The 11 years conflict in the country left most young girls and women victims of sexual violence as most of them were used as bush wives for commanders of the fighters.
Women and girls of all ages and across the country suffered multiple abuses which included rape, some used as sex slaves and other crimes of a sexually violent nature.
According to the Amnesty International Report (Nov. 2007) it is estimated that these forms of violence happened to a quarter of a million women and girls.
These women having gone through some physical and psychological wounds, have also had their pains compounded by stigmatisation and even discrimination by their own family members since the end of the conflict.
Because they have not been recognised some have engaged different strategies for survival. Most of them are ashamed to return to their villages and communities and could be seen in the streets of Freetown engaged in miniature jobs to fend for their living. Yet still others live in silence because they cannot share their stress and pains with others.
Since a lot of them were used as bush wives of the rebel fighters, they have been discriminated against, isolated, and excluded from their communities and have thus developed new strategies or different ways of obtaining food, shelter, work and healthcare.
The psychological, physical, social and economic impact on women and girls of this inhuman treatment is not measurable. These women are denied work, and they are condemned to exist on the margins of society in some cases, with prostitution the easy option out as a source of survival.
These young girls and women cry for justice and reparations simply to enable them become economically independent so that they can provide for themselves and their children and also to establish their lives free from fear, stigma and discrimination.
Six years have gone by since the war ended, but little has been done to make sure that survivors of these conflicts get justice, acknowledgment of what they went through and also reparations which would aid then to rebuild their lives once again.
What has the government done for these women? Much has not been done by the past administration and for the present government we have not heard much from them. The government needs to address both the physical and psychological effects of the crimes that have been committed against these women and young girls.
The government has neither provide justice, recognition of the crimes or effective rehabilitation programmes, because without these survivors cannot even rebuild their lives and those of their children.
The shame and stigma, discrimination and rejections surrounding these victims of sexual violence significantly influences the choices and decisions of the survivors and severely limit the opportunities open to some of them.
The feelings of having been raped has affected both the physical and also the mental well being of the victims influencing them whether to seek medical care they need.
Reparation for survivors of sexual violence can aid in the development of social status and so to tackle this problem there should be complete social and individual effects of sexual abuse; and they must be a part of a wider strategy to prevent future violence.
Deep seated discrimination against women and also promote equality and improve women’s status.
In the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report recommendations relating to survivors of sexual violence rely on the accessibility and availability of healthcare to women where free health service was the main remedy recommended to address the various medical consequences of rape and sexual violence.
All these have not been done and so we are urging the government to do something for the survivors of sexual violence to enable them rebuild their lives.
Betty K. Milton