

“They put dirty clothes in my mouth and raped me,” the girl told AFP without giving the real name.

The family reported the attack to the Police and identified the rapist, but no charges were ever brought.

Thousands of children and young girls were raped last year in Sierra Leone.  According to Police statistics, recorded cases of sexual and gender-based violence almost doubled last year, reaching 8,505 in a population of 7.5 million , up from 4, 750 a year earlier. And of that number, 2,579 cases around a third- involve the death of a minor.

But as with the incidence of rape in almost every country, this shocking tally is certainly an understatement. “Mary” and her family plucked up the courage to report the crime.

“We have a culture of rape in Sierra Leone,” admitted Chernor Bah of the UN Global Education First Initiative at a demonstration in Freetown last month where more than 500 black-clad protesters took to the streets over violence against women.

“The rape of minors is a national problem,” rally organizer, Asmaa James said.

She added, “The situation is sad, selfish, barbaric and inhuman and requires all of us, women and men to speak up. A 28-year-old raped a five-year-old niece a week ago,” she added.  Her attacker raped and crippled her spine. Doctors at the Aberdeen Women Centre in Freetown which helps women and girls, who have suffered from sexual violence and rape, said it was unlikely the child would ever be able to walk again.  The attack sparked outrage, with many people demanding that child rapist face a life time behind bars-calls echoed by President Julius Maada Bio himself recently.

“Let me be very clear men who rape girls deserve to be jailed for life,” President Bio stressed during the launching of the ‘Hands off our Girls’ campaign of First Lady Fatima Bio.

Reports of rape and sexual penetration of minors, as child rape is legally termed, have steadily increased, according to the Freetown based Rainbow Initiative, which provides free medical services and counseling to victims of sexual gender based violence.

Figures collected by the centre show that 2018, 76 percent of rape victims were 15 years or younger-including babies. The rest of the victims were between 16 and 20. Every month an average of 149 victims fall pregnant as a result of rape.

“Children are brought to our centre in tattered clothes covered with blood stains,” Executive Director Daniel Kettor told AYV.

In Freetown alone, cases of sexual abused reported between January and October 2018 with the youngest victim being seven months old and the oldest at 85.  “Amongst the survivors, six were HIV-positive and 484 fell pregnant after being raped,” Kettor said.

By Abdulai Mento Kamara

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