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Impunity Nation: In Liberia, A Recurring Culture Of Rape, Abuse, Neglect Of Alleged Victims

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MADAM PISO SAYDEE TARR, the Minister of Gender in the CDC-led government, told FrontPageAfrica shortly after her appointment that she would strive to ensure the sexual and gender based-violence unit of the ministry points out faults in order to take the case to court.

PRESSED REGARDING the case involving the former Grand Gedeh lawmaker Morias Waylee, the minister said: “I do know about the case, (but) I know that it was reported, so with me at the ministry this is the kind of cases that we will be looking at and how we can go and advocate for the rights of the victim. If there are hitches at the legal system, we will push for the legal system to push through and if it is something else we will try to study the situation and understand how we can get involved in it.”

LAST WEEK, yet another case fell before the doorsteps of the ministry. A woman came forward to accuse Mr. Moseray Momoh, Deputy Managing Director of the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC) of sexual exploitation.

THE CASE AGAINST Mr. Momoh is the first major rape issue in the new administration.

THE VICTIM, whose name is being held to protect her identity, told FrontPage Africa that when the case was immediately transferred to the police headquarters for further investigation, a job offer was made to her by the entity.

THE LIBERIAN WOMEN FORUM (LWF) has said it would be disappointed if President George Manneh Weah shoves the allegation of sexual exploitation against an official of his government under the carpet without ordering an investigation into the matter.

THE ISSUE OF RAPE has been a thorn in the side of government since the end of the civil war.

A 2016 UNITED NATIONS highlighting the problem of rape in Liberia linked increasing reports of rape to the “legacy of impunity arising from” Liberia’s 1990-2003 civil war. The report specifically says that “between 61.4 and 77.4 percent of women and girls in Liberia were raped during the war.”

OVER THE PAST decade a number of cases involving underage young girls highlighted the extent to which rape remains a major weapon injuring scores of women, girls and even young boys.

A 2014 FILM, SMALL-SMALL Thing featured the story of Olivia Zinnah, who was seven-years-old  when she was raped by a cousin in Liberia. The young girl was attacked so brutally that her genitals were mangled and covered in scar tissue, leaving her with a fistula requiring numerous surgeries to repair. Olivia did not survive and died later on.

LAST JUNE, FrontPageAfrica followed the story of a 12-year-old girl who was allegedly raped by her uncle Morias Waylee who happened to be a member of the lower house of the national legislature representing District No. 2, Grand Gedeh County.

LIKE OLIVIA, the 12-year-old was also a victim of fistula. Her parents aided and abetted the lawmaker into taking the 12-year-old from her village into an unknown hideout. She has not been seen since.

THE CASES ARE ENDLESS to list here but the scars continue to linger.

SADLY, those tasked with the responsibilities to adopt laws have been missing in action, showing up occasionally to come up with laws against victims which are often slipped under the radar.

LAST OCTOBER, the Liberian Senate voted to amend the New Rape Law, making rape bailable for all offenses and granting convicted rapists’ parole.

UNDER THE CURRENT law, rape is non-bailable for first degree felony and convicts do not get parole. Advocates say the two major amendments defeat the purpose of having a strong rape law despite the challenges.

WOMEN’S GROUP have frowned on the upper house for even suggesting such an amendment, describing the Senate’s action as an effort to weaken the law by neutralizing the intended purpose of the 2005 amendment that serves as deterrent to statutory rape.

LIBERIA’S LUKEWARM approach to rape pales into comparison to other countries where positions in government or public service does not immune anyone from prosecution or facing the full weight of the law.

JUST LAST WEEK, Dr. Thomas Friedman, 57, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and onetime city health commissioner — was arrested for allegedly grabbing a woman’s behind in his Brooklyn apartment 10 months ago.

DR. FRIEDMAN was very instrumental in the effort to help Liberia beat the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in 2014.

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, 57, was charged with misdemeanor counts of third-degree sexual abuse and forcible touching, as well as harassment, a violation, for the alleged groping of the 55-year-old woman.

LIBERIA ON THE CONTRARY is becoming a dumping ground for officials to hide behind their titles and beat the system. Young boys, girls and women are being taken advantaged of on a daily basis and victims have nowhere to turn as the justice system repeatedly turn a blind eye to allegations.

LIKE CORRUPTION AND WAR CRIMES, rape has sadly fallen in the impunity line with no sign that anything will be done soon to end the shielding of perpetrators and so-called big shots from facing the weight of the law.

LIBERIA IS too old to be lingering in impunity. It is a sad testament to what we have become, a nation living on the fringes of neglect for those languishing in poverty and repeatedly falling prey to predators of vulnerable victims, afraid to come out and speak and lacking the voice point out their perpetrators.

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