Liberia: Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor Calls for Tougher Action at National Colloquium on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

MONROVIA – Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor says rapists should serve maximum sentence when they rape children under 18 in order to send a strong statement that rape is unacceptable in the Liberian society.

“We must send a strong signal that Sexual and Gender Based Violence is unacceptable, especially for children below 18 and if a person rapes a child that is two or three years old, I think that person should get the maximum sentence available. We must send a strong signal that this is unacceptable,” said Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.

She was peaking at the start of a two-day National Colloquium on Sexual and Gender Based Violence Spotlight Initiative held at the Monrovia City Hall which brought together the Judiciary, Civil Society Organizations and women groups.

VP Taylor said the United Nations, the government and civil society actors should go beyond these meetings organized under the spotlight initiate and community engagements.

VP Howard in an exclusive interview with FrontPageAfrica criticized the United Nations for organizing such meetings and not using the money on the real issues at hand.    

“The problem is that the UN has US$26 million to address this issue and if it puts US$26 million into the community work, we are talking about, it will help; because US$26 million is not small money. So, even if the government does not put a cent, the UN has decided to take on this issue, so let them change their budget and put the money where their mouth is. Because we have to stop having these meetings and when we go home, everything is over. You know the UN system like having these meetings and in the end where the money needs to be spent is not being spent,” she said.

Ms. Vivian Kanneh, representing the Gender Ministry gave the SGBV statistics a little over 600 from the 16 counties, commencing from January to June 2021.

However, not many civil society groups agreed with the number given by the ministry. Mr. Tamba Johnson of the HeforShe Crusaders Liberia, said his SGVB cases figures are more than what Ms. Kanneh gave and told her to tell her bosses so that the Ministry would coordinate with CSOs representatives in each county.

Also, The West Point Women for Health and Development Association asked how the Ministry has been collecting their data because the Ministry does not meet with the CSO to collect comprehensive data.

Speaking with journalists his statement to the Ministry Tamba said:  

“We call on the government to walk the walk and talk the talk. We also call on the Judiciary to implement the law. We are calling on Civil Society to get involved and we call on communities to stop compromising SGBV cases.

“All of us must work together to ensure that SGBV is eradicated. Why is the government, who declared rape a National emergency in 2020, is not acting? How much dollars has government put into this national emergency? Why are we not paying attention to the national emergency? Now we have cases, more than 700 hundred cases of which we have 500 SGBV cases of which children from zero to 17 are raped and sodomized.”

While Ms. Cooper of the West Point Women said SGBV is on the increase and the Ministry is not engaging them in gathering SGBV data.

“This is why I am asking how does the ministry collect her data, because they are supposed to meet with CSO on monthly basis to collect their data but they are coming up to put up data that is not complete,” she said.

The Colloquium ends today at the Monrovia City Hall.  

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