State of emergency on rape – State House listens to social care agencies’ concerns 

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 March 2019:

Amid controversies surrounding the declaration of a state of emergency on rape and sexual violence in Sierra Leone by president Julius Maada Bio, and the opposition political parties’ continuing reluctance to support the government’s unilateral declaration, president Bio may well decide to soften his approach to the state of emergency in favour of strengthening the laws regarding rape and sexual violence.

On Thursday 28 February 2019, press secretary and presidential spokesman – Yusuf Keketoma Sandi and the presidential adviser and head of strategic communications – Dr Patrick Muana, embarked on a major engagement exercise to sensitise international partners, local NGOs and social care providers about the controversial state of emergency declaration.

Addressing the event which was held at State House, Yusuf Keketoma Sandi said that the aim of the meeting was to discuss further plans to deal with the rape of minors, and work collectively to tackle the broader issues affecting survivors of rape and sexual violence.

The representative of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, Dr. Kim Dickson, said he welcomes the state of emergency declaration, but urges the government to act fast in strengthening laws that could provide a broader scope to addressing the problems of rape and sexual-based violence.

Dr. Kim Dickson noted that the declaration of a state of emergency was a strong indication of intent but is also a temporary measure. What is required is a permanent and sustainable solution to the problem.

Rev. Fr Joseph Valiplackel of Don Bosco Fambul, a charity organisation specialised in child protection, also said that they support the state of emergency declaration but calls on the government to empower the Family Support Units, which are specialised units attached to police stations across Sierra Leone to combat the rape crisis.

“I think the FSU should be empowered and strengthened as they have the mandate to investigate all forms of child abuse and violence against children – sexual and physical abuse, exploitation, including commercial exploitation, as well as internal and cross-border trafficking,” he said.

Chernor Bah, Executive Director of Purposeful Production, said that building on the concrete actions announced by the President and mirroring evidence, based on good practice, the national and global plans tackling rape and sexual abuse would focus on 6 major pillars:

Laws and Policies

The Initiative will work with the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Parliament and other stakeholders to update existing laws and policies, draft new ones, clarify tensions and conflict between customary laws and other laws, draft holistic policies and plans of actions and ensure compliance with international laws and best practices.

Institutions

The Presidential Initiative will work to strengthen the capacity of government institutions to deliver on the President’s declaration.

Prevention

A key focus of the initiative will be on prevention strategies and actions. The Initiative will work with partners to understand root causes and patterns of rape and sexual violence in Sierra Leone, develop strategies to tackle all forms of discriminatory gender attitudes, norms and practices that perpetuate rape and gender-based violence.

Providing Essential Services to girls and women who come forward

This is about making sure services are available, accessible, friendly and effective in responding to and dealing with rape and sexual violence across Sierra Leone.

The Presidential Initiative will work with various governments, UN and local stakeholders to make sure the full range of basic health, psychological, legal and other services are available to victims and survivors of rape in every corner of the country.

Quality Disaggregated Data

Creating a quality-disaggregated database of the types of sexual violence, prevalence rates. This will also work to ensure to create a sexual offenders’ database.

Women’s Movement and Civil Society

Coordinated involvement of the women’s movement and civil society actors. Providing a platform for a community-driven approach to solutions and ensuring local ownership.

The Presidential Adviser and Head of Strategic Communications at State House, Dr Patrick Muana, thanked the various stakeholders for their invaluable inputs, contributions and commitments to ensure that rape and sexual-based violence is comprehensively tackled.

He said he will brief the president on the recommendations that came out of the meeting.

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