SEXUAL VIOLENCE ON CHILDREN

by Current Evangelism  Ministries <cemsl@excite.com>

May, 2000

Introduction

Sierra Leone was the seventh country to ratify the convention on the rights
of the child. In spite of this the laws of Sierra Leone still vary where the
meaning of child is concerned.  For instance whilst the prevention of
cruelty to children Act puts the age of the child at 16, the Education of
act considers anyone under the age 21 a child. Voting age is stipulated at
18 years. These variances are a caused for concern and pose problems for
those who are working towards the attainment of child protection and child
rights.

This is particularly evident when one takes into consideration the issues
of the age of sexual consent. The states laws put this age at 14 years,
whilst the minimum age for marriage without parental consent is 8 years.
However, there is nothing in the customary law to stipulate minimum age for sexual
consent has no bearing on customary practices.

Girls under 14 years of age are forced into marriage and child bearing
without regards for their rights and the consequences on their rights and
the consequences on their health Governments input is limited to a recent
enactment of a draft legislation bill to examine the convention on the
rights of a child by the Sierra Leone Bar Association.

SITUATION ANALYSIS.

Apart from cases of early marriage reports of incidences of sexual
violence in the country  before the war were minimal. The onset of the war, and
its escalation and spread to all areas of the country on children, it is
expected that with the implementation of the peace process and the region
of access to all areas of the country  the number of reports will increase.

For instance the forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) programme for
sexually assaulted victims, (CEM member Organization) which is currently
only servicing the western area, has recorded a total number of 1,551
clients. Of these whilst only 129 were recorded for the period March to
May, a total of 384 were recorded for the period July to September. It is

 expected that the onset of the disarmament process will bring further increases.

For September alone, 185 children were seen by the medical team and 46 of
these were pregnant, 10 are suffering from psychiatric illness, 54 from
pelvic inflammatory disease.

It must be pointed out however, that a lot of cases of sexual violence on
children remain unreported and are therefore undocumented.
CEM member organization, FAWE had to do a lot of sensitization on radio,
television and in the schools in order to raise  awareness on the importance
of reporting incidences of sexual abuse and the possible consequence of
silence. It is believed that these programme served not only to convince
those who had been abducted and raped by rebels to come forward, but also
educate others on the evils of sexual violence and the need for those who
suffer it to seek redress.

For the period March to September, CEM, FAWE, and Community Based
Organizations (CBOs) recorded a total number of 1,445 children who had
been sexually assaulted by rebels. Of these 149 were males. Some of the
stories told are horrendous and include incidences of group rape and sexual
slavery for the entire period of abduction.

In September 1999, the National Commission for Human Rights (NCDHR)
handled 2 cases of rape, one which involved the rape of an eleven year old girl
by a 60 year old man. The courts have given a verdict sentencing the offender
to ten years imprisonment.

A report from the displaced camps at Kenema cited incidences of multiple
rape on three girls A young girl at the age of 12 years serviced ten rebels
in a bush as she was abducted by the rebels.

On the 4th October, 1999 the AFRC Faction of the rebel group attacked a
Sierra Leone Road Transport Bus that was bound for Kenema. At least 8
school girls were reportedly raped after being abducted.

Report coming from Makeni the headquarters town of the Northern Province
highlight incidences of sexual abuse of adolescent boys who are either
taken as sex slaves for gang raped by female rebel fighters.

CONSEQUENCES.

The consequences of the above and other unmentioned and unrecorded cases
are many. Apart from the Physical consequences which range from contraction
of sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and the damage of
 reproductive organ there are also the psychosocial consequences which if
not addressed could prove even more damaging. These include loss of
self-esteem which could results in the refusal of inability by the victims to
continue with educational or other activity geared/towards self improvement.

In conclusion the problem  of sexual violence on children has been under
addressed on children has been under addressed partly because before the
present state of affairs in  the country incidences of sexual abuse on
children were minimal and where they did occur, the society's culture of
silence and the failure of  the laws to make specific provisions for the
protection of child rights on this matter made it extremely difficult for
those who suffered it to come forward.

Therefore, the first and most important issue to be addressed would be
sensitization, on the evils of sexual violence on children. Its effects and
the need of those who suffer it to seek the necessary attention, social
and or medical.

A micro Project Proposal to assist rape victims available on request

Please suggest ways how these rape victims could be handled. Contact:
Research and Information Desk (CEM) Email: alansana@hotmail.com.


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