Provide more protection for women and girls – WIMSAL

PRESS RELEASE: ‘Provide more protection for women and girls,’ WIMSAL urges the Sierra Leone Government ahead of International Women’s Day.

2nd March, 2015: Freetown, Sierra Leone: Women in the Media Sierra Leone (WIMSAL), an association of female Sierra Leonean journalists, today urges the Sierra Leone Government to do more in protecting the rights of women and girls in the country. ‘We are deeply concerned about the increasing spate of sexual violence against women and girls in Sierra Leone,” says Asmaa James, President of WIMSAL, adding that the “government needs to do more to fulfil its constitutional obligation of providing a safe and secure environment for all.”

Although the Sexual Offences of Act 2012 and the Child Rights Act of 2007 criminalizes sexual violence and early marriage, there is compelling evidence to show that incidents of early marriages and sexual violence are happening at a disturbing rate. In July 2013, WIMSAL wrote a petition urging key state actors to do more in curtailing the disturbing increase in violence against women. Sadly though, the situation has still not improved. According to a 2014 crime statistics released by the Sierra Leone Police, a total of 11,358 incidents of sexual and domestic violence were reported, with 2,124 of the complaints related to child sexual abuse, while 77 incidents of rape were reported.

“The current trend of violence against women is disempowering, and severely undermining the health and dignity of women and girls. The need to implement an effective and well-coordinated anti-SGBV strategy is critical, and the need for government’s leadership cannot be overemphasized,” Mrs. James added.

WIMSAL is also concerned about the slow progress in addressing some issues relating to reproductive and sexual health of the women of Sierra Leone. In particular, WIMSAL calls on the Sierra Leone Government, particularly Parliament, to expedite the process of reviewing Sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 offences against the persons Act. These provisions are both prohibitive and restrictive, and do nothing more than undermining the health and safety of many young women and girls. To back up its commitment to reducing unsafe abortions and maternal death, WIMSAL urges the government to legalize abortion. It is time to prioritize reproductive and sexual health in the country’s development process.

WIMSAL is joining other women around the world to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) on the 8th of March 2015. The IWD theme for WIMSAL is “Make it Happen – year of enforcement and enactment; stop the violence against women and girls and repeal the 1861 abortion law”. WIMSAL membership will hold a symposium and host radio programmes across the country to mark this year’s celebration.

WIMSAL is an association of Sierra Leonean female journalists that seek to promote the interest of its members as well as providing voice on issues affecting women and girls across the country.

Photo: WIMSAL President, Asmaa Kamara James.

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