THE OFFICIAL LAUNCHING OF THE FIRST SEXUAL OFFENCES MODEL COURT FOR RAPE PROCEEDINGS IN SIERRA LEONE.

H.E Rtd Brg. Julius Maada Bio President of the Republic of SIerra Leone

THE OFFICIAL LAUNCHING OF THE FIRST SEXUAL OFFENCES MODEL COURT FOR RAPE PROCEEDINGS IN SIERRA LEONE

H. E. Dr Julius Maada Bio on Friday 24th July, launched the first Sexual Offences Model Court for rape proceedings. The special court part of the diverse approach the government is employing to fight Gender Based Sexual Violence with emphasis on rape. The Judicial arm of the government is determined to provide practical solution to dealing with the rape scourge in Serra Leone and one of the ways is by efficiently dealing with the backlog of rape cases.

In December 2018, the First Lady, Her Excellency Madam Fatima Maada Bio joined forces with First Ladies of other African countries and local girlsโ€™ right champions to launch the Hands Off Our Girls campaign, which was followed by a peaceful protest and the presentation of a position paper on recommendations made collectively by organization on the status of women and girls protection to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.

There have been tremendous developments and collaborations between the Office of the First Lady, the Judiciary, the Ministry of Social Welfare, armed forces wives, rainbow initiative, civil society organizations and a few other state actors in finding sustainable solutions in putting a stop to the alarming rape and sexual penetration cases.

Speaking at the Opening of the Sexual Offences Court, First Lady, Madam Fatima Maada Bio, highlighted the challenging work the Hands Off Our Girls has been doing since 2018 through the support of the government and development partners and the impact it has made in shifting the culture of silence and indifferences in sexual offences Cases.

Madam First Lady reiterated, that as a nation, we should fight against family compromise and ensure that victims of rape have unhindered access to justice, care and support in their communities.

She continued by appreciating the Lord Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone for establishing SOMC, the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Minister of Social Welfare, the Rainbo Centre, the leadership of the Sierra Leone Police, the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, Save the Children, UNFPA, UNAIDS, the Paramount Chiefs, Religious Leaders, School children, Africell, AYV, the staff f the Office of the First Lady, and particularly the Government of Sierra Leone for their relentless contribution towards ending sexual and Gender Based Violence in Sierra Leone.

Finally, Her Excellency made a solemn appeal for the name of the sexual offences court to be named the Khadijaโ€™s Court.

Making a statement on behalf of the judiciary, the Lord Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards stated that the judiciary is ready to increase their relevance in addressing sexual exploitation cases. He welcomed the Gender Ministryโ€™s 116 hotline and the SGBV One stop center and asked that support be given to the centers to have video recordings that will capture witness statements that are admissible in evidence and that more doctors be enlisted to work at or with the centers.

Also, the C.J highlighted the importance of the sexual offences model court, while they are optimistic that this new court room will protect the identity of the victims, avoid further trauma when giving evidence in the presence of their alleged abusers.

Delivering the Keynote address, His Excellency Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio disclosed the fulfilment of the promise he made in his manifesto on the repeal of the 1965 Public Order Act, as today his government will also start the journey of protecting the women and girls of Sierra Leone who make up for more than 50% of the countryโ€™s population.

His Excellency salutes the brave victims and survivors of SGBV and made a commitment to support them and ensure they get fair justice.

President Bio highly commend the First Lady for her tenacity in the drive of the Hands Off Our Girls initiative which is not just a statement but has become a national cry and have embodied the young women and girls in Sierra Leone to have the consciousness that they can stand up and say NO to predators and molesters.

He urges all to explore new ways of collaborating to change attitudes and end Gender based violence in Sierra Leone and stated that his government has made an unambiguous statement that there is no place for impunity and every perpetrator will face the full force of all existing laws of the country.

The launch of the Hands Off Our Girls Campaign witnessed the highest survivor turnout in the history of Sierra Leone, where survivors come forward to report their abusers. Due to the high level of reported reported cases, the President, His Excellency Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio slammed a National Emergency on rape in February 2019, where he furthermore asked for the establishment of a special unit for rape cases at Police stations, a court and judges that will deal with rape proceedings exclusively.

As part of the major impact of the Hand Off Our Girls Campaign, the Sexual Offences Act of 2012 was tabled before parliament and Amended in 2019, giving harsher jail term to those persons found guilty of rape or sexual penetration of a minor.

Strategic Communications Division
Office of The First Lady
info@officeofthefirstlady.gov.sl
+232 303 68273

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