By Yankuba Kai-Samba
The fact of the matter is that Bio’s declaration of mandatory life sentence for sexual abuse was a knee-jerk response to a very complex cultural phenomenon of violence against women and sexual abuse of minors.
The shocking revelation that the country do not have DNA testing facilities could’ve inform any good thinker, with the faculty to make sound judgement, that no conviction can be safe where there are no DNA test and there are increasing possibility of sending the wrong accused to jail for life.
Understanding rape requires a thorough examination of the society ,as it is in Sierra Leone ,where cultural practices acquiesced to minors betrothed to men with many women don’t even understand that no man, however powerful, should violate their bodies without their consent.
Any astute leader,with the relevant knowledge and information would not have imposed a mandatory life sentence as a panacea to this growing problem.
As we have seen ,in spite of Bio’s misdirected imposed mandatory life sentence, a depressing increase in sexual violence have emerged.
Here are my recommendations to tackle this menace of sexual violence.
I would start by saying that mandatory life sentence wouldn’t stop sexual abuse or violence against women.
1) President Bio to appoint a minister responsible for domestic violence and sexual violence.This is extremely urgent given the rise and impunity for these crimes.
2) the said minister should sensitize the public through public workshop for women and for girls in schools on domestic violence and sexual offences .
To achieve this,( A)women and girls will be required to report violence against them by their spouses or strangers. B) the practice of family mediation to obstruct justice for victims should be made a criminal offence and punishable by fine , jail sentence or both.
3) Every district should have a refuge hostels built to house victims of domestic violence and those who fears violence against them from their partners. The hostels will provide temporary sanctuary for vulnerable women and girls against male aggression until the police and social workers are satisfied they are sufficiently given the protection they need.
They should be given vocational trainings to empower them to have the means of supporting themselves, when they finally leave the hostel.
4) there are far too many hidden violence against women, girls and especially children brought up by nonbiological parents. Trained social workers should pay more attention to these vulnerable group.
I know of a story where the guardian of a secondary school girl is forced to do all the house work, whiles her biological children do their school homeworks and studies.
5) To offer protection for them and women in abusive relations, we need to train social workers, and more of them, who specializes both in Adults care and children.
6) To help them in stoping violence and sexual abuse, they should create a national data for all vulnerable groups. Regular visits to homes of suspected or reported domestic violence and sexual abuse incidents, is highly recommended, as this could help the social worker prioritize and offer legal protection for the abused before it gets out of control.
7) The culture of beating children ,having them tied up, with rope ,in some cases, should be considered as violence and cruel . The minister should ban all form of beating because this practice legitimizes violence as a punishment.
8) the hands of our girls should remain an educational project, a necessary components of education and pressure group in fighting for the rights of girls and women against abuse but it should not take the centre stage as this is usurping the statutory responsibility of the ministry for gender and children welfare.
9)a specific ministry for women and children protection to be created and marge with social welfare. Gender ministry should be scrap.
The issue of child poverty and many parents out of work and not able to feed their children is a concerning factor that exposes young girls to engage in sexual practices with men.
In this regard, I proposed the actions below :A) Education. Every child should be told about their rights ,in understanding their sexuality and their relationship with adults who prey on them.
B) a trained professionals from the ministry of child protection should visit every school across the country and teach them their rights and how to resist and report sexual predators to the police.
C) the minister should secure funds to build after school centres for girls to participate in craft and entertainment that might help to keep them away from streets./
D) parents should be supported to bring up their girl child through mediation involving social workers.
Finally, the parents and guardian should be invited to attend classes where social workers and psychologist can explain good parenting and how to coach their children away from sexual predators and avoid rape. Where it happens, the parent should and must report to the police .