Prevalence of war-related sexual violence and other human rights abuses among internally displaced persons in Sierra Leone

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

177 Scopus citations

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 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-521
Number of pages9
JournalJAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association
Volume287
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 23 Jan 2002
Externally publishedYes

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