Monrovia – Hundreds of angry women from various women and youth groups of Liberia took to the streets of Monrovia in protest of the rape amendment bill recently by the Senate.
The various groups started a march from ELWA Junction in Paynesville, outside of Monrovia, chanting “Milton Tiahjay, no bill for rapist”.
Under the blazing sun, they held a black banner and several placards with written inscriptions such as: “Respect my existence or expect resistance”, “Rape is war against women”, “We need billable rape law”, “Leave the rape law and fix the system”, “Your decision is an indirect violation of my rights”, “women deserves state protection”, “pay my school fees and not my bride price.”
Quite interestingly, a young man in the group had written on his placard, the unthinkable; “Only Rapists protects Rapists.”
The entrance of the National Legislature was locked but the women sat on the ground still holding placards, while others stood around and poured sacks of water over their heads from walking under the hot sun.
Kpanah N. Gaygay, a young women’s right advocate, said she had come along with others to tell lawmakers they do not want rape to be a bailable offense, as she termed it a deliberate attempt on the part of the lawmakers.
“As we were gearing up for elections and our minds are fixed on voting, we woke up to a shocking news that our lawmakers had decided to amend the current non bailable rape law which we think was a deliberate and calculated attempt to take such action at this time.”
“We are here to tell the House of Representatives not to pass the amendment on bail, but change the system to create fast stake courts to try rape cases in weeks, which would be better than amending the law,” says Ms. Gaygay.
Gaygay disclosed that the Lawmakers said the rape law of life imprisonment for rapists was excessive and unconstitutional.
“If we had a penalty for rape being life imprisonment and non-bailable did not scare men from raping babies and girls, what happens if rape is bailable?
If one can rape a three months old baby and kill that child, they do not see it as being excessive and unconstitutional, but for the rapist to go to jail for life for raping and killing a child, is excessive and unconstitutional,” said Gaygay.
When asked how she felt about parents’ reactions of threatening to kill rapists who would be released on bail, she answered in an angry tone:
“I have also been saying that if the House of Representative will concur with the House of Senate, that rape should be bailable, then they should also make murder a bailable crime, because if someone rapes and kill my child and is bailed out, and I ever come close to that person, I will kill him.
“So, if they cannot put stop to the amendment law after our sit in action, I hope they can start making murder a bailable crime, because we will do what we can to protect our children in going after the rapists.”
Reading their petition before the Capitol Building entrance, Mrs. Marpu Spears of the Women Ngo Secretariat of Liberia, (WONGOSOL) said they are demanding that the House of Representatives vote a resounding no when the bail is introduced for concurrence.
And they are pleading with the international organizations to stand in solidarity with them in sensitizing the public on the issue.
“We ask that President Ellen Johnson Sirlaef to publicly denounce this proposed amendment and make the lawmakers know that she will veto this bill should it come to her desk.”
“As the first female president of Africa, this should not be happening under her watch, this bill has the potential to undermine the gains women have made since 2005."
"The women of Liberia stand together as one to condemn the amendment of the rape law.”
As for his part, Jetormu Doten, spokesman of the Liberian National Children representative forum, lamented that a non-bailable rape law can help in the protection of women and children in Liberia.
“Our fear is that as women and children continue to be victimized of sexual abuse every day, will undermine their dignity and potential and amending the law as bailable, will create a free space for rapist.”
“Most importantly it will allow violators and victims to live in the same environment with our mothers and sisters, which is more harmful to their safety.
“Therefore we as children of Liberia are calling on the government of Liberia to maintain our rape law."
"We do not want a bailable rape offense; let it be a non -bailable offense, used as a tool to any rape in Liberia,” said Jetormu Doten.
Assistant Minister of Gender, children and Social Protection, Mrs. Sienne Abdul -Baki said the Ministry along with their international partners is in solidarity with the women and youth groups, and they will also continue a sit in action, come Thursday after the elections, when the Lawmakers shall have returned from voting.
She furthers said they will continue their sit in action up to next week Tuesday and Thursday.
“We say no to the amendment law, because it is a way of sabotaging women’s achievement of gender equality over the years in Liberia."
"I think the actions of the Senate were somehow deliberate, because while we were focused on women participation in these elections, they took the time to amend the law,” she said.
“Therefore we are calling on the House of Representatives to not concur with the amendment law by the Senate."
"We already had a challenge when the rape law was non bailable because our children and babies were being raped then what more if it becomes a bailable offense?
We say no to a rape amendment, because it violates women rights, which also are human rights issues,” said Abdul –Baki.
As the women and youth groups intend to continue the sit in actions, civil society experts say the action would not help the situation because the rape amendment law was only introduced by the Senate but it will not be discussed and passed until next year under the new administration.