President Bio launches Sexual Offences Model Court
President Julius Maada Bio has on Friday July 24, 2929 launched the country’s first-ever Sexual Offences Model Court and in the process, recognized the great courage of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
“Be assured that there are Sierra Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone who care and will continue to stand with you steadfastly,” he said and thanked First Lady Fatima Maada Bio for her tenacity in championing the ‘Hands-Off Our Girls’ campaign.
According to the president, the campaign is not just a statement, but rather it has become a rallying cry of resistance and a trenchant restatement to fight back until the country is free from SGBV.
“Thank you for reminding each one of us (parents, community members, traditional and religious leaders, civil servants, members of the security forces, students, professional organisations, civil society, ordinary citizens, and national leaders) that we can and we must play our part in urgently addressing this national emergency. Let us continue to explore new ways of collaborating very closely to change attitudes and end these crimes,” he said.
President Bio noted that economic disparities, cultural attitudes, and some all-round obnoxious attitudes toward women and girls had contributed to the deepening of the crisis in the country.
“But we are a good people. We are a nation of good people. We should be better. We must do more to rid this nation of this menace. As a Government, we have made an unambiguous statement that there is no place for impunity and every perpetrator will be held accountable within the full remit of all existing laws of our country,” he warned.
He thanked development partners, especially the United Nations Women and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, for sharing his belief that the egregious crime of sexual violence must be tackled head-on.
“Let me also thank my Lord, The Chief Justice and members of the judiciary for their interminable support in fighting SGBV. Over the last two years, they have made a bold statement of their commitment to right this grave injustice by speedily augmenting every step of the fight against SGBV,” he said.
First Lady Fatima Maada Bio said since the launch of the campaign, they had succeeded in gradually shifting the culture of silence and indifference about rape, thereby increasing the number of reported cases. She noted that the rate of sexual incidences had also provided the platform for human rights and advocacy organizations and individuals to rally together to end all forms of violence against women and girls in the country.
“As part of government’s commitments to ending all forms of violence against women and girls in Sierra Leone, we are here this morning to make another history as a country by officially launching the SOMC. Even as we gathered here this morning, let us remind ourselves of our constitutional and moral responsibility of safeguarding the rights and future of women and girls,” she said.
UNFPA Country Representative, Dr Kim Eva Dickson, applauded the government for the concerted multi-sectoral efforts to prevent and eradicate the scourge of gender-based violence that is eating away the fabric of society. She also congratulated the Judiciary of Sierra Leone on the opening of the court, saying that the special measure associated with the specialized court would go a long way to building the confidence of survivors in bringing their cases forward.
A representative from Rainbow Center, Dr. Olabisi Claudius-Cole, thanked the President and First Lady for putting the spotlight and raising awareness on the menace in the country. She added that the Hands-off Our Girls campaign had made a big impact and difference. She assured of their continued passion and commitment to providing competent, compassionate and confidential care to survivors of SGBV.