Sierra Leone's president has officially declared a national emergency on rape and sexual violence in a major step toward addressing the issue in the West African nation.
President Julius Maada Bio on Thursday, 7 February, said each month, hundreds of cases of rape and sexual assaults are being reported against women, girls and babies. He said some fatalities included three-month-olds and that 70 percent of survivors are under 15.
Bio said he wants to bring awareness since thousands of cases are unreported because of a culture of silence or indifference.
He said he has now made sexual penetration of minors punishable by life imprisonment. The current law carries a maximum penalty of 15 years, and very few cases have been prosecuted.
Bio's declaration comes after months of campaigning by activists.