The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) has expressed concerns over an alarming report of the initiation of a 14-year-old girl at Torwama village in Bo, southern Sierra Leone.
A media report, issued by the commission, stated that “even though the mother expressly insisted that her child should not be initiated, [the child was forcefully initiated].”
HRCSL, the report noted, “is informed that the Family Support Unit of the police in Bo promptly responded to the compliant of the mother and instituted an immediate investigation into that matter.”
“HRCSL is particularly concerned to note that the Police Station at Dambala Road, Bo, was surrounded by a crowd of over 50 persons whose presence was apparently intimidating to investigators and the mother and victim who were in the police station helping police with their investigations,” the report stated.
According to the report, there are allegations that religious leaders who provided refuge to the victim and her mother are being threatened due to the fact that the mother rejected the initiation rites based on her religious beliefs. The HRCSL media statement further stated that, “HRCSL whishes to remind all concerned that a child who is below the age of 18 years cannot in any circumstance consent to being harmed in any manner whatsoever”, adding that furthermore section 33(1) of the Child Right Act 2007 provided that “no person shall subject a child to… any cultural practices which dehumanizes or is injurious to the physical and mental welfare of a child.’”
The statement further highlighted that the penalty of contravention of section 33(1) was a fine not exceeding Le 30 million to two years imprisonment or both fine and imprisonment.
The HRCSL called on the police to continue their investigations and ensure that should they confirm that harm was inflicted on the girl those responsible for inflicting such harm on this child should be prosecuted and face the full penalty of the law.