Editorial: An SoS Call to the Feminist in Chief Weah; Add Voice to War Against Rape

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Although there have been some resistance to the passage, desperate times call for desperate measures and the rape and abuse of girls as young as 3-15-years is beyond imagination and requires a strong deterrence to send a clear message to rapists to keep their pants up and end the preying on the next generation of Liberians.

LAST WEEK, in the US State of Indiana, ‘Claw-hammer’ killer Wesley Ira Purkey, 68, became the second federal inmate to be executed after the Supreme Court rejected his defense’s plea that he has dementia.

PURKEY WAS convicted and sentenced to death for kidnapping, raping and killing 16-year-old Jennifer Long before dismembering, burning and then dumping her body in a septic pond in 1998. 

ON THE SAME DAY, in the West African nation of Nigeria, the national legislature was debating and advocating for stricter penalties for perpetrators of sexual assault, including “chopping off the genitals” of convicted rapists.

THIS COMING IN THE WAKE of a rising number of sexual violence cases reported across Nigeria. Lawmakers convened at the national assembly in the capital, Abuja to discuss solutions for the crisis while receiving a delegation of Nigeria’s Movement Against Rape and Sexual Violence.

IN LIBERIA, where the past few months have seen a massive wave of rapes across the country, the issue has taken a back seat with very little, in terms of stern or serious debate within the national legislature or signals of seriousness from the Executive branch.

THE JUDICIARY, which has seen a rising number of cases, also appears to be out of touch with the burning realities that light may not be at the end of the tunnel in near future, or probably beyond.

A REVIEW OF STATISTICS from the Bureau of Corrections at the Ministry of Justice for the months of January to June 2020, recently revealed by FrontPageAfrica shows that more than 600 cases of aggravated assault, sodomy, sodomy with criminal intent and rape were reported and are currently being investigated.

THAT NUMBER has now reached more than a hundred, since the report last week.

ACCORDING TO THE SEXUAL GENDER Based Violence Unit of the MOJ, total new cases from January to June indicated: 107 cases tried in court, leading to  44 convictions and 42 acquittals. This includes all cases received from the Liberian National Police(LNP) and has or being adjudicated by the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence at the MOJ. The Data covers Montserrado, Bong, Nimba, Lofa, Maryland, Grand Gedeh, River Gee, and Grand Kru.

THE BULK of the cases have come as Liberia has been under the State of Emergency.

LAST WEEKEND during a program marking International Justice Day, organized by Civil Society Organizations in Liberia, former Presidential and Senatorial candidate, MacDella Cooper issued a clarion call to President George Manneh Weah, the self-proclaimed Feminist-in-Chief to publicly stand with advocates raising awareness about the ongoing rape dilemma in Liberia.

SAID MADAM COOPER: “If you are not in the fight against rape you are a rapist and if you are in an elected position, we will get you out because people did not elect you to sit there and be silent. They elected you to fight their fight. We are calling on the President of this nation to stand with us against all the injustices in our country.”

MADAM COOPER ADDED: “Mr. President we are calling on you this day to stand with the UN, the CSOs and victims and voice his opinion so that your followers who might or might not be perpetrators so they all know you stand with us it may stop the raping of our women and daughters.  We are not asking we are demanding justice we are going to the executive mansion to demand a word from the President just as he told us to stay home six o’clock every day; he needs him to say a word.

ADDRESSING THE SHEROES FORUM IN OCTOBER 2018,  PRESIDENT WEAH added the title, “Feminist-in-Chief” to his manifesto with an emphatic declaration, reaffirming unwavering commitment to the pursuit of the feministic ideals that guarantee the rights and wellbeing of women. Said the President: “Allow me to share a story with you. During a discussion about this conference that I had a few days ago, one of my colleagues “accused” me of being a feminist, under the misimpression that only women can be feminist,” President told the gathering at the opening of the International SHEROES Forum at the Monrovia City Hall.”

THE PRESIDENT SAID his decision was predicated by the broad understanding of who a feminist is:  “someone who organizes activities on behalf of women’s rights and interests, with the objective of achieving political, economic and social equality of sexes, including seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.”

THUS, PRESIDEN WEAH ASSERTED: “On the basis of that definition, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to declare myself as “Liberia’s feminist-in-chief, and hereby pledge to the women of Liberia that I will do all that I can, during my tenure as president of this country, to fight for gender equality and empowerment.”

WHILE THE PRESIDENT trumpeted, at the time, his selection of Madam Jewel Howard Taylor as his running mate on the ticket of the CDC and the appointment of several women to positions in government and many other actions to accentuate his advocacy for the advancement of women’s cause, no pressing issue demands his utmost attention, than now.

TOO MANY OF LIBERIA’S young women – and young boys and girls are being preyed upon by grown men satisfying their sick and sadistic urges on the innocent youths.

WHILE WE APPLAUD the President for demonstrating his commitment to the cause of advancement of women’s participation in leadership, the time is ripe now to put the issue of rape on the front-burner of the national discourse.

IN THE WAKE OF mounting cases of rape and abuses in Liberia, perhaps now would be a great opportunity to revisit the punishment relating to serious cases of rape in Liberia.

ALTHOUGH LIBERIA has been under a de facto moratorium on executions since 2000, the death penalty remains in the Penal code of Liberia of 1976, which was amended in July 2008 when the Senate passed a bill introducing the death penalty for those responsible for armed-robbery, hijacking and terrorism.

TODAY, THERE are sixteen inmates awaiting the death penalty in Liberia for various serious offenses. They could be more if rapists were added to the mix.

ALTHOUGH, there have been some resistance to the passage, desperate times call for desperate measures and the rape and abuse of girls as young as 3-15-years is beyond imagination and requires a strong deterrence to send a clear message to rapists to keep their pants up and end the preying on the next generation of Liberians.

Even in the midst of a rape law, many continue to prey on young boys and girls. Perhaps it is time for Liberia to step it up a notch with more serious punishments and consider castration and death penalty, in order to put rapists in check and save the future of Liberia’s children now under attack from sick, twisted and sadistic animals roaming the country as human beings.

WHILE WE respect organizations like the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organization in Liberia, Liberia Watch for Human Rights (LWHR) for their concerns expressed over the adoption of a bill introducing the death penalty for new crimes, contrary to Liberia’s international commitments, Liberia cannot stand by and allow rapists to get a free pass.

WHILE IT IS TRUE that the bill contravenes to the provisions of the 1999 resolution adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) urging states to envisage a moratorium on death penalty, that law should actually be revised to include rape.

OPPOSING THE DEATH penalty for rape will in no way reverse Liberia into a violent state but simply put rapists on notice that their actions will not be tolerated.

IT IS BECOMING EVIDENT that the frustration is growing. Recently, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Major General Prince C. Johnson, called for the introduction of a law seeking death penalty for rapists in the country.

SPEAKING DURING program marking the launch of the Game Changers, with support from the political leader of the Movement for One Liberia (MOL), Madam Cooper, the AFL boss said: “The international community does not actually support this decision, but with the statistics we just heard, there is the need that we start to look whether we can revisit the issue of death penalty for rapists because this is getting serious”.

ADDING HER VOICE, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor recently pondered: “A question could be – What could be the punishment for this heinous act perpetrated upon our loved ones? Castration, life  imprisonment or the death penalty? Would any of these punishments make up for the destruction of innocent lives? Or the irreparable damage to the bodies of victims? Or the sorrowful hidden cries of the mothers of the victims? Or the unanswered questions in the eyes of our young children of WHY ME? I would say nothing done after the fact could repair the damage inflicted, but it could serve as a starting point for the healing process. No man who rapes a child or a woman deserves to be free or given the freedom to live a normal life.”

UNDER LIBERIAN LAW, rape is a felony of the First-Degree where the victim was less than 18 years at the time the offense committed or the offense involves gang rape, the act of rape complained  of results in either permanent, disability or serious bodily injury to the victim or at the time of the relevant act or immediately before it began the defendant threatened the victim with firearm or other deadly weapon, the maximum sentence for first-degree rape is life imprisonment and for the purposes of bail, it shall be treated as per capital offenses. The maximum sentence for second-degree rape is a maximum ten-years prison sentence.

EVEN IN THE MIDST of a rape law, many continue to prey on young boys and girls. Perhaps it is time for Liberia to step it up a notch with more serious punishments and consider castration and death penalty, in order to put rapists in check and save the future of Liberia’s children now under attack from sick, twisted and sadistic animals roaming the country as human beings.

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