One of the news stories I discussed today was Awoko's "Lawyer locked up for gender-based violence." For those who may not have read it, the article is about a domestic violence case in an east end Freetown community and the debate it has generated on the new Domestic Violence Act; its implementation, and protection it provides women under the law. In the coming days, we shall see how it will play out in court.
Another women's issue that, sadly, always makes the headlines is rape. In the 12-month period leading up to March 2009, the local press carried numerous reports of Sierra Leonean women and girls who were victims of sexual violence and rape. One of the youngest victim was only a few months old. Local groups who advocate for victims of sexual violence--24/7/365--say there are so many incidents of rape in Sierra Leone that there is no way of knowing just how many victims there really are.
Ironically, because the raped baby and the hundreds of women and girls who have suffered rape across the country were not abused/violated on the premises of a national political party office, sexual violence advocates say the plight of these poor and voiceless girls and women has been ignored by those who can do something about their physical and psychological injuries.Raped women/girls and their loved ones are punished over and over. They confront deeply entrenched social taboos against speaking publicly about rape and other sexual violence. They are stigmatized in their communities and Sierra Leone Police lack the ability to respond to the rape epidemic.
Advocates have said until ALL child and women victims of gender violence in Sierra Leone are given the same consideration, these victims and their injuries, both physical and psychological, will have implications for future generations. So here's an opportunity for the visiting SLPP Chairman John Benjamin, who has staked his political capital on change. He will do best not to squander his capital at a Boston whinge party over his recent ordeal at a US airport.
The idea of him being a scapegoat may excite and stretch partisan extremists and sycophants, but it does nothing for the rank and file of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party. Many of whom either know women and girls who have experienced sexual violence and rape or have been victims themselves. To drive home the transformation challenge that Chairman Benjamin threw at the APC convention, I suggest that he man up and use Boston to take on Sierra Leonean women's issues and launch a challenge to Sierra Leone's culture of rape.