The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) says it's deeply troubled by the spate of rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence in the country.
"Hardly a week passes by without the report of sexual violence against the female gender in the newspapers or on social media," the Commission says as it made reference to a recent incident involving the alleged rape of a 9-year-old girl by a 40-year-old man in Lamin, West Coast Region and the alleged rape and gruesome murder of a Grade 12 student in Busumbala.
"Our young girls and ladies are apparently not safe in their own homes, schools, on the streets and at the workplaces," states the commission.
According to NHRC, it conducted a study in February on sexual harassment in the workplace in The Gambia, which indicates a high prevalence (74 per cent) of sexual harassment in our workplaces, especially in role allocation, promotion and employment seeking.
According to the Commission, disproportionately but unsurprisingly, women form the majority of the victims and the workplace is the most identified location where the harassment occurs. The Commission further states that the Demographic and Health Survey 2013 and the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2018 both showed the disturbing prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence in our society.
The NHRC also noted that it regards all forms of sexual and gender-based violence as a serious violation of human rights and reprehensible abuse of power and authority and the highest betrayal of trust.
The NHRC strongly urges the State, as the primary duty bearer, to take every legal measure and action to combat sexual abuse, violence and exploitation in the society.
The NHRC further urged The Gambia Police Force to vigorously enforce the Children's Act 2005, Sexual Offences Act 2013 and all other legislation that protect children and women from sexual violence and for the Ministry of Justice to ensure that alleged offenders are prosecuted.
In the same vein, it calls on the ministries of Health and Gender, Children and Social Welfare to intensify their efforts in the building of a more protective environment for victims of sexual violence.
NHRC urged the media, including social media to always bear in mind the best interest of the victims and strictly observe its ethical standards in the reporting of sexual and gender-based violence and children's issues.
It went on to say that as a society, there is the need for us to begin serious conversations at all levels on the factors which engender sexual and gender-based violence and our individual roles in its perpetuation.
The Commission encourages girls, women and children to report all forms of sexual and gender-based violence that they are subjected to or know about to the appropriate authorities.