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Sierra Leone president declares rape a national emergency

AP  |  Freetown 

Sierra Leone's has declared a national emergency over and sexual violence, saying perpetrators are getting younger and their acts more violent.

In a keynote address on Thursday, said hundreds of cases of and are reported each month in the West African nation against women, girls and babies as young as three months old.

Those who sexually assault minors will face life in imprison, the declared, saying that some 70 percent of victims are under age 15. The current law carries a maximum penalty of 15 years, and very few cases have been prosecuted.

"With this declaration, I have also directed the following: that all government hospitals must provide free medical treatment and certificate to every victim of and sexual abuse," he said.

Bio's declaration comes after months of campaigning by activists.

Thousands of cases are unreported because of a culture of silence or indifference, leaving victims traumatized, he said, adding that he wants to increase awareness.

The government will engage communities and in dialogue to end the scourge that is slowly wrecking the nation, the president said. That will involve addressing gaps in the Sexual Offences Act of 2012, he said. Bio also ordered the creation of a special police division for rape and sexual against minors.

Dr. Olabisi Claudius Cole, of the Rainbo Initiative that provides for survivors of gender-based violence, called the president's declaration a landmark in tackling such in

It had been made possible by the tireless voices of survivors and activists, she said.

First Lady said all forms of sexual are unacceptable and menaces to society.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, February 08 2019. 19:16 IST