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PARLIAMENT UNITES TO FIGHT AGAINST SEXUAL OFFENCES

BY ABU BAKARR KARGBO


Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu, Speaker of Parliament

The Parliament of Sierra Leone has united to condemn to end rape and other forms of sexual offenses in Sierra Leone. This was manifested on Thursday 25th June 2020 in the Well of Parliament when the people’s Representatives called on the police to expedite the alleged rape case of the late Kadijah Saccoh.

“Khadijah’s case should catalyze to end rape in Sierra Leone,” says Hon. Chernor Bah, Leader of the main opposition All People’s Congress Party (APC) and added that “It must stop now”. He called for the speedy establishment of a special court and a laboratory that addresses rape and other related issues in the country.

Hon. Matthew Nyuma, Leader of Government Business described the late girl’s rape incident as a ‘family conspiracy’ and added that it is a jihad that should be fought to end rape in Sierra Leone. “Real men don’t rape,” he said and vehemently suggested that if the perpetrators are found guilty they must face a death penalty.  “We must be united and take action to end rape,” the Sierra Leone People’s Party Member of Parliament said.

The Parliamentary Female Caucus President, Hon. Veronica Kadie Sesay said persistent rape cases are a challenge to them as Members of Parliament and the government after they did justice to the nation by enacting laws to end rape and other sexual offenses. “We are sending a strong message to all women in Sierra Leone. They must stand up to fight for their rights in society. We should be seen changing narratives to end rape,” she said. Hon. Sesay called for the naming and shaming of perpetrators after the police would have completed their investigations. 

The Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu in his opening statement read in the Well of Parliament stated thus: “Today again, the state of Sierra Leone is faced with another difficult and challenging moment in its struggle to promote, protect and defend the rights of women and children. We are witnessing a spate of violence and sexual assault against women who constitute fifty-one percent of the population of Sierra Leone. We may recall that a few months ago Parliament passed into law the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2019. By the commencement of this Act, penalties against rape and Sexual penetration have been made stronger. It is however ironic to note that amidst numerous legislations, rape and sexual penetration of women and girls continue unabated.

The case of Kadijah, a five-year-old, is a different one; it is not only a case of alleged sexual penetration but also one of the alleged murder. Therefore, Parliament, as the Supreme law making Authority of State is deeply disturbed by this act of cruelty perpetrated against an innocent child whose future has been brought to an abrupt and tragic end. On behalf of the leadership, Members of Parliament and Staff, I unreservedly and condemn such a heinous and abhorrent act against a poor soul. We will ensure that we work with the Government and the Judiciary to bring justice to the matter. We are equally committed to putting an end to rape and sexual penetration against women and girls.

Meanwhile, we call on His Excellency the President to speedily establish the Taskforce on Rape and Gender-Based Violence, as a fulfillment of his commitment to the eradication of rape and other forms of gender violence in Sierra Leone. We further urge the Chief Justice and other judicial actors to expedite the setting up of the fast track court to speedily try and conclude cases of rape and gender violence. To our donor partners, we appeal for support to establish a forensic lab to assist the prosecution of rape and other related offenses.

In conclusion, I extend my condolences to the bereaved family of Kadijah on the tragic departure of a fine daughter. May her gentle soul rest in perfect peace. To all campaigners and advocates, thank you very much for your continued fight to defend humanity. We have heard you, and we will act. Let there be justice for Kadijah, Let there be freedom for all, Let rape end now, I thank you.”

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