President Dr Julius Maada Bio has used today’s press conference, also broadcast live, to express his outrage and total condemnation of the continued incidents of rape, sexual and gender-based violence in the West African nation.
“The depravity of sexual violence is obscene, criminal, and totally objectionable. As a Government, we stand with the survivors, victims, and their loved ones and my Government will vigorously prosecute cases and bring all perpetrators to justice,” he said.
He reiterated his government’s commitment to providing support for survivors, adding that he was joining the First Lady, Fatima Maada Bio, to urge every Sierra Leoneans to help raise awareness, increase their advocacy while standing up to rid the country of what referred to as a menace.
“My Government is committed to equal protection and justice, inclusive development, and equal access to opportunity for every Sierra Leonean, especially women who constitute 51% of our population,” he assured.
“What we should do is to prevent rape, especially of little kids who know nothing about what is being done to them. If you can have the same passion that I have for the children of this country, rape will be a thing of the past. That is the challenge I throw to every citizen in this country,” he said, while taking questions on the matter.
Journalist and campaigner, Asmaa James, had raised the issue of recent incidents of sexual penetration involving minors and made reference to earlier commitment by the President, who in February 2019 officially declared a National Emergency on Rape and Sexual Violence. She urged for more follow-up actions.
Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Manti Tarawalli, said the fight against sexual and gender based violence is a collective one, adding that the more campaigners, advocacy groups and civil society call for more actions from government, the more they would continue to do more and also emphasise on the need for parents to be more responsible for the security of their children.
“This is not just for government. It is for communities and also parents. Since the Sexual Offences Act a lot has happened. We have started the male engagement strategy which was launched by His Excellency. What that does is to use men and boys advocates to go into communities to educate men and boys that sexual and gender-based violence is not acceptable,” she said.
She concluded that the ministry had also started a 24-hour free 116 hotline to report rape, taking in excess of 300 calls a day, adding that they were opening one-stop centres in all referral hospitals to provide psychosocial support, help the Family Support Unit to provide crime reports, provide forensic medical examination and treatment and were introducing DNA testing.