18 September 2013

Sierra Leone: Women Mobilised to Wear Black in Solidarity With Rape Victims

As former Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Mahmoud Tarawallie makes his second appearance today before Magistrate Tonia Barnett in the Freetown Magistrates' court No.2 for allegedly raping a 24-year-old student, the Women's Forum (Sierra Leone) has called on women to attend the hearing wearing black, to protest against the upsurge in rape in Sierra Leone, and to solidarise with the victim.

Mr. Tarawallie is arraigned on four counts, ranging from rape, wounding, wounding with intent and assault occasional actual bodily harm, contrary to section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861.

The particulars of offence state that on Monday 9 September 2013 at 6A Handel Street in Kingtom, he intentionally penetrated the victim.

In what seems to be a direct response to calls for women to galvanise support for the victim and other victims of rape in recent times, the Women's Forum in a press release on Tuesday views with grave concern the high incidence of rape and other gender-based violence in the country.

They expressed disappointment that in spite of advocacy by women's organizations and other stakeholders in the post-conflict country, the trend still continues.

"The recent alleged rape case against a highly placed public official calls for concern; whilst commending all government efforts to protect women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence. We urge that the matter under investigation is given speedy and serious attention so that the actual result can be made public," the release stated.

The organization also frowns at any verbal or physical abuse against the victim in this case, while at the same time calling on the public, especially, women and girls to be on their guard to protect potential victims as it is their right according to law to report all incidences of rape and gender-based violence to the authorities so that appropriate action can be taken.

"As we had pledged to wear black on Thursdays as a protest against the escalating crime rates in Sierra Leone, we implore female organizations/women of Sierra Leone to attend the court proceedings in BLACK," the release concludes.

It is not known, as went to press whether family members and supporters of the former deputy minister will themselves turnout in their numbers in court today. At his maiden appearance, the accused was represented by a battery of barristers, led by Sulaiman Kabba-Koroma and C. F. Edwards.

The defence had applied for bail, but the magistrate denied that request. It is therefore expected that a similar request will be made today, and it remains to be seen whether the female magistrate will release the erstwhile minister on bail.

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