Performing Arts Used to Map Out Gender Abuse in Sierra Leone

Traditionally, theatre for development or applied theatre is interventionist. Performance techniques are used to achieve behavioural change and to promote messages around public health or education. While various performing arts techniques have long been used to mobilise social transformation, we simply sought to start conversations about violence, writes Juliet Fornah and Stella Kanu for The Conversation. 

Conversations sparked by the performances confirmed that issues such as domestic violence, infidelity, abandonment, and polygamy were all recognisable and prevalent in communities. Both men and women spoke of lack of communication in marriage, tensions over financial strains, or sexual dissatisfaction. These ultimately resulted in infidelity and violence.

In 2019, Sierra Leone declared a state of emergency on sexual and gender-based violence. The declaration followed a public outcry over a spate of high-profile sexual attacks in which minors made up one in three victims. Though unconstitutional, the state of emergency led to significant legal amendments. The minimum sentence for rape was increased from five to 15 years for adults. New provisions also criminalised informal out-of-court settlements for sexual assault and rape.


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