Prevalence of War-Related Sexual Violence and Other Human Rights Abuses Among Internally Displaced Persons in Sierra Leone

Citation:

Amowitz, Lynn L., Chen Reis, Kristina Hare Lyons, Beth Vann, Binta Mansaray, Adyinka Akinsulure-Smith, Louise Taylor, and Vincent Iacopino. 2002. “Prevalence of War-Related Sexual Violence and Other Human Rights Abuses Among Internally Displaced Persons in Sierra Leone.” JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association 287 (4): 513-21.

Authors: Lynn L. Amowitz, Chen Reis, Kristina Hare Lyons, Beth Vann, Binta Mansaray, Adyinka Akinsulure-Smith, Louise Taylor, Vincent Iacopino

Abstract:

Context: Sierra Leone's decade-long conflict has cost tens of thousands of lives and all parties to the conflict have committed abuses.

Objective: To assess the prevalence and impact of war-related sexual violence and other human rights abuses among internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sierra Leone.

Design and Setting: A cross-sectional, randomized survey, using structured interviews and questionnaires, of internally displaced Sierra Leone women who were living in 3 IDP camps and 1 town, which were conducted over a 4-week period in 2001.

Participants: A total of 991 women provided information on 9166 household members. The mean (SE) age of the respondents was 34 (0.48) years (range, 14-80 years). The majority of the women sampled were poorly educated (mean [SE], 1.9 [0.11] years of formal education); 814 were Muslim (82%), and 622 were married (63%).

Main Outcome Measures: Accounts of war-related sexual assault and other human rights abuses.

Results: Overall, 13% (1157) of household members reported incidents of war-related human rights abuses in the last 10 years, including abductions, beatings, killings, sexual assaults and other abuses. Ninety-four (9%) of 991 respondents and 396 (8%) of 5001 female household members reported war-related sexual assaults. The lifetime prevalence of non–war-related sexual assault committed by family members, friends, or civilians among these respondents was also 9%, which increased to 17% with the addition of war-related sexual assaults (excluding 1% of participants who reported both war-related and non–war-related sexual assault). Eighty-seven percent of women believed that there should be legal protection for women's human rights. More than 60% of respondents believed that a man has a right to beat his wife if she disobeys, and that it is a wife's duty/obligation to have sex with her husband even if she does not want to.

Conclusions: Sexual violence committed by combatants in Sierra Leone was widespread and was perpetrated in the context of a high level of human rights abuses against the civilian population.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Male Combatants, Displacement & Migration, IDPs, Gender, Women, Rights, Human Rights, Sexual Violence, SV against women Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2002

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