An Executive hi-level meeting convened by H.E. Dr Julius Maada Bio, saw the First lady of the republic, H. E. Fatima Maada Bio deliver her report on #HandsOffOurGirls advocacy work and recommendations for dealing with the scourge of Gender based violence on the 14th of July 2020. First Lady had consultative meetings with key stakeholders over a 2 year period , and specific recommendation based meetings for the past 3 months with the Police, the Chief Justice, Paramount chiefs and key Non-Governmental organisations concerning rape.The fight to eliminate rape and the culture of rape have been ongoing since the President launched the HOOG campaign in 2018. For the First time in history, First Ladies from African countries joined a peaceful protest march against Rape in Freetown. In February 2019, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio declared a state of emergency over SGBV in response to the increasing rape cases in the country. The state of emergency heightened public awareness about the issue and accelerated the amendment of the Sexual Offences Act (2012).
The new legislation increases the minimum sentence for rape from five to 15 years for adults (with a maximum of life imprisonment) and can potentially allow cases to go directly to the High Court without the need for a preliminary investigation at the magistrate’s court. The Office of the First Lady as part of the Hands Off Our Girls initiative has mobilized all 16 districts of the country to promote and protect the rights of all girls against sexual violence and other harmful cultural practices.Despite these achievements rape cases continue to increase in many parts of the country, as the recent tragic death of 5-year-old Kadijatu showed. The Rainbow Centre, which operates in five districts of the country recorded 3701 cases in 2019 of which STI (3041), pregnancies (598) and HIV (4) were reported among survivors and total of 255 perpetrators were successfully prosecuted. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rainbow Centre has reported 1272 sexual assault cases from January to May 2020.
Among which 217 pregnancies and 932 STIs have been recorded. The Family Support Unit also recorded 3622 sexual offences out of which 3262 (90%) were sexual penetration of children. Similarly, over the 90% of the cases recorded from January to April this year confirm this unfortunate phenomenon with 1005 (90%) out of 1122 being sexual penetration of children. Her Excellency in her report, stated that the meeting should be result based. She said we have the desired leadership in President Bio, he has constantly championed women’s rights. She spoke about teaching our kids about “right and wrong “ touching, and how to report cases of wrong touching. We should adopt Sex education that is relevant to the present reality. More importantly identifying the unique problems different districts face and creating workable solution. First Lady then called on members of the team she has been in consultation with to elaborate on the issue. Mr Issac Ahemasah the Country Director of UNAIDS, who works closely with the office of the First Lady, spoke about the need for real time digital tracking. The tracking will cover the activities of the response and support unit (Report, arrest, charge and final result ), he also recommends an updated data base of sexual offenders in Sierra Leone. Mr Daniel Kettor and Dr Olabisi Cole from the Rainbo centre, recommended more support for rape victims who they refer to as survivors, they want more safe homes built. They also recommend more Doctors to offer their service in the law courts to prosecute rape victims, this is because Sierra Leone presently has only 2 Doctors that give evidence in court regarding rape cases. The IG of police Mr Ambrose M.Sovula and DIG Mrs Elizabeth A Turay, said they are in discussion with the national Emergency Health Services to have an understanding on transporting victims.
They are working on improving logistic support for the 38 Family Support units across the country. State Counsel should be considered at council level, presently they are only at District level. They are also in discussion with various organisations about having a forensic lab, but the SLP is working towards owning and operating operating one. The Police went on to emphasise working with the Ministry of health to enforce free medical care for rape victims nationwide. The police working with the office of the Director of Public Prosecution, will work out administrative refinements that will fast track cases. The Assistant Inspector General (Crime Services) Mr Mohammed Brimah Jah, who is also a qualified lawyer, recommends “default judgement” in rape cases, and welcome the setting up of special courts for rape cases by the Chief Justice. They concluded by saying their collaborative effort with the First Lady is yielding positive results. The Chairperson of the Meeting , H. E. Dr Julius Maada Bio, did not hide his anger at the state of rape in Sierra Leone. He said he must see tangible results. The whole aim of Human Capital development, is to build the next generation. As a government we cannot sit back and watch our children being damaged. There is absolutely no place for rapists in Sierra Leone. President Bio thanked the Chief justice and the Rainbo centre for their relentless efforts , but he said more needs to be done. Measures should be put in place should be enforced to protect our children . President Bio said all parties involved, government agencies, non-governmental organisations and private individuals should collaborate. There should be synergy amongst stakeholders to fight rape. He then set up a special committee headed by himself, that will meet every month, to give update on steps taken to mitigate the rape scourge .
Persons in attendance :
H. E. The President of Sierra Leone Dr Julius Maada BioFirst Lady of Sierra Leone H. E. Madam Fatima BioHon. Chief Minister Prof. David J. FrancisAttorney General and Minister of Justice: Anthony Yiehwoe Brewah The Rt. Honourable Chief Justice: Desmond B. EdwardsHon. Deputy Minister of Justice: Umaru Napoleone KoromaInspector General SLP: Mr Ambrose M. SovulaDeputy Inspector General: Mrs Elizabeth A. TurayHon Minister of Social Welfare: Mrs. Baindu Dassama KamaraHon Minister of Gender & Children’s Affairs: Ms Manty TarawalliHon. Minister of Education: Dr David Senghe Assistant Inspector General: Mr Mohammed Brima JahDirector Family Support Unit : Mrs Fatmata DarboePersonal Assistant to the First Lady: Phylis KapuHead Administration OFL: Sheik Salim Feika Head Strategy & Communication OFL: Tony Morgan.Strategic
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