Why Sierra Leonean women don’t feel protected by domestic violence laws

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleProfessional


After the civil war ended in Sierra Leone, several legal changes were made to try and address sexual and gender-based violence. One was the Domestic Violence Act, ratified in 2007. It criminalises all forms of violence – physical, sexual, emotional and economic — against women and outlines strict punishments for perpetrators.

But, as I found during long-term research in Sierra Leone, very few women – especially married women – feel genuinely protected by this law, and other similar ones. There are a few reasons for this.

One is that in Sierra Leone some forms of violence are considered necessary and acceptable within relationships. Another is that women who do report face enormous stigma and the risk of losing security for themselves and their children. Finally, the state legal system and the police don’t prioritise cases involving married women – they often tell women to resolve the matter privately rather than going through the courts.

If Sierra Leone is to tackle the problem of domestic violence, lawmakers and the authorities need to understand the social dynamics around love and violence. They also need to support and protect women who report violence, to ensure they don’t experience stigma and further violence from their partners, families and communities.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
JournalThe conversation
Issue numberJanuary 9
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2019


  • domestic violence
  • Sierra Leone
  • Law and Behavior
  • safety


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