Thousands of women and girls in Sierra Leone have been the victims of a systematic assault by rebels who had sought to overthrow the West African nation’s government. Human rights workers compare the atrocities to the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, where women were similarly targeted, captured, and subjected to gang rape and sexual servitude, but note that the conflict in Sierra Leone “has received far less attention.”
Women in Sierra Leone who were considered particularly attractive were often forced into domestic (as well as sexual) servitude. Many of the women were under 14 or over 45; many girl victims of this violence either became pregnant or died as a result of rape. In addition, the war of terror against women has brought an increase in sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, among females. AIDS and HIV testing is unavailable in Sierra Leone because of prohibitive cost and lack of treatment resources for those who test positive.
The rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front, has been effectively cleared of these crimes due to a recent cease-fire agreement that included a blanket amnesty for human rights violations. The peace agreement also called for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission and a national human rights commission, but neither has been achieved to date. Some government and UN sources say that the rebels may still hold thousands of women in remote areas.