Monrovia - President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has threatened to use her executive power to contain the wave of Domestic Violence in the country amid what she called the lawmakers’ continued delay in passing a Domestic Violence Bill before the legislature into law.
Report by: Willie N. Tokpah - willie.tokpah@frontpageafricaonlineicom
President Sirleaf’s threat comes in the wake of an apparent increase of violence against women by their male counterparts especially pursuant to a commitment she made at a UN Conference on the protection of women from domestic violence few years back and to put a halt to the forceful traditional practices against women to enable them pursue education.
The Liberian leader wants members of the Liberian Senate to work in ensuring the passage of laws that will protect the rights of women, especially the domestic violence Bill and is threatening to use an Executive Order if they continue to delay its passage into law.
“I ask you Senators, representatives to make sure that the Domestic Violence Bill is passed. I will prefer not to use an Executive Order but I can use it if you don’t pass it” President Sirleaf asserted.
Since the bill was submitted before the Liberian Legislature few years ago, the Domestic Violence Bill continues to suffer setback after scrutiny by the lawmakers on several occasions.
She assured the Liberian women of basic provisions contained in the bill regarding the protection of their rights, noting that its passage must be ensured to guarantee such protection. “We believe in our culture and relation but we know that those things can also be addressed in a manner in which we continue to protect women”, President Sirleaf cited.”
The president also placed specific emphasis on the Affirmative Action Bill on which she threw light on the participation of youth and the disabled in decision making process, but clarified that the procedure to implement it needs more studies.
Speaking Wednesday at the start of a two-day National Women Conference organized by the Ministry of Gender and partners, the Liberian leader cited financial problems as one key components of the Affirmative Action Bill which she said requires more studies in terms of critically looking at its tenure to avoid future constraints.
“I have to be honest to tell you that we need to do some work on the bill because it is being introduced at a time we are going into a very costly election”, the president added, assuring that its purpose would be achieved.
President Sirleaf then registered that the need for better representation of women, youth and the physically challenged must not be overly emphasized in Liberia’s development drive, calling on partners to support the Women in preparing them for elections.
Although the president said women, not only in Liberia are facing discrimination but the world at large, she boasted of what she called an immense progress they were making in the country.
She recognized women in the informal sector whom she said are forming a part of the two day seminar, under the caption ‘step it up: Mobilizing to bridge the gap for equality, attributing their role as one that speaks of women’s interaction globally, which accordingly requires collective efforts in achieving their objective.
“As we all move towards the implementation of the sustainable development goals, Liberia has a duty to ensure that appropriate strategies and mechanisms are put in place to foster the achievement of planet 2030, especially ones that are critical and relevant in achieving gender equality”, President Sirleaf noted.
She named the gathering of women in the country as critical and historic in ensuring that laws policies and strategies are put forth to be passed as a way of allowing women to assume key positions across Liberia.
President Sirleaf wants women organizations to be used in maintaining their role in the decision making process of Liberia, naming it as an important process as to UNMIL drawdown.
At the same time, UN Secretary General Special Representative Farid Zarif has expressed frustration over Liberia’s delay in promoting gender equality as the oldest nation in Africa. Zarif said women must now take the stance in putting adequate number that will put pressure on the Liberian Legislature to pass into law documents that will promote their participation and equally in government.
“Is it that we don’t have any law, is it that women have not proven themselves competent”, the UNMIL SRSG Zarif asked; naming President Sirleaf as an example of competent women in the world.
Mr. Zarif explained that most women are always shouldering the burden of their families far above the expectation of men and they must not be underestimated.
Speaking further, Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister, Julia Duncan Cassel named unity among Liberian women as the only way challenges and violence against them can be tackled towards achieving economic and social participation in Liberia.
Minister Cassel recounted series of disadvantages and discrimination against women, dating back in 1948; when they had no say in deciding Liberia’s political future and governance structure, a scenario that they can no longer heed to.
The Gender Children and Social Protection Minister wants Liberian women formulate an affirmative action that will see more young women in leadership, more women with disabilities in political leadership, whether in government, private or civil society sectors to empower themselves economically.
Minister Cassell continued: “Today, we have come to identify and advance relevant solution and secure commitment towards promoting gender equality”, stressing the need for alliance to be built with the Women Legislative Caucus of Liberia, those in private sectors, government and the world at large as a means of promoting women equal participation in key decision making processes.
Minister Cassell has meanwhile called on Liberian women to use the conference as a symbol of more women participation in the pending 2017 general and presidential elections by sharing resources and building networks for the enhancement of gender equality as well as developing roadmap that will address critical issues at the conference.