The Minister of Interior Ousman Sonko has described gender based violence as both immoral and criminal and a serious violation of the rights of women and children.
He said as law enforcement officers, they have a primary responsibility to prevent gender-based violence, to ensure that victims are supported, and protected, and perpetrators arrested and brought before the law.
Minister Ousman Sonko made these remarks on Wednesday 6th January 2010 at the end of a two day sensitization workshop for forty security officers at NaNA.
The Workshop organized by the Gambia Police Force in collaboration with the African Centre was aimed at sensitizing security personnel on the Women Protocol. Minister Sonko who was deputized by the Police Commissioner of Kanifing Division Yaya Fadera said the Gambia has signed and ratified all major international and regional legal instruments such as CEDAW and the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of women in Africa known as the Maputo Protocol. All these he said are geared toward putting in place the legal framework for the protection of women and children from discrimination, abuse, violence and exploitation.
"It is your responsibility, as the guardian of the law, to ensure that these legislations are enforced adequately and to the letter," he remarked.
Minister Sonko added that if the security officers can protect women and children or give them the support they require, the battle against gender-based violence would be half won.
The Interior Minister noted that his ministry will continue to bolster the capacity of its security forces, especially the Gambia Police Force, to enable them achieve their mandate of protecting lives and maintaining a violent free society. "We will have zero-tolerance for sexual assault against women and girls. Perpetrators will have no place to hide," he said.
A representative of the Inspector General of Police, cadet Sireh Jabang said the Gambia Police Force has the primary responsibility to protect lives, properties and prevent crimes. She said their duty is to make sure that they detect criminals, apprehend them and bring them before the law.
The head of the Child Welfare Unit ASP Yamoundow Jagne Joof said it is their responsibility to prevent, protect, support and care for children. She tasked the security officers to take up the challenge when it comes to child protection, noting that it is not easy dealing with such cases.
She urged the people to shy away from the culture of silence and report cases. She also urged the security officers to listen to cases keenly and prosecute them accordingly.
The Director of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, Hannah Forster said they discover that women face violence in the society.
She described the Instruments of the Protocol as important, noting that it will enhance the work that they do (security officers) in their various departments.
The Director of Tango Ousman Yarboe also noted that the sensitization on the protocol is important to the security officers.
We take any report of rape or sexual assault seriously and will see you to offer you support as soon as possible and in private. We aim to be polite, patient, sensitive and non-judgemental. In most cases of rape and sexual assault, the victims, no matter what their sex, prefer to talk about their ordeal with women. If that is what you want, we will do our best to make sure that a female officer is at any meeting.
We can tell you about local police and legal procedures. If you want to contact the police, we can come to the police station with you. Where possible we can try to make sure that you are interviewed by a female police officer if that’s what you would prefer. If you want us to, we can give you a list of local lawyers and interpreters. However, only you can decide whether or not to take legal action - we cannot make this decision for you. Remember that if you choose not to report the crime immediately but change your mind later, forensic and other evidence may be lost. Also, in some countries, you must report the crime before returning to the UK if you want it to be investigated.
We can help you to deal with the local authorities to arrange a medical examination, where possible with a female doctor if that is what you would prefer. Depending on local conditions and laws, we can also arrange for you to see a doctor who can give advice on sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDS, and on pregnancy or abortion.
If you want us to, we can contact your next of kin or other family and friends.
If you want, we can give you information on what professional help is available locally and in the UK, both for you and for your family. We can also consult our London-based police adviser, who can consider using the services of a sexual offences trained officer from your local police station to advise and help you.
We have a leaflet called Rape and sexual assault overseas with more information. You will find details on our travel website, under ‘Our publications’.