By Oumie Mendy
Fanta Jobe, a student and resident of Kaiaf village, Lower River Region has urged the government to take tougher actions against rape offenders to protect women.
Speaking at a health and security sensitisation meeting organised by Peace Corps – Gambia in partnership with the LRR regional health directorate, Jobe who is in her early twenties said the government needs radical reforms to address the prevalence of rape cases in the country.
Though the state has made some significant efforts in prosecuting gender-based violence cases, there is still a big gap in prosecution.
“Despite having village development committees who deal with these issues, usually, when cases of rape are reported nothing comes out of it. More often, they will resort to addressing it in-house while the victim lives with the trauma for the rest of her life. That is how ridiculous things are for girls and women in our communities,” she added.
The young girl urged parents and community leaders to take the lead in protecting girls and women, adding that the act of killing rape cases in-house should be discouraged.
“We should endeavour to report rape cases to the police when they happen. I urged our VDC members to step up their vigilance and stop receiving bribes to silence victims of rape and teenage pregnancy,” she said.
The week-long sensitisation offered participants the opportunity to express themselves as well as share experiences and make proposals on the way forward.
Lamin Banda, LRR regional police commissioner said addressing the issues of rape and teenage pregnancy will require the collaboration of all stakeholders.
“We should start with addressing the issue of compromising rape cases at community level. This is making it very difficult for the police because more often we are not even consulted and when it comes to teenage pregnancy, cases are only reported after the victims give birth,” he said.
Commissioner Banda said if cases of rape are reported on time it will help the police to conduct a smooth investigation including collecting scientific evidence.
He said the police in the area have made attempts to sensitise the communities about the importance of reporting cases of rape and teenage pregnancy.
“We are doing all this because the police cannot be everywhere. So, we urge the community, especially the village structure to help in the timely sharing of information. We are now proactive, moving from our comfort zones to enable us to gather information to be able to respond with adequate information,” he said.
Commenting on the lack of prosecution of rape and gender-based violence cases, a female activist who prefers to remain anonymous said: “There is still a catastrophic systemic failure in the criminal justice system that emboldens serial rapists and misogynists and abandon traumatised victims. In short, rape should be an active area of public policymaking; currently it is not.”