Fight against Sexual & Gender Based Violence is Still a Challenge By Abu Bakarr Munu - Sierra Leone News

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Fight against Sexual & Gender Based Violence is Still a Challenge By Abu Bakarr Munu

 The fight against sexual, gender and domestic violence including rape continues to pose a major challenge in Sierra Leone though the government has declared a national emergency and a sexual penetration of minors punishable by life imprisonment.

President Julius Maada Bio said on Thursday that “the fight against the various forms of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) is still a challenge that requires all hands on deck with drastic actions in order to reverse the ugly trend," he said.

His statement came at the State Opening of Parliament.

He noted that, though Domestic Violence cases has reduced slightly from 9,377 in 2017 to 9,121 in 2018, cases of sexual penetration and rape continue to pose a serious threat to women and girls. He disclosed that reported sexual penetration cases increased from 2,549 in 2017 to 2,726 in 2018 and rape from 103 in 2017 to 205 in 2018.

He pointed out that with the recent actions taken by his government, including the proclamation of a State of Emergency on rape, coupled with the cooperation of other stakeholders, hope to reverse the trend.

He said that, as the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) continues to collaborate with other security and Intelligence agencies, stakeholders including the communities, there has been great improvement in the general security situation as there is relative peace throughout the country.

“According to the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), the Global Peace Index 2018: Measuring Peace in a Complex World, Sierra Leone is still ranked as the most peaceful country in West Africa, 3rd in Sub-Saharan Africa and 35th in the world,” Bio said.

He said Sierra Leone is also among the 71 countries that were more peaceful in 2018 than in 2017. There has been a total decrease in overall crime rate across the country from 1.08% in 2017 to 0.80% in 2018.

He said that economic offences, such as counterfeiting of currency, financial scams, fraud, money laundering, fraudulent conversion, false pretences, etc. are crimes that evoke serious concern and impact on the Nation's economy, security and governance.

“With the efforts made so far, there was a slight decrease in recorded cases of Economic Crimes from 6,591 in 2017 to 6,585 in 2018 nationwide. The Sierra Leone Police through the community policing and partnership have also put under control certain public order offences like riot, violent disorder, affray, provocation of violence among others,” President Bio said.

He said reported cases of such nature decreased from 1,446 in 2017 to 1,150 in 2018. Similarly, various drug-related cases investigated and prosecuted reduced from 120 in 2017 to 64 in 2018, with a robust policing strategy applied by the SLP including community engagements, patrols, Mobile Vehicle Checkpoints (MVCP) and covert night deployment in grey areas, adding that violent crimes including murder, manslaughter, assault, wounding and armed robbery have been suppressed.

"The total number of recorded violent crime cases reduced from 21,592 in 2017 to 19,488 in 2018. As these figures are still not encouraging, the SLP is reviewing its strategy in order to reduce the cases to the barest minimum," he said.

On road safety, he said more efforts need to be made, as recorded road crashes increased from 3,189 in 2017 to 4,425 in 2018, with a corresponding recorded increase in fatalities of 402 to 456. “We will collaborate with other stakeholders in road safety management including the Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA) to review and implement road safety strategies in order to save lives,” he said.

Speaking on the general security situation in the country, President Bio talked about human trafficking which he defined as the practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labour or sexual exploitation continues to affect our women, youth, and children.

Looking at the human resource of the SLP, he said the SLP is at an advanced stage of recruiting 1000 personnel which will help fill the gap created by the attrition rate and to enhance police operations.

He said in order to expand the process to encourage and attract more rural females to be recruited, the Directorate of Gender Affairs, Hospitality and Protocol of the SLP in collaboration with the UNDP embarked on a nationwide job fair sensitization exercise in all six regional police commands.

President said, “The Sierra Leone Peacekeeping and Law Enforcement (SILEA) has received accreditation from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) and the National Commission for Technical and Vocational Awards (NCTVA). It has started offering certificate and diploma courses as an affiliate of the University of Sierra Leone. In order to build the capacity of personnel and enhance service delivery, SILEA will start to offer security related degree and higher degree courses.”

On the rule of law, President Bio said one of the key priorities that the Government committed to last year is the advancement of the rule of law, promotion of justice and human rights. “We stated that our ‘New Direction Government’ will, as a matter of utmost urgency undertake, an overhaul of the judiciary and the justice delivery system in the country with a view to restoring public confidence in its independence and impartiality and make justice accessible and available for all. We promised to facilitate a national dialogue on justice systems to ensure impartiality, availability and accessibility to all, enhance the services of legal aid and work with stakeholders to enhance effective and efficient Judicial service delivery. We have also elaborated our commitments to justice more clearly within the National Development Plan.”

He said that some of he steps they have taken include: hosted a Justice conference in October 2018, that brought together several Justice Ministers from United Nations member-states, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector to deliberate on how we can accelerate the delivery of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 to ensure equal access to justice for all our people; and his government through the Attorney-General's Office is providing the global leadership that is required to realize SDG 16 by co-chairing the Task Force on Justice to develop the "Justice for All" report; he said that work is ongoing with local communities and stakeholders on continuing the dialogue on how they could provide justice systems alongside our formal Justice institutions, that empower them to recognize and take action to tackle their justice problems, how best to make services available to them that are less expensive, speedy and efficient and that will be responsive to their justice needs.

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