Did it help’
Written by Laura S. Martin & Simeon Koroma, African Arguments
In February 2019, President Julius Maada Bio declared a State of Emergency over sexual and gender-based violence. He did this amid rising pressure over the issue in Sierra Leone.
In 2018, a series of high-profile cases had emerged including that of a five-year-old girl whose severe assault left her paralysed from the waist down. Gender-based campaigns – such as Asmaa James’ Black Tuesday and the First Lady’s Hands off Our Girls movements – became more vocal. And new figures in early-2019 showed that the number of sexual assault cases reported to the police in 2018 had more than doubled to 8,500, a third of whom were of young girls.
Claiming there was no time to spare, President Maada Bio’s declaration allowed the government to introduce new regulations immediately without consulting parliament. These included new provisions for victims and more severe punishments for offenders.
While these measures were widely applied, however, there was uncertainty about the legality of using emergency procedures to effect deep legislative changes. Amidst this lack of certainty, the government quietly revoked the State of Emergency in June and introduced a full-blown legislative programme through parliament, which passed the amendments in September.