By Mustapha Sesay

Five human rights organizations working on advancing the rights of women and girls in Sierra Leone, are urgently calling on the leadership of Sierra Leone, and all political actors to take immediate action to address the increase in incidents of Sexual and Gender Based Violence across the West African country.

Girls who get pregnant as a result of rape or sexual exploitation end up being double punished as they are banned from attending school and in most cases there is no access to justice for the rape ordeal, with perpetrators going unpunished.

The joint statement issued by: Equality Now, Women Against Violence and Exploitation in Society (WAVES), Defence for Children International – Sierra Leone (DCI-SL), The Women’s Partnership for Justice and Peace (WPJP) and GRACELAND Sierra Leone (GSL), detailed the urgent need for action following the worrying rise in the number of SGBV cases reported, and the perpetrators being let off the hook.

According to statistics by the Rainbow Centre and Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI), 56% of the rape victims are between 11-15 years. Majority are school going children. Once the girls who cannot legally consent to sex get pregnant, they end up dropping out of school. The strongly worded statement further indicates that, many of the girls become pregnant due to the type of sexual violence reflected in these statistics. Many more girls under the age of 18 become pregnant as a result of exploitative relationships with much older men, which is a crime in Sierra Leone.  Girls are subjected to multiple violations of their human rights, including forced and early child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation, a ripple effect in some cases, of the sexual violence.

In his address pursuant to his swearing in to political office following recent elections, H.E the President of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, promised to prioritize the Education sector in Sierra Leone. The organizations are now calling upon him to ensure that all pregnant girls are allowed to continue with their education and further lift the ongoing discriminatory ban, targeting teen mums. There is an ongoing human rights crisis affecting adolescent girls in Sierra Leone because: thousands of pregnant adolescent girls who were exposed to sexual violations, abuse or exploitation, are still being denied the right to attend school. The right to education for pregnant girls in Sierra Leone was denied in April 2015, just before schools re-opened following the Ebola crisis. It was declared as official government policy by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

The organisations now want the new political regime to: Ensure that the laws that protect girls are fully implemented and enforced in Sierra Leone and that the perpetrators of sexual violence are brought to book Adequately equip the Family Support Unit (FSU) of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) to ensure that the officers are in a position to effectively handle all the cases.


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