Liberia: NGO Coalition Demands Government To Protect Women & Girls from SGBV, Decentralize Criminal Court ‘E’
Monrovia – A coalition of national and international Non-Governmental Organizations under the theme ‘Enough Excuses’ is calling on the Weah-government to live up to its task of protecting women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence in Liberia.
The group – predominantly made of women and girls along with some men – held a candlelight vigil at the famous Fish Market Peace ground in Sinkor. They demanded justice for victims and survivors of gender-based violence.
The event, with support from OXFAM Liberia, is part of the ongoing “16 Days of Activism,” – a global campaign dedicated to raising awareness against gender-based violence.
The campaign, which runs every year from November 25 to December 10, is being held under the national theme, “Stay Blue.”
Called the Black Thursday program, the activists, dressed in black and white, made up of a conglomeration of several local and international NGOs and public institutions including Girls for Change, Sister Aid Liberia, Women Solidarity Inc., Paramount Young Women Initiative, National Institute for Public Opinion (NIPO), YOCEL and the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), among others things called on the Government to ensure the full implementation of the domestic violence law passed by the 54th Legislature.
They also called for the decentralization of Criminal Court ‘E’ that exclusively tries rape and other domestic violence cases.
Excerpt of the group’s statement reads: “Finally, in our call to action, we demand justice and propose a challenge to President Weah, our Excellency and Chief feminist and his leadership to live up to their obligations to do due diligence by protecting women and girls from all forms of violence, while at the same time to investigate and punish all individuals who commit rape which is a criminal offense under the Liberian law.
“Your excellency, President George M. Weah, as we continue the 16 Days of Activism, we cannot complete it without recommending that your government ensure the following: Full implementation of the domestic violence law, decentralize criminal court E in the remaining 13 counties for speedy trail and avoid the long stay in prisons.”
“I am really in sympathy with them. I feel bad because rape is bad, during our work, men in many communities would say the reason men are raping children is that parents keep their children naked. It is not the case, because a four-year-old girl was raped by a 56-year-old man, the child was not naked but he called the child into the room and did something to her. The men are in the habit of going around and saying women are wasting but yet they are raping 3, 4 and 5-year-old children. Let the men stop their madnes”Nancy T. K. Gaye, Equip Liberia
Also in a Special statement delivered on behalf of Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor for the Government, the VP pledged the government, under the leadership of President Weah’s commitment to protecting the rights of women, children and other vulnerable people from all forms of gender-based violence.
VP Taylor extended heartfelt empathy to survivors and families of victims of SGBV. She lauded the campaigners for working in solidarity to raise their voices against the menace.
Increase Numbers of SGBV Cases Despite Tight Rape Laws
In Liberia, the situation with SGBV is not getting better. Despite stringent laws against domestic violence including rape, SGBV cases continue to rise.
The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection recorded a whopping 2,025 SGBV cases from January to September this year. Seventy percent of these are rape cases, majority of which are against minors—some as young as three years old.
Several activists and gender campaigners, speaking to FrontPage Africa vowed to continue their advocacy despite the rise in the numbers of domestic violence cases.
Beatrice Newland, OXFAM Liberia Gender Coordinator, said the figure is unacceptable and there is a need for continuous campaign against the menace. Madam Newland called for speedy adjudication of SGBV cases.
She added that OXFAM is partnering with several groups to promote gender equity and women’ participation in decision making at community and national levels.
OXFAM’s Gender Justice Program’s Coordinator, Luopu Garmi Blackie explained the women have gathered with their candles in honor of victims and survivors of SGBV and to call on policymakers and duty bearers to ensure the protection of women, girls and vulnerable groups from all forms of gender-based violence.
Miatta Gray, Executive Director of Sister’s Hand Liberia called for speedy trial of all SGBV called and called on President Weah to fulfill his promise by ensuring the establishment of a special court to try gender-based violence cases.
“We need a special court that will prosecute people accused of rape and other gender-based violence crimes speedily. Women, children and boys are being violated. We need everyone including men to join us in this campaign,” she urged.
Another Speaker, Nancy T. K. Gaye of Equip Liberia said frowned at the inhumane act said is mostly perpetrated by men.
“The men are in the habit of going around and saying women are wasting in Liberia but yet they are raping 3, 4 and 5-year-old children. Let the men stop their madness,” said Nancy T. K. Gaye of Equip Liberia.
Miss Gaye, who was also at the Black Thursday program at the fish market in Monrovia, said she was mourning for the kids who passed to rape.
“I am really in sympathy with them. I feel bad because rape is bad, during our work, men in many communities would say the reason men are raping children is that parents keep their children naked. It is not the case, because a four-year-old girl was raped by a 56-year-old man, the child was not naked but he called the child into the room and did something to her. The men are in the habit of going around and saying women are wasting but yet they are raping 3, 4 and 5-year-old children. Let the men stop their madness,” she said.
Dedeh Quaqua, former SGBV Director of Ministry of Gender paid tribute to women and children who died of domestic violence acts meted against them.
“There were 8 cases of children we lose to rape in 2012, we had twelve cases in 2013, six cases in 2014, six cases in 2015. We have lost so many children to rape, but just to name a few: I want to remember Olivia, who was raped at the age of seven and died at the age of 12, I want to remember Clara, who was raped at the age of 8, and died at the age of 13, I want to remember Hawa and all the other children who we lost. I want us to stand to fight for them; rape has become the order of the day. Rape is the war we are now fighting. At home, our little girls are raped, in the schools they are raped, in the communities they are raped, we must stand against rape and any other form of violence against women,” says Quaqua
Marie P. Deline, of ELWA, works with Equip Liberia. She was there to mourn her dead sisters who passed on due to rape.
“I was not directly affected but as a mother of four, I feel the pains of those mothers who are grieving for their daughters they lost to rape. I am happy for this moment, because in the past people who experienced such did not have people advocating for them but today, we can come together and advocate for our children and babies who died of rape. Men should stop raping innocent children, children are our future, they were not made to be wives at an early stage, so let the men stop raping our children,” she said.