LONDON — Amid growing outrage over the rape of a 5-year-old girl, the president of Sierra Leone declared sexual violence a national emergency, vowing that sex with minors would be punishable by life in prison.
Cases of rape and sexual abuse are spiraling up in the West African country, which is still reeling from a civil war and an Ebola outbreak that killed thousands of people.
Seventy percent of survivors of sexual assault are under the age of 15, President Julius Maada Bio said in a speech on Thursday.
“Each month, hundreds of cases of rape and sexual assaults are being reported in this country,” Mr. Bio said. “Some of our families practice a culture of silence and indifference toward sexual violence, leaving victims even more traumatized.”