His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio has on Friday 24th July 2020 launched the country’s first-ever Sexual Offences Model Court, SOMC, in Sierra Leone while saluting the great courage of survivors of Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV).
“Be assured that there are Sierra Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone who care and who will continue to stand with you steadfastly,” he said adding that he was publicly thanking The First Lady, Madam Fatima Maada Bio, for her tenacity in championing the ’Hands Off Our Girls’ campaign that also promotes the cause for women.
“’Hands Off Our Girls’ is not just a statement, it has become a rallying cry of resistance and a trenchant restatement that we will fight back until we rid this country of SGBV. Thank you Madam First Lady for emboldening young girls and women all over this nation that they can and must say ‘NO’ to predators and molesters.
“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.
The President also acknowledged that economic disparities, cultural attitudes, and some all-round obnoxious attitudes toward women and girls had contributed to the deepening of the said 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.
President Bio also thanked development partners for sharing his belief that the egregious crime of sexual violence must be tackled head-on, adding that he was particularly recognising the role of the UN Women and UN Fund for Population Activities, UNFPA, and for their vigorous and relentless support to the Government and the judiciary.
“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, Madam Fatima Maada Bio, said that since the launch of the HOOG 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 organisations 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.
Country Representative, UNFPA, Dr Kim Eva Dickson, applauded the Government for the concerted multi-sectoral efforts to prevent and eradicate the scourge of gender-based violence that was eating away the fabric of society. She also congratulated the Judiciary of Sierra Leone on the opening of SOMC, saying that the special measure associated with the specialised court would go a long way to building the confidence of survivors to bring their cases forward.
A representative from Rainbow Center, Dr Olabisi Claudius-Cole, thanked the President and the First Lady for putting the spotlight and raising awareness on the menace in the country. She added that the HOOG 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.