Sierra Leone is said to have one of the highest rates of sexual abuse cases, particularly underage rape. The last few weeks have seen a spike in cases of rape, leading to calls for the toughening of penalties.
The country hosted a ‘Black Tuesday’, declared by gender activist Asmaa James in protest over the sharp rise in rape cases. This preceded reports of the rape of a five-year-old girl by her relative. The young victim was left paralyzed with a spinal cord injury.
Campaigners blame the situation on failure of prosecution of offenders, which is also the cause of many factors that include religious and cultural.
But there is also the issue of lack of expertise, in the form of trained investigators to provide evidence for successful prosecution. This, said the Justice Minister, is among changes her ministry is working on.
“There is urgent need to train investigators on how to gather and secure evidence for successful prosecution,” she said.
According to Mrs. Baindu Dassama the Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs “it is part of efforts to support President Julius Maada Bio’s policy statement recently, calling for life sentence for rapists.”