Sierra Leone’s parliament has passed a law imposing harsher punishments for rape and gender-based violence.

The new legislation institutes a minimum sentence of 15 years for rape. Before this, offenders had to serve a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, thus making the current legislation the toughest penalty for sex crimes in the country’s history.

The law also provides free medical treatment for victims of rape.
Hindolo Moiwo Gevao, chairman of parliament’s legislative committee revealed that only fewer cases of sexual violence are successfully prosecuted in Sierra Leone, a situation she says is not deterrent enough. “Fighting sexual offences requires strong punitive measures. It is necessary we set powerful examples in order to curb the problem,” she added.

Earlier in February, President Julius Maada Bio declared a national emergency after data published by police showed sex and gender-based violence nearly doubled last year, with one-third of the victims being children.