By Aminata Phidelia Allie
The Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), a civil society organization in Sierra Leone, has blamed government for the increase in sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) cases over the last three years.
Speaking at a presser in Freetown, CARL’s Executive Director, Ibrahim Tommy, accused the government of failing to put proper structures in place to secure justice for the country’s women and girls.
“We feel very disappointed that the wheel of justice for SGBV cases seems to be moving too slow,” Tommy said. “The state is encouraging violence against women because it has failed to step up actions against perpetrators of these crimes.”
According to an annual crime statistics for major offences in 2014, released last week by the Sierra Leone Police, a total of 11, 358 incidents of sexual and domestic violence were received. 2, 124 of those cases related to child sexual abuse while 77 related to rape against adult women.
The report stated that a total of 9, 157 cases of domestic violence were also reported. Out of that figure, only 2, 144 were brought before courts across the country whiles convictions were reached for only 255, forming 2 percent of the 11, 358 incidents reported. No convictions were reached for the 77 reported adult rape cases though 28 of them went to court.
The report also provided a summary of the crime statistics for the last three years and it showed that the number of cases relating to SGBV across the country has kept rising from year to year.
Tommy lamented that government was not doing enough ensure that President Ernest Bai Koroma’s statement that ‘violence against women was violence against the state.’
“We think this is shocking. There has been an astronomical increase in SGBV cases against our women and girls. This paints a grim picture about justice availability and its access for women and children. The children are an endangered species in this country.”
He noted that there was no functional safe home for SGBV victims across the country, and that state institutions charged with such responsibilities were either negligent or underfunded.
Though, Tommy pointed out, there was already one such home in Makeni, it lacked the logistics to operate it. “Even at that, it is just one.”
Gender Director at the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Charles Vandi, told Politico that he could not comment on the figures because he was yet to see the police crime report. He said he could not rely on CARL’s figures, stating that: “I have to see it myself.”
Vandi explained that his ministry did not interfere with matters once they were in court, noting that that would prejudice the matter. He however promised to speak on the matter after he would have seen and read the police document.
The head of the Family Support Unit, Mira Koroma, also told Politico that they had no control over the way matters were handled at court level or how long they lasted. She explained that matters usually took about two weeks at police level. But she added that they would normally mediate in some of the matters if there was need to.
“If the parties agree, we would settle the matter at police level, otherwise they are charged to court, depending on advice from the Law Officers’ Department,” the FSU boss explained.
© Politico 25/02/15