Damning the Incidents of Rape and Child Abuse in Sierra Leone

9 February 2009 at 04:24 | 1983 views

By Abdulai Bayraytay, Freetown.

The reported death of a ten-year-old girl in Hamilton village, an outskirt village in the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown, as reported in the Concord Times newspaper publication of February 5th, this year following her brutal rape by a "pedophile" stepfather has provoked more questions of how serious the authorities have been disposed in addressing incidents of rape in the country.

While the frequent incidents of rape in the country have been facilely attributed as a legacy of the war the country endured from 1991 to the cessation of hostilities in 2002, it becomes scandalous for the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs to silently sit by as some pusillanimous adults continue to rape innocent and unsuspecting children. This is where one would contend the rape of poor Isatu Koroma, the latest symbolism of the disparaging problem of rape, as yet a provocative herculean challenge to the powers that be to rise to the challenge of addressing not only the psychological needs of the victims, if they are lucky to be alive, but their families as well.

A holistic approach will not only be addressing incidents of rape, but an overall implementation of the country’s National Children’s Policy of 2006 that is founded upon the concept of promoting the well being of children. And part of the holistic approach is the continued efforts of strengthening the judiciary, with law adjudicators specifically trained to handle rape and other child abuse issues, if need be.

The paradox is, even though there has been a proliferation of advocates of child rights and child protection institutions in Sierra Leone during and after the war, purported to have been established country-wide to take care of separated, unaccompanied and orphaned children by both religious and secular agencies such as UNICEF and the established Child Protection Network (CPN), the incidents of rape and other forms of child abuses are on the increase. Undoubtedly, these agencies will be damned for their "inadvertent" failure to robustly act on behalf of their clients (children) as most often victims of particularly rape and other forms of sexual harassment have been blamed, if not indicted, for soliciting their despicable perpetrators by virtue of the way they (the victims) "dress" like porn stars.

Skewed and unconvincing the above argument might be, it would not come as a surprise to many as the country is still embroiled in patriarchy. That is why history will not absolve child abusers for their dastardly acts, as well as would hardly vindicate child rights advocates if spiraling incidents of rape and molestation of particularly the girl child are not addressed.

This is because the continued incidents of these reprehensible acts will not only be scandalous for a country like Sierra Leone with all the potentials of being one of the doyens of the world, but will also undermine the very emphasis of the Child Rights Act that centers on ’maximum contribution to the realization of vision 2025 for Sierra Leone through a focus on child well being within the country...where the best interests of the child are paramount in the progressive and maximum attainment of the survival, development, participation and protection of every child within the country".

As I dedicate this article to the families of rape victims and sufferers of child abuse particularly in Sierra Leone and other vulnerable societies, it is food for thought whether countries would want to be indicted for their gross neglect in rising to the challenges of addressing child abuse in order to escape international scandal, if they do car anyways.

Abdulai Bayraytay(photo) worked as a Child Protection Worker with the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto. He holds a Master’s degree in political science and pursued a Master’s degree in social work from Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Toronto both in Canada respectively.He is the Patriotic Vanguard Deputy Editor(on leave).