The United Nations official leading efforts against sexual violence in conflict today called for greater support for survivors of sexual abuse in Sierra Leone, saying they needed access to justice and assistance to reintegrate into society.
“Additional resources are also required to strengthen the capacity of the judicial system in order to address the issue of sexual violence,” said Margot Wallström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, who is visiting to the West African country where sexual violence was widespread during a decade-long bloody conflict in the 1990s.
She underscored the need to prevent sexual violence as the country prepares for next year’s presidential and legislative elections.
“Preventing sexual violence is particularly important as Sierra Leone is drawing closer to elections, a period during which sexual violence is often used against political opponents, especially in post-conflict situations.
“I call on all people in positions of influence in Sierra Leone to speak up against the use of sexual violence as a tool of political intimidation and to do their utmost to put in place measures to prevent sexual violence from being employed to this effect,” said Ms. Wallström.
She said that she understood that Sierra Leoneans and their Government wanted to look to the future and not dwell on the past, but the crime of sexual violence must not be forgotten.
“Only a country thoroughly addressing the wrongdoings of the past can build a solid foundation for a successful and sustainable future. Additional resources are also required to strengthen the capacity of the judicial system in order to address the issue of sexual violence,” she added.
She held discussions with the UN Country Team in Sierra Leone, as well as with representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), caregivers, survivors of sexual violence, and the Family Support Unit (FSU) of the police.
Ms. Wallström also met with the country’s Solicitor General, the Chief Justice, the Minister and Deputy Minister of Gender Affairs and the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General, Michael von der Schulenburg, who is the head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Mission in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL).
She also visited a reparations project for victims of sexual violence in the city of Makeni, where she spoke with various people dealing with the issue.