GENDER BASED VIOLENCE IN SIERRA LEONE

Gender-Based violence (GBV)

According to UNHCR, GBV “refers toany act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and is based on gender norms and unequal power relationships. It encompasses threats of violence and coercion. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual in nature, and can take the form of a denial of resources or access to services. It inflicts harm on women, girls, men and boys”. GBV infringes on the survivors human rights and reinforces the inequities between men and women, often leaving life-long physical and emotional scars and sometimes resulting in death.

GBV is prevalent in every society and is often experienced by women and girls because of their socially subordinate status in relation to men and boys. The WHO estimated in 2013 that 1 in 3 women will have been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some way during their life, most often by someone she knows. The WHO also estimates that 1 in 5 women will have been sexually abused as a child (2014 report).

GBV in Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone women and girls face widespread and rooted structural violence and marginalisation. SL is ranked 179th in the Gender Inequality Index reflecting the significant inequalities that women and girls face in society. UN Women have estimated that 45% of Sierra Leone’s population has experienced intimate partner violence and similar data collected by Rainbo Initiative show it occurring at alarming rates.

The Rainbo Centres have been running since 2003 and have to date seen more than 30,000 cases of GBV. According to our data collected by our front-line staff in 2018, Rainbo Centres saw 3,137 cases of GBV including 2,900 cases of sexual assault and rape. 93% of cases seen at the Rainbo Centre at girls aged 17 years or below, with 60% of these cases being girls under 15.

GBV is usually conducted by a person the survivor knows. By consulting Rainbo Centre staff In February 2019, it is believed that a rough estimate of 80% of the cases that Rainbo Centres see are cases of GBV conducted by a teacher, family member including Father, Uncle and Cousin, or a neighbor. This is not evidenced or based in literature but has been based on staff expertise of working in the Sierra Leone for the past 16 years.

Despite some efforts made through laws protecting women, serious violations of their rights continues to be prevalent in Sierra Leone. On 7th February 2019, His Excellency the President of Sierra Leone Julius Maada Bio announced a national state of emergency on rape and sexual violence.