From the Editor’s Keyboard

Sierra Leone: Wife beating is still a common practice

7 April 2015 at 18:16 | 2885 views

By Mariama Kandeh, Guest Writer, London, UK.

Women and supporters of women’s affairs recently celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8th this year with the theme, Make It Happen. The day is celebrated to recognise the achievements of women in all walks of life. Women also mark this day by bringing to public discourse the various issues affecting women across the world.

In Sierra Leone, it is disheartening to note that the abuse women face both in private and in public is still common and prevalent.

Marie (not her real name) was recently beaten by husband Abu and dragged on the rocky terrain of Wilberforce in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

According to Marie, this is not the first time she has been beaten so mercilessly by her husband. It is a common practice and whenever Abu does his usual ritual, he will first intimidate and rain insults on any would be rescuer. As a result of this people in the community are afraid to openly confront Abu or even chastise him for his abuse of his wife. He openly bragged that he paid Marie’s bride price and that what he does to her is none of his neighbours’ business.

Sadly, Marie’s relatives are in the interior and she’s still scared to leave her wife beater husband to go to her family because of the Ebola outbreak.

"I can’t go now’, she said ‘I have to wait till our region is completely rid off of Ebola. That’s the only thing keeping me here, "she said.

However, due to her neighbour’s secret advice, Marie reported the matter to the police and it is being investigated. Yet, there’s very little hope that prosecution will follow knowing how the patriarchal system operates. Most of these issues are either swept under the carpet, ignored and treated with very little amount of seriousness or better still settled out of court; at family and communal level at the expense of victims.

Marie is not alone. Most women in Sierra Leone have suffered and still suffer a similar fate. In fact it is an open secret that most Sierra Leone husbands beat their wives.

Quite recently, it was reported that in the country’s capital Freetown, there was man who was constantly beating and dragging his wife on the ground on Circular road with absolutely no intervention from the police.

In the past, a very senior government official of the former SLPP government allegedly assaulted his girl friend at Lumley in Western Freetown while also quite recently, a renowned lawyer was fined the sum of 1 million Leones for molesting his wife.

Where does these put Sierra Leonean women when those that are expected to uphold and implement the law and good morals are the ones defying?

Apparently, statistics show a gloomy picture on the spate of domestic violence in Sierra Leone, particularly in the Western Area including Freetown?

According to the Sierra Leone family support Unit, in 2012, the Western Area reported a total of 1,923 domestic violence cases while in 2013 the number rose to 2,073, the highest in the entire country and over 95% committed by husbands against their wives.

This excludes the provincial areas of the country that hosts the majority of the population. Meanwhile in 2014, a total of 11, 358 cases of child sexual abuse, domestic violence and rape against women and girls were recorded. Considering the fact that a good number of domestic violence cases is unreported, it displays a worrisome situation for Sierra Leone’s women.

Nevertheless, the Family Support Unit of the Sierra Leone Police, the Gender Ministry and other NGOs working on women’s issues are making efforts to put an end to domestic violence.

But the road is still long and rugged and there is need for more education while punishment for such barbaric abuse of women needs to be severe and speedy. It is only through such efforts that we can actually see the end of the the blatant and open abuse of women in the country by their husbands and other people.