Rape has Been Declared a National Emergency in Sierra Leone
President Julius Maada Bio made the announcement following calls on stricter punishment for sexual violence crimes.
According to BBC Africa, Sierra Leone has declared rape a national emergency following a string of horrific sexual violence cases involving minors. Assaults of minors account for up to one third of all cases of sexual violence in the country.
After hearing a young Ebola survivor detail how she was repeatedly raped, President Julius Maada Bio said:
"With immediate effect, sexual penetration of minors is punishable by life imprisonment. My government will ensure that men who rape have no place in society and also any man who rapes will be jailed forever so that a single rape becomes the last rape.''
Over the past three years, rape statistics have reportedly been increasing in the country with over 12 000 cases reported in 2017. In December of last year, the state launched a campaign entitled "Hands Off Our Girls" which sought to enforce stricter punishment for perpetrators of sexual violence particularly against minors. The campaign was spearheaded by the country's First Lady, Fatima Bio.
Speaking about the campaign, First Lady Bio said:
"Any man who rapes or places any form of violence against women and girls is not a real man and doesn't fit in any decent society. Almost all girls who are raped are most likely to drop out of school. If the girl child is forced into early marriage, the bride price lasts only for two months. But if the girl child is cared for until she finishes her education, the benefit to the parents lasts forever."
Activists in the country have lamented how many cases actually go unreported. And when they are reported, the perpetrator is prosecuted and sentenced to between 5 to 15 years in prison. A 56-year-old man who raped a 6-year-old last year, was given a pathetic one year prison sentence.
President Bio has called on Sierra Leone to restore dignity and pride back to its women and young girls.