The civil war in Sierra Leone during which we witnessed so much abuse and violence against women, ended almost 13 years ago. At the end of the war, the international community supported the government of Sierra Leone to put in place accountability mechanisms for perpetrators of gross human rights violations including sexual violence. The result of that saw the prosecution of the leaders of the armed groups most responsible for crimes against Sierra Leonean’s. Since then, Sierra-Leone has played a leadership role in passing robust legislation making sexual violence a criminal offence. Special units were created at police stations to investigate and prosecute crimes of sexual violence. A special court within the judicial system in Sierra Leone was designated to try perpetrators of sexual violence. As a Sierra Leonean, I have been extremely proud in telling people across the world that Sierra Leone is a leading example of how to protect women during and after conflict.
It is extremely sad for me therefore to hear of the recent incident where a woman named Hannah was raped and killed on a public beach and pictures widely circulated in social media with no respect for her dignity. The death of Hannah and the subsequent treatment of her body is not only an insult to us as women but it is also an affront to our country, our people and our government. It shows a disdain for the women of Sierra Leone, disregard for the rule of law and disrespect for international human rights norms.
As a Sierra Leonean woman in my private capacity I stand in solidarity with the women of Sierra Leone who are coming together to support the family and friends of the late Hannah and to speak out against this gruesome act.
I support the decision taken by my UN colleagues in Sierra Leone to come out with a strong statement to condemn this gruesome act.
I commend the quick reaction of the government to investigate this incident. I hope that the Government of Sierra Leone under the leadership of the President Ernest Bai Koroma will ensure that perpetrators of this atrocious crime are brought to justice.
It should only strengthen the rights of all of us when we stand in solidarity with any victim of sexual violence. We must speak out against these crimes. Rape has no place in our society. We, as women, must stand up to those who committed this act and make it clear that they will not tarnish our image and destroy our society. An injustice against a woman anywhere is an injustice for women everywhere.