7.15.2010

Violence Against Women in Sierra Leone

The War Continues for Women
Although the Sierra Leone civil war ended 8 years ago, women are still having to fight a battle of their own against gender-based violence. Amputations, rape, and abductions were all weapons of war during that decade of brutal fighting. The effects of the war are clearly evident everywhere in the country: infrastructure is destroyed and hasn't been rebuilt, corruption plagues the nation, disunity prevents the country from progressing rapidly, poverty affects every household, healthcare is nearly nonexistent, and amputation victims are now commonplace in a country that was terrorized by a decade of bloodshed. 

During the war, soldiers and rebels alike used rape to terrorize women across the small nation. Even today, rape is still unfortunately commonplace. What angers me the most is that there is no stigma attached to being a rapist - they often get off with just a small fine or minor punishment. However, for the rape victims, they are forever stigmatized and looked down upon in society despite the fact that being raped was
not their choice! In a country where the HIV/AIDS prevalence is relatively low when compared to other sub-Saharan nations, the infection rate could potentially rise if rape continues to be a widespread like it is now. 

While driving around Freetown, Sierra Leone this year, I noticed many more anti-violence posters around. From the airport lobby to street billboards, the Sierra Leonean government is trying to combat the violence against women in the country. But does that battle go beyond the posters? It's hard to tell. If I had to guess, I would say no. In a country where corruption is rampant, politicians and police officers are good at
speaking but not good at doing. In the case of violence against women, even police officers, the ones hired to fight against the violence, often times take part in it. It's time for this to change. Its time for us to do something. We must urge our own governments as well as Sierra Leone's leaders to take a firmer stance on violence against women. To read more about this topic, read this article by allAfrica. You can also begin taking action by signing this petition by Refugee's International to help pass the International Violence Against Women Act. Also, watch this really great video about gender-based violence in Sierra Leone:

Video found via Ctrl.Alt.Shift

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