Sierra Leone: Rape and murder of child must be catalyst for real change
After hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Sierra Leone to call for justice for a five-year-old girl who was raped and murdered, Marta Colomer, Amnesty International’s Acting Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa, said:
“The outpouring of rage following this horrific crime shows that people in Sierra Leona have had enough of impunity for perpetrators of sexual abuse of children and gender-based violence. All too often, survivors of sexual violence struggle to access justice, health care, legal aid and counselling.
The authorities in Sierra Leone must bring those responsible for the rape and murder of this little girl to justice in fair trials and send a clear message that gender-based violence will not be tolerated.
“The authorities in Sierra Leone must bring those responsible for the rape and murder of this little girl to justice in fair trials and send a clear message that gender-based violence will not be tolerated.
“The government must also commit to longer-term reform of the justice system, as well as sustainable funding for children and women’s rights organisations, with a view to eradicating violence and abuse, and addressing harmful gender stereotypes and myths around sexual violence.”
Over the weekend there has been an outpouring of outrage and consternation on social media and in the streets in Sierra Leone, following reports of the death of a five-year-old girl named Kadija. According to an autopsy, Kadija died as a result of complications from injuries sustained when she was raped.
Her family disclosed her name and provided photos and confirmed that she died on 17 June. The Police Criminal Investigation department said on Sunday that two people are in custody.
Sexual violence against women and girls is widespread in Sierra Leone. According to the Rainbo Initiative, there were 3,137 and 3,695 cases of sexual violence in 2018 and 2019 respectively. On 19 February 2019, President Bio declared “a State of Public Emergency over rape and sexual violence”. The announcement came amid growing outrage following a series of cases involving minors. On 19 June 2019, the Parliament revoked the measure.
On 19 September, the Parliament finally passed the Sexual Offences Amendment Act. This new legislation provides that all trials for sexual offence cases will proceed to the High Court without having to be heard in a Magistrate’s Court to determine the sufficiency of evidence. The law also prescribes life imprisonment as a maximum penalty for perpetrators of rape of a child.