Liberia’s Disturbing Silence On Sexual & Gender-Based Violence

Liberia’s Disturbing Silence On Sexual & Gender-Based Violence

A Post-war Nation Where Citizens enthusiastically Advocated for the Rescue of Chibok Girls, Gives Rapists and sexual predators a Green Card to Roam

LIBERIA HAS BEEN relatively silent of late on an issue that hits to the core of everything that is wrong with its post-war revival.

FROM THE EXECUTIVE to the Legislative and the Judiciary branches of government, the silence and lack of moral and political will regarding the sexual abuse and rape of innocent young boys and girls have been alarming.

THIS WAS EVIDENT last week when a FrontPageAfrica investigation uncovered that Representative, Morais T. Waylee (UP-District #2 Grand Gedeh County), a member of the House of Representatives has been allegedly sexually involved with a 13-year-old child, leading to a pregnancy. “As we speak, the little girl is sick. He is trying to convince the family that he will take care of the girl. He is an uncle to the girl. The girl’s father who is his brother is in tears. The little girl used to live with the lawmaker.” – Family Source.

FAMILY SOURCES told FrontPageAfrica that little girl had to undergo C-section to give birth to the child.

THE LITTLE GIRL’S family went a step further to confirm that the lawmaker has accepted responsibility for the act and has promised to shoulder the financial burden, but asked that it remained under cover.

ALTHOUGH THE GRAND Gedeh lawmaker denied knowing the girl and claimed he has not had intercourse with her as it is being alleged, very little has been heard on the investigative front.

THIS IS A NATION where everyone feels they are above reproach and above the law, where sirens wailed in the moving traffic as so-called big shots run through traffic because everyone with a government title wants to show who’s the boss of the masses.

AT THE HEIGHT of the civil unrest, some seventy five percent of Liberian women and girls were raped.

A 2016 United Nations Report, highlighting the problem of rape in Liberia, has linked the increasing reports of rape to the “legacy of impunity arising from” Liberia’s 1990-2003 civil war. The report specifically says that “between 61.4 and 77.4 percent of women and girls in Liberia were raped during the war.”

THE REPORT, released by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), is based on information gathered by UN human rights officers between January 2015 and March 2016. It indicates a very high number of rapes reported in all the 15 counties across the country, with 803 cases in 2015. “Rape is the second most commonly reported serious crime in Liberia,” according to the report.

THE REPORT goes to great length to suggest that impunity also prevails for recent rapes, with only two per cent of rapes and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) cases reported last year resulting in a conviction in court.

SADLY,  A LOT of the problem lies in the fact that family members encourage predators to continue to harm young girls out of fear and due to the fact that most predators, many of whom are in the upper bracket of the social ladder, often pay families with huge sums and promises of financial rewards in exchange for their silence.

MINISTER OF GENDER, CHILDREN AND SOCIAL PROTECTION, Julia Duncan Cassell, has repeatedly called on parents to report cases of rape to the Police or the Ministry, noting that comprising the case interferes with justice and the survival’s health.

WE ARE APPALED that mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers have become allies with predators simply because in most cases, the predators are their friends and acquaintance they more than likely do not want to see in the custody of law enforcement.

THIS IS BEING bolstered, according to the UN Report by the fact that rape victims do not achieve justice due to multiple challenges, including institutional weaknesses, corruption, lack of due diligence by government as well as logistical and financial constraints. “These combined factors have led to a widespread culture of impunity for SGBV, particularly for rape, putting women and children at continued serious risk of sexual violence,” says the report.

VICTIMS ARE ALSO being held back due to undue influence by traditional actors, cultural and patriarchal attitudes, as well as gender stereotyping. A previous UN report published in December 2015, had already highlighted the widespread impunity for SGBV crimes in the context of Liberian traditional and cultural practices.

BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, the fact that many victims, bowing the family and peer pressure prefer to settle cases out of court presents a rather complicated debacle for advocates against sexual and gender-based violence.

REGRETABLY, Liberia, on paper is a saint. The country is party to a number of international human rights treaties and instruments, under which it has the obligation to fight rape and gender-based violence.

SADLY, several international reports have concluded that the Liberian government’s inability, despite efforts made, to ensure criminal accountability for perpetrators of rape shows “that Liberia is not in compliance with its human rights obligations.”

SADLY, NEARLY a decade after Africa’s oldest republic elected its first woman head of state, an issue that was prevalent during the civil war remains far from being addressed.

THE FUTURE, regrettably looks bleak for victims of sexual and gender-based violence because Liberia has turned a blind eye to victims of a tragic circumstance eclipsed by bad governance and the ever-imposing lack of political will.