Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio has launched the country’s first special court to combat rising cases of sexual and gender-based violence.
Mr Bio declared a state of emergency on rape in February 2019.
Work started on Monday at the Sexual Offences Model Court and the coming days are expected to be busy, Manty Tarawalli, Minister of Gender and Children Affairs, told BBC News.
The minister said the court will log reported rape cases in the court register.
The government had earlier this month unveiled six sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) support centres across the country.
Their work is to help survivors and also assist the police in gathering evidence.
A toll-free 24-hour hotline was also set up in April to encourage victims to seek help.
According to Rainbow Initiative, one of the leading institutions providing services to survivors of SGBV in Sierra Leone, they recorded 1,272 sexual assault incidents between January and May 2020.
Daniel Kettor of the Rainbow Initiative told BBC that with the special court hearings of rape cases would no longer be delayed.
For now, the Sexual Offences Model Court will be working six days a week at the Law Court building in the capital, Freetown.
“Similar courts will soon be established across the country soon, but for now the one just launched will serve the country.’’ Minister Monty told BBC News.