LIBERIA: Who’s Respecting The Victims Of Rape?

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A LOT OF RUMBLINGS have been going around lately about the tone of last week’s anti-rape protest.

SOME HAVE SUGGESTED that the wordings on some of the posters were too harsh, that the protesters were too daring in projecting the message.

THE FACT of the matter is that Liberia is no ordinary country and extraordinary rarely shows its face in a nation that has repeatedly defied the norms of convention.

LOST IN ALL of the sudden concerns about what the protesters say or didn’t say, is the sad reality that young girls and boys are being raped, abused and assaulted in mass numbers on a daily basis.

THE FACT OF THE MATTER is that in the last seven months alone, 992 cases of rape have been reported and only 22 persons have been convicted.

THE FACT OF THE MATTER is that while various international reports routinely point out that men and women enjoy equal legal rights under civil law, gender disparities are common in customary law, which remains dominant in many parts of the country and disadvantages women in matters involving child custody and other matters. “Violence against women and children, particularly rape, is a pervasive problem. In 2017, the Senate voted to make rape a bailable offense–a decision that sparked protests by women’s rights activists. Despite the 2017 vote, rape remained a nonbailable offense in 2019,” according to the latest report from the US State Department.

DESPITE the fact that in August 2019, President George Manneh Weah signed the Domestic Violence Act, which was originally proposed in 2014, into law, mandating stricter punishment for those convicted of domestic violence, though restrictions on female genital mutilation (FGM) were not included, perpetrators of rape continue to defy the law and inflict harm on innocent young girls, denying them of their adolescence.

ACCORDING TO FREEDOM HOUSE, the lack of accountability in cases of violence against women due to government inaction in some instances, including rape, domestic violence, and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); trafficking in persons; the existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and use of forced or compulsory child labor.

THE 2019 REPORT also notes that Impunity for individuals who committed human rights abuses, including atrocities during the civil wars that ended in 2003, remained a serious problem. “The government made intermittent but limited attempts to investigate and prosecute officials accused of current abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. Security forces and law enforcement officials undertook some training to increase respect for human rights.”

SADLY, THOSE NITPICKING last week’s protest are nowhere to be found when young girls between the ages of 3 and 15 years-old are sexually abused and assaulted.

MANY HAVE FRIENDS and relatives who have been victimized and in some cases, protect the perpetrators because they are some influential member of the family, community or probably the breadwinner of the household, thereby leaving the victims unprotected and coming up with all the excuses in the world to protect the perpetrators.

CASES OF RAPE going to court have very little chance of serving justice because the community and families are afraid.

INSTEAD OF TRANSFERRING AGREESSIONS  on protesters trying to shine a light on the problem, nitpickers looking for attention should instead divert their criticisms toward communities and families shielding perpetrators when cases go to court.

THE LACK OF SUPPORT to victims is a key reason why many are afraid to speak up because society and communities have failed them.

SADLY, ATTENTION-SEEKERS and opponents of last week’s protest are deliberately trying to shift attention away from the real issues on the table.

THE FACT OF THE MATTER is that too many young girls have become victims to a system that embraces bad over good, a system that thrives on mediocrity and excuses – even to its own detriment.

LOST IN ALL of this is the fact that victims are being neglected while advocates are being wrongly maligned by those looking for anything to cause distraction for the rape pandemic that is wreaking havoc on today’s generation.

DILLUTING THE MESSAGE against rape, abuse and assault is wrong, no matter how hard anyone try to twist the debate.

THE FACT OF THE MATTER is that the message is already out. The European Union Delegation and the Embassies of its Member States resident in Liberia – Germany, France, Ireland and Sweden, in a statement last week, expressed  deep concern expressed by the Government and people of Liberia regarding the alarming rates of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the country. “SGBV is perpetrated against women, men and children, often against the most vulnerable in society and it must be stopped. Freedom from violence is a fundamental human right, which must be realised and protected in every society.”

IT IS IMPORTANT for the Weah-led government to seize on the EU’s concern to begin looking at ways it can address the rape issue and tackle it head on.

THOSE TRYING to cause distraction are just as evil and wicked as rapists and predators preying on the future leaders of tomorrow. Regardless of how anyone may feel about what those women stood up against last week, they deserve an ovation for highlighting the plight of young girls, and not condemnation or rebuke from anyone sitting on the fence and sowing seeds of discord, dissent and division.

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