By Donstance Koroma in Port Loko
Report by the Port Loko District Human Rights Committee, titled ‘The Increased Spate of Sexual and Gender Base Violence against Women and Girls in the District’, indicates that between the months of January and August 2020, 69 cases of sexual penetration in Masiaka, Lunsar, Port Loko and Lungi were captured.
In her keynote address, the Resident Minister, North West Region, said the advent of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone have reduced the level of inequality and gender across the country.
She said many have come to the realization that gender is less significant and that the output of an individual is what matters in society. She said what men can do women can do better, as women can do what men can’t, citing child bearing as a typical example.
The minister attributed harmful traditional practices, hunger and conflict as the root causes of sexual and gender based violence in the country, citing rape and sexual penetration as examples. She encouraged human rights groups to discourage underage girls becoming commercial sex workers.
The 12,252 cases of sexual penetration of minors in 2019 is alarming, and called on parents to discourage out of police and court settlements.
Proffering solutions to reduce the spate of SGBV in the region, she called for intense awesomeness raising on the dangers of harmful traditional practices to stop violence against the girl child, speak about violations in homes especially wife battering. The minister called for more engagements with community leaders to discourage compromise.
The Chiefdom Speaker of Port Loko, Malabi Tarawally, thanked the Human Rights Commissioner, Patricia N’danehma, for ensuring that the district hosted the Commission’s regional office, noting the good working relationship between the regional office and stakeholders.
He called on the Commissioner, through the government, to improve the office of the Family Support Until as the Unit is constrained with personnel and logistics, which, he added, is hindering their duties.
Malabi Tarawally noted that SGBV cases have reduced drastically, which is due to the interventions of the District Human Rights Committee and other civil rights organizations. Many cases of SGBV are not charged to court simply because parents and caregivers, of victims, are unable to afford the cost for medical examination and as a result the cases die a natural death, he said.
He associated the causes of SGBV to extreme poverty in remote and hard to reach communities.
“Natives of Port Loko didn’t believe sending their girl child to school, but rather prefer educating them on business and how to take care of their husbands in future,” he said.
He assured that the newly constructed Government Secondary School for Girls in Port Loko will greatly increase the number of girls in school, and therefore called on the government to provide the school with a boarding home.
FSU Regional Coordinator, North West, ASP Abubakarr Kanu, said the police alone can’t combat SGBV and it entails both legal and social aspects, and until both are addressed SGBV will continue to thrive.
ASP Kanu cited proximity, accessibility and poverty as reasons why such cases are not charged to court. He said there are no safe homes and juvenile cells and courts for child offenders of SGBV in an event they came into contact with the law. Lack of cooperation with the police and the court system most times discourage their efforts in the fight against SGBV.
Gender and Children’s Affairs Director, HRC-SL Port Loko Gloria Bayor, dilated on the functions of the Commission, which, she noted, are geared toward the protection of women and girls and support organizations to make SGBV a thing of the past.
Since the inception of gender directorates in 2008 they had collaborated with government on public awesomeness on the rights of women and children, joined the Social Welfare Ministry to look at the three gender laws and Sexual Offenses Act before enactment, she noted
Chernor Jurgor Timbo, Manager One Stop Center SGBV Port Loko, said government, through the ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs, has undertaken a number of preventive and response , which, he noted, include the setting up of the Pillar Coordination Committee for SGBV prevention and response, launched the 116 toll line for rape.
“To curb the high rate of prevalence within the country, government has created Steering Committees for centers of which government line ministries, departments, agencies, NGOS and key stakeholders are involved,” Timbo said.
He said the One Stop Center consists of the secretariat, treatment and canceling facility with toilet and bathroom with adequate medical for victims and survivors of SGBV.
Before now, he continued, there was a constraint in coordinating and collaboration by NGOs, FSU and other key partners, he added. The engagement was climaxed by developing a Joint District Action Plan on SGBV.
The event was chaired by the Commissioner, Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, Patricia Ndanehma.