Justice Minister Promises Harsher Sentences for Rapists in Sierra Leone!
By a press release (12/12/18)
Sierra Leone's Attorney General and Justice Minister Priscilla Schwartz has promised to pounce very hard on rapists in the country hence forth.
On Tuesday, 4th December 2018, Minister Schwartz (photo) said in Freetown that as long as rape is on the increase, her SLPP government headed by President Julius Maada Bio will be looking at ways in which the government can put in place harsher penalties for sexual offenders and especially rapists.
She told a news conference that she will be looking at the burden of proof on guilt on the accused, rather than the accuser. Schwartz was speaking at a high level forum on gender based violence (GBV), as part of commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism, a global campaign against GBV.
Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of sexual abuse cases, particularly underage rape. The last few weeks have seen a spike in cases of rape, leading to calls for the toughening of penalties.
Recently, a ‘Black Tuesday’ campaign was declared by a gender activist organization Asmaa James Foundation in protest over the sharp rise in rape cases.
It followed reports of the rape of a five-years-old girl by her relative. The victim was left paralyzed with a spinal cord injury and there are doubts as to whether the young girl would be able to walk again.
The campaigners blame the situation on failure of prosecution of offenders, which is also the cause of many factors that include religious and cultural. But there is also the issue of lack of expertise, in the form of trained investigators to provide evidence for successful prosecution.
According to the Justice Minister, this is among changes her ministry is working on, adding that: "There is urgent need to train investigators on how to gather and secure evidence for successful prosecution."
In the same vein, Baindu Dassama, Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, said it is part of her efforts to support President Julius Maada Bio’s policy calling for life sentence for rapists.
Courtesy: The Calabash Newspaper