- Sierra Leonean women can now snore well in their sleep, after bearing the fruits of their long walk to freedom. The country's parliament took the bull by the horns to enact a law that outlaws domestic violence in all its forms as well as guarantees the rights of women to inheritance and registration of customary marriages.
Human rights groups hailed the parliament's move as "an important step forward in improving the status of women, particularly those in the rural areas."
It also ensured greater protection for women and girls against violence in the home and
anywhere in the country.
The domestic violence law empowers family support units in the police the necessary tools to either mediate disputes or support women who decide to take criminal and civil action when their rights are violated.
While the registration of customary marriage law gives legal right to Sierra Leonean women to ownproperty and other rights in marriage, the inheritance law ensures that they have access to the property they are rightfully entitled to when their husbands die. This law bars any interference from the extended family members.
"The passage of these bills shows that the government of Sierra Leone is taking a strong stand in support of its women and children," concurred Brima Sherif,the Director of Amnesty International Sierra Leone. Mr Sherif, a leader in the campaign for successful adoption of the women's protection bills, exhorted other African countries to follow the footsteps of Sierra Leone.
"The greatest challenge now will be to ensure that women know these rights,exercise them and that they are enforced," he said.
Activists equally hailed the passing of the child rights bill but they expressed rage over the failure to outlaw the practice of female genital mutilation.
"We hope that the government of Sierra Leone will build on last week's successes and quicklymove towards outlawing the harmful practice of female genital mutilation, which has caused and still continues to cause so much pain and suffering for the girls of Sierra Leone," Brima Sherif said.
Before the passing of the bills came on the heels of mounting pressures by right activists who asked lawmakers to pass the bills without a second thought.
Few months back,the Sierra Leonean President, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah,joined the fray,assuring that the bills would be fast-tracked to parliament.
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