Liberia: OHCHR and Partners Conduct Awareness-Raising And Local Consultation on Human Rights And National Legislations Relating to Women And Girls
Zwedru – The Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in partnership with the Law Reform Commission (LRC), Ministry of Justice, the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INCHR) and CSOs have conducted a two-day intensive awareness-raising session and local consultation.
The activity targeted over fifty stakeholders and was held in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County on 6-7April. The awareness-raising sessions and consultations focused on strengthening the knowledge and consulting a cross section of stakeholders including senior-level executives from the three districts (Gbarzon, Konobo and Tchien) on the Domestic Violence Act, Inheritance Law, and the Rape Law. The activities also brought together the County Attorney, District superintendents and other key community stakeholders comprising women and youth, members of the traditional council, Civil Society Organizations, and other citizens from the remote part of the county to identify gaps in the laws, and make recommendations for possible amendment. The sessions were facilitated by representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Legislative Drafting Bureau of the House of Representative and Representative from Civil Society Organizations.
During the consultation, participants made some significant level of contributions ranging from recommendation for rigorous awareness not only at the community level, but at the family level with the fact that vast majority of domestic violence cases erupted from close relatives particularly, in that part of the country. In addition, participants stressed the lack of adequate education on the Inheritance Law. This was evidenced by a quick assessment conducted by the OHCHR on the knowledge of the Inheritance Law.
Participants also flagged that the Domestic Violence Act failed to include female genital mutilation (FGM) as an act of violence against women and girls and recommended that it should be included in the Act given Liberia is a member state to several international and regional human rights instruments not compatible with the practice. These instruments include the Convention United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Chile (CRC)and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).
Other gaps identified by the participants include: Section 2.6 (a) of the Inheritance Law. According to the participants, it is partial, incoherent and does not preach gender sensitive message. However, they recommended that the same exclusive rights given to the wife of her property before marriage be given to husband as well so that the law is gender sensitive; or the husband should acquire a certain percentage of his wife’s property.
Section 2.9 “It shall be unlawful for any customary female under the age of 16 to be given in customary marriage to a man; any tribal person who violates this session has committed a felony of the first degree, and upon conviction, shall be fined the amount of not less than 500 LD nor more than 1000 LD”.
Gap: The age limit spelt out in the above session is not an age of consent according to the Liberian Constitution. Therefore, the age should be harmonized with the age limit (18) in the New Rape Law, which is in line with the constitution. It was also recommended that fines levelled in sections: (2.2, 2.6(a), 2.7, 2.8, 2.9,2.10, 3.4(b) in the Inheritance Law are very low and should be increased and equal to the punishment prescribed in the Penal Law with regards to felony and misdemeanour.
OHCHR and Partners will collate all of the recommendations/ inputs from the participants on required amendments to these laws to strengthen the protection of rights of women and girls in Liberia.
The Awareness-raising and consultation was the last in a series of four in the regions to popularize national legislations relating to women and girls, implemented under the Liberia Spotlight Initiative. The Spotlight Initiative a global joint partnership program launched by the EU and UN to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls worldwide in September 2017. The program aims at mobilizing commitment of political leaders and contributing to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and more specifically Goal 5 on Gender Equality and Goal 16 on inclusive and peaceful societies. To achieve these initiatives in Liberia, the United Nations have designed a number of activities in collaboration with Liberian Government and other partners to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls including the sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices as well as increase women’s and girls’ access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.