Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio has declared the prevalence of rape and sexual violence a national emergency.
He said those convicted of sexual offences against minors would face life in prison.
The move follows a national outcry over the rape of a five-year old by a relative a year ago.
The victim was left partly paralysed by the attack.
Police say the number of recorded cases of sexual and gender-based violence in Sierra Leone almost doubled last year to more than 8,500, from 4,750.