Sexual violence in post-conflict Sierra Leone: Obstacles to prevention responses
Although the high prevalence of sexual violence during the decade-long armed conflict in Sierra Leone has been investigated and reported on extensively, very little is known about the nature and extent of sexual violence during Sierra Leone’s post-conflict transition. The purpose of this paper was to explore narratives about the problem of sexual violence and obstacles to prevention efforts in the aftermath of war in Sierra Leone. Using a qualitative research approach, this study examines gender norms and pressures that shape gender roles, rights, responsibilities and sexual relationships in post-conflict situations. Evidence on the nature and extent of sexual violence and challenges and barriers to prevention responses were elicited through the in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with both men and women as well as key informant interviews with community leaders and service providers. Findings indicate the widespread occurrence of sexual violence that continues even in the aftermath of hostilities in Sierra Leone. The changes in economic, cultural and geopolitical spheres as well as gender inequalities in education, social and economic domains as a result of the conflict have evidently disempowered women and girls with a profound impact on their sexual and reproductive health/rights. Adequate attention should be given to the design and implementation of responses to sexual violence given the gendered nature of such violence and post-conflict contexts.
Keywords: Sexual violence; post-conflict; Sierra Leone; gender; women