SIERRA LEONE: "Illiteracy, Poverty Challenges to Gender Violence", says Gender Desk Officer

Thursday, January 15, 2009
Concord Times
Western Africa
Sierra Leone
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Gender desk officer of the ministry of social welfare, gender and children's affairs in the southern region said illiteracy and poverty are challenges to ending gender violence.

Alice Jeneba Koroma disclosed yesterday to Concord Times that many women choose to stay with husbands who abuse them, even though violence against women is against the law and a violation of human rights.

The 2007 Domestic Violence Act specifically deals with violence in domestic relationships such as marriage. Domestic violence includes physical and sexual abuse, as well as emotional abuse and harassment.

But because of illiteracy, many women do not know what their rights are. Those who do are often reluctant to go to the authorities.

Zainab Conteh, a cosmetic trader who lives in Freetown, is typical of these women. "I know that human rights exist," she said, "but I don't have the mind to take my husband to authorities, whatever he does to me."

She said that if a woman takes her husband to the authorities, he will leave her and the marriage will finish. Instead, she advises women "if the problem is a minor solve it with your husband, if it is hard take it to your parents."

"Some of the women are afraid to take their husband to the police when they are treated badly," Koroma explained. "Because of poverty, which is the biggest problem, some of them bear with the violence."

They think if they take their husband to the authorities, the husband will end the marriage. If he goes, they may not be able to provide for themselves and their children.

"Freetown is better than the regions, the social aspect is here we sensitized them," Koroma said. "It will still be difficult for the next two years for them to be aware about gender violence."