Sierra Leone’s president declares ‘rape scourge’ a national emergency


Sierra Leone's president declares 'rape scourge' a national emergency
A five-year-old girl poses with her doll as she sits in her wheelchair in the courtyard of the Aberdeen Women's Center, one year after a sexual assault that her family says left her paralysed, in Freetown, Sierra Leone February 7, 2019.

In Summary

  • The brutal rape of a young girl by her uncle in Sierra Leone became the rallying point for a campaign that on Thursday pushed President Julius Maada Bio to declare the prevalence of sexual violence a national emergency.
  • The five-year-old girl, whose identity has been kept secret for her own safety, has been paralyzed from the waist down since a 28-year-old male relative raped her a year ago, crushing her spine.
  • “She may never walk again, and I want vengeance for what has happened,” her grandmother told Reuters, sitting next to the girl in her wheelchair in a Freetown medical clinic.

The brutal rape of a young girl by her uncle in Sierra Leone became the rallying point for a campaign that on Thursday pushed President Julius Maada Bio to declare the prevalence of sexual violence a national emergency.

The five-year-old girl, whose identity has been kept secret for her own safety, has been paralyzed from the waist down since a 28-year-old male relative raped her a year ago, crushing her spine.

“She may never walk again, and I want vengeance for what has happened,” her grandmother told Reuters, sitting next to the girl in her wheelchair in a Freetown medical clinic.

“The man who did this ruined her life and deserves to spend his life in prison.”

 The assault was one of many that have gone unpunished in Sierra Leone, where until now sexually-motivated crimes carried a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and few cases were successfully prosecuted.

Following months of campaigning by activists, the president declared a national emergency and said those convicted of sexual offences against minors would face life in prison.

“Some of our families practise a culture of silence and indifference towards sexual violence, leaving victims even more traumatized,” Bio told a crowd at the State House.

The five-year-old girl, whose identity has been kept secret for her own safety, has been paralyzed from the waist down since a 28-year-old male relative raped her a year ago, crushing her spine.

“She may never walk again, and I want vengeance for what has happened,” her grandmother told Reuters, sitting next to the girl in her wheelchair in a Freetown medical clinic.

“The man who did this ruined her life and deserves to spend his life in prison.”

 The assault was one of many that have gone unpunished in Sierra Leone, where until now sexually-motivated crimes carried a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and few cases were successfully prosecuted.

Following months of campaigning by activists, the president declared a national emergency and said those convicted of sexual offences against minors would face life in prison.

“Some of our families practise a culture of silence and indifference towards sexual violence, leaving victims even more traumatized,” Bio told a crowd at the State House.

The president’s declaration of a national emergency is seen as a step in the right direction, but activists such as Fatmata Sorie say progress must continue.

“We still need to think about how services for survivors are not accessible, especially for the poor,” said Sorie, who is president of Legal Access through Women Yearning for Equality Rights and Social Justice (LAWYERS) – an all-female group of barristers who provide pro bono legal services to vulnerable women and girls.

“We’ve made a big step today, but this is a very complex issue that will require complex and continuing solutions,” she said.

For Citizen TV updates
Join @citizentvke Telegram channel



Video Of The Day: NEWSNIGHT | Kalonzo quizzed over claims of support for Uhuru term extension

Story By Reuters
More by this author