Sierra Leone forum condemns violence against young girls
Following an alarming spate of rapes in Sierra Leone in the first 3 months of 2010, a Civil Society Organizations (CSO)-UNDP forum has called for a vigorous response to stop human rights violations and criminal acts against young girls.
“We condemn in the strongest terms such despicable acts of violence against young girls,” the participants said in a joint CSO-UNDP Forum statement.
In the past several days, CSOs in Kono have received reports of a 56 year old man who allegedly defiled a 12 year old girl. The young girl later died at the Government Hospital in Koidu. The alleged perpetrator is currently detained at Tankoro Police Station in Kono.
Although we commend the police for taking action in this case, the rate of such Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) incidents remains an area of serious concern. A small sample of recent allegations reported by this Forum include the following:
• In Bombali district, a 13 year old girl was defiled by a 45 year old man;
• In Moyamba, 5 and 9 year old girls were defiled with no arrests;
• In Bo, a 16 year old was gang raped with no convictions almost a year later; and
• In Freetown, a 12 year old girl was sexually abused by 49 year old man.”
SGBV is a criminal offence, and an abuse of a citizen's basic human rights, under the Domestic Violence Act (2007) and other laws in Sierra Leone.
The forum called for “swift and targeted action”, to prevent and prosecute Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) against young girls, including the immediate and timely investigation of such cases by the police.
“We cite the government's decisive steps against armed robberies in 2009 as a model for concerted action and effort,” the statement said.
The role of the media to improve protection of young girls and women from sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) was also highlighted at a recent UNDP media training workshop, where up to 40 journalists received specialist training on reporting SGBV related trials and convictions. A handbook to improve media reporting of SGBV in Sierra Leone will soon be launched by UNDP's Access to Justice programme.
Out of 927 cases of sexual abuse reported in Sierra Leone in 2009, there were no convictions, Ms Bernadette Cole, Chairperson, Independent Media Commission said in a statement at the opening of a two day training & consultative workshop for journalists entitled, The Role of Media in Publicizing Sexual and Gender Based Violence Cases in Sierra Leone.
In relation to domestic violence (which is another form of SGBV) there were 1,543 reported cases, of which 759 are under investigation, 386 were pending and 106 resolved out of court, one case was dismissed, and there were no convictions, Ms Cole said, quoting from figures for 2009, provided by the National Family Support Unit.
The government has taken steps to combat SGBV through the enactment of gender-based laws, the creation of a National Commission on Gender Based Violence and by establishing 43 Family Support Units located in police stations throughout the country, Dr. Soccoh Kabia, Hon. Minister for Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs also said at the Media training workshop in February.
About the CSO-UNDP forum
The CSO-UNDP forum is a consultative platform of 120 Civil Society Organizations working on human rights and development in Sierra Leone. It meets on a monthly basis to evaluate the overall governance and development affairs, update each other on the work of individual members and on the state of human rights, justice, and rule of law in the country.
About the Access to Justice Programme
People’s access to justice remains a critical building block of democratic society and in contributing to the consolidation of peace in post conflict society, such as Sierra Leone. The Access to Justice Project is part of UNDP’s response to strengthening a weak and poorly resourced justice system, addressing gender inequality and violence against women. The project supports improved justice and human rights systems and developing the capacity of citizens to claim and demand accountability.
Abdul Karim Bah, Communications Analyst, UNDP Sierra Leone
+232 78 272 315/ 232 (0) 33 167 428 firstname.lastname@example.org
Nana K. A. Busia Jnr. Senior Human Rights Advisor and Head of Access to Justice Programme
+ 232 76 504822 email@example.com