President Maada Bio says there are almost 3,000 reported cases of sexual assault, of which 602 victims were under 13 years old.
Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio, Thursday, declared rape and sexual violence as a "national emergency" and established life imprisonment for child rapists.
“[This] historic declaration is a landmark in tackling sexual gender based-violence in Sierra Leone and this was made possible by the tireless voices of survivors (women & girls) and activist who have been working on this issue away from the spotlight, without resources or recognition,” the Rainbo Initiative, which is the only NGO providing free medical and psychosocial services for gender-based violence survivors, stated.
In a message from the presidential palace in Freetown, the Sierra Leonean president explained that there are almost 3,000 reported cases of sexual assault, of which 602 victims were under 13 years old and 7 of them were infected with HIV after aggression.
"2,404 have sexually transmitted diseases, [thousands of others] are terrified and traumatized by suffering and only 39 of these 3,000 cases have been brought to justice and 2,961 survivors of sexual violence have been denied justice," Maada Bio said.
Therefore, the president, who has been in office for less than a year, decided to declare a "national emergency" because of this scourge.
At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone FGM.— Youth-Led Movement Sierra Leone (@youthledSL) February 6, 2019
This ends here!
Time to act is now!#ZeroTolerance #SpeakUpAgainstFGM#youthledmovementSL #FGM4don #endingfgmismyresponsibility #endfgmsalone #youthstepup@CanadainSL @UNFPASierraleon pic.twitter.com/nljkI4ie1M
Maada Bio, a former military personnel who became president on Apr. 4, 2018, announced that life imprisonment will be applied for those found guilty of sexually abusing minors, a crime that, until now, could lead to prison sentences of no more than 15 years.
"The president of the Supreme Court should consider creating a special division that will assign judges to deal with cases of sexual violence and rape," the president remarked.
The head of state also assured that he will work hand-in-hand with institutions to be able to guarantee various services for the victims, from mechanisms of denunciation and investigation to prosecution by the Prosecutor's Office that is free, fast and easy.
The Sierra Leonean president promised a specialized police force with good forensic material to help collect data relating to the attacks and ordered hospitals to provide free medical services to all victims of gender-related crimes.
Olabisi Claudius Cole, a doctor at the Rainbow Center, which provides medical and psychosocial services to victims, explained that this institution attended to 3,137 cases in Freetown, and celebrated the presidential announcement.
"I am very happy that the basic problem of sexual violence in Sierra Leone is finally drawing the Government's attention and concrete measures are being taken," the doctor said.
Last month, a court sentenced a 70-year-old man who raped a 13-year-old girl to a two-day prison sentence, which caused widespread outrage in the country.