• January 31, 2024

Sexual Harassment: New Cancer in Sierra Leone

Sexual Harassment: New Cancer in Sierra Leone
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By Alusine Fullah

SEXUAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS HAVE A GREAT TENDENCY TO TRIGGER VIOLENCE / INSTABILITY AS IT AFFECTS THE LIVES AND WELLBEING OF NOT JUST THE VICTIMS BUT THEIR COMMUNITIES TOO.

Honestly, I cannot afford to remain reticent when so many girls and women are adversely suffering from the scourge of sexual harassment. As a human being, I have the moral and the constitutional right to speak up and act. Weather in schools/ universities, in the military, in the police force, on the assembly line or in the office, women/ girls for years have voiced concerns about sexual harassment, which of course, does not affect only the women/ girls but the sanctity and dignity of our country—Sierra Leone.

According to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as: “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature…when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.” Sexual harassment may be especially prevalent in male-dominated occupations such as the military, the public schools, and the police force. Based on my observation, in Sierra Leone, public schools / universities are the hardest hit in terms of sexual harassment. As a former teacher, I really saw a gamut of cases of rape / sexual harassment on pupils. In some cases, I was attacked by some gangs for unmasking the perpetrators (the teachers who were abusing those innocent pupils). Sex for grades is breathing heavily in many schools/ universities. As a society, what are we to do about this menace?

Honestly, there is no law both national and international that has justified that students/ workers are required to prove that schools/ universities and work places should be hostile or sexually abusive as to cause them severe psychological injury or that they are unable to perform their jobs. Being one of the most enlighten of the enlighten, let me just take you through the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 2019. In section 19 subsection (iii) it states: “A person above the age of a youth who engages in sexual penetration or rape on another person commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than fifteen (15) years to life imprisonment.” So, have you read the law above?

Even in our holy books, there is no line/ phrase/ sentence that has justified/ supported sexual harassment. So if God/ Allah prohibits it, who are we to practice it on earth? Look at the sexual scandal that happened at Milton Margai University few years ago! How about the alleged sexual cases at SLBC? Look how sad it is, six lecturers behind bars for sexual harassment and sex for grade against female students in the university!! Milton Margai is not alone on this madness. What about the alleged sexual scandal in other places like banks, military, schools, hospitals, etc? It is sad for our Green, White and Blue. The number of the perpetrators keeps increasing. In some cases, despite the acts and the concerns from the public, the law is not biting deep for the perpetrators. For instance, in December, 2018 there was a huge public anger over the sentencing of a 70-year-old rapist to two days in jail. Reports stated that Justice John Bosco Allieu, the judge raised issues about the accused’s mental state even though no psychiatric evaluation had been conducted. Haaaaaaaaaaa!!! Hilarious!

Moreover, in a small country like Sierra Leone, sexual violence has triggered a lot of violence protects especially in Freetown and on social media. For instance, there was a serious protest on social media for the death of a five-year-old Khadija Madinatu Saccoh who was allegedly been raped. That appalling act sadly carried her to her grave. My goodness, Mr. Perpetrator, what pleasure/ benefit did you receive for sexually abusing a three-month-old? My God!!! Indeed, Sierra Leone was mourning. So sad!!! Just as the senseless civil war, sexual violence against women/ girls should be eschewed in all forms. The past years, the figures were astronomically high. According to police statistics in early 2019, reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence nearly doubled in 2018 to over 8,500.

Conclusively, despite the enormous efforts made by key national and ports bodies as well as the government, reports of rape and sexual penetration of minors have steadily increased according to Daniel Kettor, Executive Director Rainbow Initiative, an entity that is charged with the responsibility for providing free medical counselling to victims of sexual and gender-based violence. In line with that, on the 7th February, 2019 President Julius Maada Bio declared a state of emergency on sexual harassment/ violence. Blessings again to Madam Fatima Bio for lunching the ‘Hands off Our Girls.’ Stop blaming the girls/ women for their dress code. THE WAY A WOMAN OR GIRL DRESSES MUST NEVER BE A RECIPE TO JUSTIFY OR DILUTE AN ACT OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS!!!   BIKO!

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