President Julius Maada Bio announced the emergency amid a public outcry over the series of rape, triggered by a series of high-profile attacks. Mr Bio said attacks on minors – which account for a third of all cases – would be punished with a life sentence. Activists say many assaults are not punished under current laws.
More than 8,500 cases were recorded last year – a rise of nearly 4,000 on the figure from the previous year – in a country of 7.5 million people. Seventy percent of survivors of sexual assault are under the age of 15, President Julius Maada Bio said in a speech.
Rape and other forms of sexual violence were widespread during Sierra Leone’s civil war between 1991 and 2002.
- Sierra Leone officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, informally Salone, is a country on the southwest coast of West Africa.
- The country’s capital and largest city is Freetown.
- Sierra Leone was a British Crown Colony from 1808 to 1961. Sierra Leone became independent from the United Kingdom on 27 April 1961, led by Sir Milton Margai.
- Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. It is also among the largest producers of titanium and bauxite, is a major producer of gold, and has one of the world’s largest deposits of rutile.
- Sierra Leone is home to the third-largest natural harbour in the world.