Liberia: National Colloquium on Sexual Gender-based Violence Spotlight Initiative Ends with Delegates Resolving to Set up Fight against the Menace

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Monrovia — The National Colloquium on Sexual Gender-based Violence Spotlight Initiative, which was held under the theme: “Increased Awareness on the Judicial Process to Prevent and Respond to the Sexual Gender-based Violence”, has ended with participants vowing to intensify the fight against SGBV in Liberia.

The lead organizer, Ms. Janet Walker Pyne, head of Women Empowerment for Self-empowerment, (WE4SELF), said the Colloquium, which was a UN-funded program, was organized to invite the Judiciary and other stakeholders, to discuss cross section of issues surrounding SGBV in Liberia.

“The Judiciary is the key actor in addressing SGBV because they are at the courts and preside of SGBV cases. So, we brought together all these lawyers today to discuss the court processes. I believe our efforts won’t go in vain, because from what we have learned here today, people will be able to move into their communities to practice what they have learned. In the past, many people never knew the referral pathway, but from this conference, many people know the referral pathway,” said Madam Pyne.   

Speaking on slow hearing of rape cases by the court, Cllr. Kathleen P. Makor, Chief Prosecutor of SGBV, said there is a major challenge at Criminal Court E.

“Indeed, there is a challenge for only one judge to be assigned at Criminal Court E, while the cases are many. We really need a second judge, because SGBV cases are very high, especially in Montserrado for only a judge to preside over them all. If we have a second judge, we will dispose of more cases. Because many times when victims report cases, they think when the person goes to jail the case is finished. So, to get them preparde for court is a problem, because they do not come to court. Our office goes as far as paying people’s transportation to go to court, and at times we even provide support for victims, given by our partners,” she said.  

Also at the Colloquium, Cllr. Isaac L. George of the SGBV Unit, Ministry of Justice, spoke on the laws, rape, early marriage and age of consent, customary vs statutory law, challenges, gaps and lesson learned at the county level, panel discussion on SGBV.

The Ministry of Health spoke on cultural behavior that limits a woman from making her own choices, as to how many children she wants, even if it puts her life at risk but the husband makes the decision on the number of children he wants. Neither does she have a say in allowing her girl child goes, but the husband rather sends his son to school instead of his daughters. 

Bomi Jack, an SGBV expert, did experience sharing and best practices in the fight against SGBV.

Madam Bisi Ajayi-Kayode, a Nigeria expert, led the international experience sharing and best practices in the fight against SGBV.

She stressed that SGBV should be treated like a pandemic.

“SGBV is not about the perpetrator satisfying their sexual gratification; rather it is all about showing their power and dominium over the next person. Child sexual abuse is the most prevalence health issue any child can face. And 90 percent of child abuses are done by family members or caregiver. There should be a data center to collect data daily,” said Kayode

 The Resolution reads:

“Cognizant to the fact that Sexual Gender Based Violence, Harmful Practices (FGM), Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence, Sex for Grade, Rape and sodomy, are on the increase in Liberia, with survivors and victims’ mostly women, girls and boys ages, 0-17, 18-25 and 26-35; and further comprehending that access to justice in SGBV cases is being challenged at times, due to traditional interference, limited political will and support. Organized by Women Empowerment for Self-Employment (WE4SELF) with support from the Office of the High Commissioners on Human Rights (OHCHR), Spotlight Initiative and;

Whersas, Members of the Judicial and Civil Society Organizations from the five Spotlight Counties, Traditional Council of Chiefs and Elders, Gender County Coordinators and other relevant Stakeholders were invited by the Women Empowerment for Self Employment and Partners, including relevant government ministries such as the Gender, Children and Social Protection to provide data on SGBV, Ministry of Health to provide information on services provided and CSOS to provide further clarity on SGBV cases, review and consolidate and solicit additional gender lense into the discussion in affirmative to the Spotlight Initiative and Sustainable Development Goals by 2030  and the consideration given to the theory “leave no one behind” as well as the constitution of Liberia That, CSOs and Judicial actors developed CSOs/Judicial coordinating network, regular information sharing meetings and work together to ensure timely prosecution of SGBV cases — October & November 2021;

That CSOs intensified awareness arising in schools, with community dwellers through civic education (door to door approach at hand pump, football field, schools traditional meeting etc. supported by government and UN –  October 2021 on going;

That Spotlight provide more capacity training and increase financial support to prosecuting lawyers/teams, police (Women, Children and Protection Officers-LNP) in all counties to ensure expedite of SGBV cases –  October 2021 and On going;

That Prosecuting lawyers in the five spotlight counties become proactive in the dispense of justice without prejudice —- November term of court;

That, Spotlight support be given to the five established CSOs SGBV team for effective case follow-ups and insurance of timely prosecution – October 2021 and ongoing;

That, CSO intensified advocacy for reform or  increase number of Lawyers to Crime Court E and others Courts for to speedily hear cases of SGBV — October 2021 FF;

 That, CSOs advocacy for consideration to be given to the establishment of a Traditional Court to handle traditional issues supervised by prosecuting lawyers on Human Rights — October 2021 FF;

 That CSOs intensified advocacy for consideration be given to the amendment of the rape law to include punishment for women/mothers who have their daughter on the streets engaged into street sealing — October 2021 on going;

That One Stop Centers in the Counties be equipped to respond to SGBV survivors — On going.

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