The murder rape of a young woman whose corpse was found discarded on Lumley Beach Road in Aberdeen has sparked outrage amongst women’s groups in Sierra Leone. 17-year-old Hannah Bockarie’s body was left half naked on the side of the road in Freetown’s tourist district after she was allegedly raped.
A procession of women, and men walked from Aberdeen turntable to Atlantic with placards and candles calling for an end to rape and violence against women in Sierra Leone.
The vigil was organized by Power 232Women, a women’s advocacy group founded last year as part of an all women ebola community response. The large turnout of demonstrators included lawyers, activists, politicians, entertainers and the media.
Moijueh Kaikai, Minister of Gender said that a $1000 reward will be given to anyone who comes forward with information to assist the police with their investigation. And for his part the Inspector General of Police, Francis Munu said that the police would ensure that all those involved in Hannah’s rape and death would be arrested and charged to court.
“I appreciate everyone for the support but it should not end here,” said a grief stricken Mrs Bockarie as she laid a wreath where her daughter’s body was found.
“We must ensure justice is served to anyone involved in this. We still need your help.”
But even if someone comes forward with information there is no guarantee that Hannah will ever get justice. Very few rape cases actually make it to trial in Sierra Leone because the 62 Family Support Units that are supposed to prosecute the rape cases are nationally under funded and under staffed. The Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) earlier this year found that 4 Million Leones ($800) is all the government of Sierra Leone allocated annually to fund the nation’s fight against gender violence and sex crimes. That is $200 less than the reward the Gender Ministry says it will give to anyone who comes forward with information to prosecute Hannah’s killer and rapist.
According to the Rainbo Centre, an organization that supports victims of sexual violence, there were 100 rape cases reported every month in 2013, with most of the victims being children. From 1991-2002 during the civil war, the UN estimates that some 60,000 women and girls in Sierra Leone were raped with most of them never getting any justice at all. Until the government fully commits to prosecuting violence against women and girls activists believe sexual violence will remain.
“Today we are all Hannah,” said Nicky Spencer-Coker, lead organizer at Power 232Women.
She said that rape should not be settled out of court, as is usually the case in Sierra Leone.
“Rape is not a family matter,” she said.
With reporting from Amadu Lamrana Bah Photos by Augustine Kargbo