“Moral & Social Education Pivotal in Ending Gender Based Violence…” -Justice Alhadi Averred

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    Justice Appeal Court Judge, Fatmata Bintu Alhadi

    By Foday Moriba Conteh

    Justice Appeal Court Judge, Fatmata Bintu Alhadi, who was recently appointed as one of the Justices of the Court of Appeal, on 11th July 2020, during a virtual zoom high level panel discussion marking World Population Day on the theme: “Putting the Brakes on the Shadow Pandemic of Gender-Based Violence: Let’s Act Now!” has provided solutions to end gender based violence in Sierra Leone.

    According to her, moral and social education are pivotal in ending gender based violence. She added that moral standards of any society have strong influences on its ability to survive and nurture its values for the next generation. She added that a good moral behaviour teaches a person how to behave well to other people, noting further that it is important for the individual and for the society.

    She therefore recommended that despite the ongoing sensitization and awareness raising campaign, there is urgent need to support the Sierra Leone Judiciary for the establishment of specialized courts across the country.

    One of the difficulties, she spoke about, to indict an alleged suspect is the availability of witnesses. She explained that some witnesses may have particular difficulties attending court and giving evidence due to their age, personal circumstances and fear of intimidation or because of their particular peculiar needs. In such circumstances where witnesses are considered to be vulnerable or intimidated, she recommended that special measures are deemed to improve the quality of their experience by assisting them to give their “best evidence.” She affirmed that such stress can affect the volume and quality of the evidence by witnesses/victims.

    Another challenge she pointed out was the lack of a specialized court to effectively and expeditiously deal with these cases thus posing a serious challenge and a significant barrier to obtain justice.

    During her presentation, Justice Alhadi said Gender-Based Violence (GBV) has become ‘the shadow pandemic’ in the world with Sierra Leone not being an exception. She went on to state that 7 out of 10 women between the ages of 19 to 35 have experienced sexual violence and girls as young as 3 months old have been victims of sexual violence in Sierra Leone.

    Disclosing the number of cases since 2015, the learned Judge said, “In 2015, Sierra Leone Police documented 10,544 reported cases of gender-based violent crimes. The number of cases increased to 11,362 in 2016; 12,029 in 2017. The police reported that in 2017 sexual and gender-based violence was the 4th highest reported crime. 93% of 30,000 female survivors are under 17 years old. It is estimated that between 2018 and 2019 alone, more than 8,500 cases were recorded at various police stations across the country and 75% of these cases were charged to court.”

    She said to demonstrate willingness for a zero GBV, the Chief Justice, Hon. Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards has already assigned 5 judges to the Sexual Offences Division of the High Court. She said the plan is to replicate this throughout the country.

    On her part, UNFPA’s Country Director-Dr. Kim Eva Dickson thanked all the panellists for their brilliant contributions and stated further that every year, her organization commemorates the World Population Day on July 11, to raise awareness on sexual reproduction and the vulnerability of women and girls. She said UNFPA’s Executive Director, Natalia Kanem believes no country can do it alone, hence the need for strong collaboration to end GBV. She said the day was also set aside to talk about the health problems faced by child bearing women and the importance of family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights.

    The virtual zoom discussion which brought together gender expert, clinician, journalist, lawyer, government representative and activist was organized by UNFPA, Sierra Leone Country Office.

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