Liberia: Female Lawyers Want ‘Cohabitation Bill’ Passed Into Law
Monrovia – The Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) has commended the government of Liberia headed by President George Weah for signing into law, the Land Rights Act without delay. AFELL also wants the passage of the ‘Cohabitation Bill’.
According to Attorney Vivian Neal, president of AFELL, the signing of the Land Rights Act is in the right direction and will help boost peace and development in the country.
Speaking at a three-day women dialogue retreat held in Bomi County recently, Atty. Neal said presumptive marriage of the Civil Procedural Law of 1973, Chapter 24, Section 24.4, also captured under the definition of marriage in the Land Rights Act must be addressed.
“This is a good step, but we need something more concrete, we need to have an exclusive bill that will protect the rights of those women who find themselves living with men for a protracted period without marriage,” she said.
Attorney Neal added that the ‘Cohabitation Bill’ when passed into law would turn the many years of cohabitation into marriage that will be accepted by Law.
She said, “the Cohabitation Bill was once introduced by Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott but was later killed and will be resurrected through efforts of AFELL with the call for all women across the country to join the campaign.”
She noted that the ‘Cohabitation Law’ is made possible in Sierra Leone, Kenya and Uganda. The law calls for a man and a woman to be considered husband and wife when they live together for six months, or one year, or five years and above.
She urged the government through the Legislature to pass the Cohabitation Bill into law without delay following its submission before them.
In a related case, the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia also wants the Government of Liberia through the National Legislature to ensure the swift passage of the Domestic Violence Bill into Law.
Attorney Neal said the Domestic Violence Bill is yet to be passed into law thus leaving women and girls’ victims of such act.
She is at the same time urging the government of Liberia to take the lead in finding the best way possible to protect its citizens, mainly women and girls, the most victims of such crime.
The AFELL boss also emphasized the need for government to do more as they have put in place the framework and made some strides in handling issues that have to do with SGBVs.
She added that the issue of sexual gender-based violence is moving like a hurricane that is destroying the lives of women, girls and boys leaving some of them dead and some with lasting trauma.
She noted that in the 2016 report of the office of the High Commission on Human Rights, relative to addressing impunity for rape in Liberia, it was discovered that the number of reported cases of rape is extremely high and that alleged perpetrators are rarely held accountable.
She revealed that in the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Gender-Based Violence annual statistical report of 2015, only two percent of all SGBV cases was reported to GBV response actors; like Health Facilities, NGOs and LNP/WACPS.
“Could this be the culture of impunity where justice is slow to come and sometimes does not come at all, could this be poverty that is causing some parents to compromise rape cases and encourage their young daughters to put food on their tables?” she wondered.
“Is it because majority of our lawmakers’ are silent on issues of SGBV and no lawmaker has put a bill on the floor to bring relief to victims of such crime, I stand to be corrected,” she said.
The AFELL boss said she believes that the only instrument protecting women’s rights is the rape law and warned that it should not be tempered with as Liberia has signed and ratified various instruments protecting the rights of women, which must be upheld and live up to.