Prominent Liberian Women Say ‘Discrepancy’ in the Law Contributes to Women’s Property Rights Violation

Former National Election Commission, Frances Johnson-Allison and Madam Izatta Nagbe, a visiting fellow at landesa, Seattle, Washington D.C were the two panelists at the event

Monrovia – Participants at the policy dialogue on women’s property rights and the implications of Sexual Gender-Based Violence say discrepancy in the service provisions and the laws for both males and females are hindering the achievement of gender equity.

The policy dialogue organized under the auspices of ActionAid Liberia with funding from the European Union brought together participants, mostly women from government, civil society, legal practitioners, and international development partners to brainstorm the Land Rights Act that was passed by the Legislature in 2018 and other domestic issues that pose a serious threat to achieving gender equity in the country.

The one-day event under the theme “Action for Equality and Justice” was held Tuesday at the Millennium Guest House in Congo Town.

Former Chairman of the National Elections Commission, Frances Johnson-Allison and Madam Izatta Nagbe – a visiting fellow at landesa, Seattle, Washington D.C – were the two panelists.

The former NEC boss said women’s equal property rights are important because they are fundamental to women’s economic security, social and legal status, and sometimes their survival.

Law Enforcement is Cardinal

Allison, who is also a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, called on the Legislature to enact legislations that will protect women’s property rights while ensuring implementation, monitoring, and compliance.

Madam Allison said the training of judges, magistrates, police, and relevant local and national officials on laws relating to women’s equal property rights and their responsibility to enforce them are cardinal in achieving gender equity.

Cllr. Allison said: “Ensure that court systems can handle women’s property right claims fairly and efficiently, and establish national legal aid systems with the capacity to handle women’s civil property claims and establish shelters for domestic violence victims and women who have suffered property rights violations,” she said.

“Discriminatory laws, customs, biased attitudes, unresponsive authorities, and ineffective courts are some of the factors that contribute to women’s property rights violations.”

Madam Allison pointed out key steps that the government can take to protect women’s property rights. She mentioned the promotion of public awareness campaigns to inform the people mainly in rural areas about women’s equal property rights.

Also speaking, Izatta Nagbe, who is a Gender and Land Specialist, said women have made lots of contributions to the country but have been treated differently when it comes to its domestic relations law that protects women’s land rights and property rights.

“Single women, divorcées, widows, and women from minority groups are more vulnerable to land rights being violated,” Madam Nagbe said.

“When men and their power are being threatened by women’s independence to property rights, men tend to use violence. Also, social norms impact the ways a woman exercises her land rights.”

According to the Gender and Land Specialist, most women are only permitted to plant crops that will bring food or income in the home but not allowed to plant rubber or cocoa something she will make women more independent.

Also speaking, Cllr. Ruth Jappah, chairperson of JSGB Legal Services said while there are laws that seek to advance women’s rights, they also fail to achieve the desire policy objectives of advancing women’s rights.

“We also identified gender gaps, points of gender discrimination, and the extent to which women and men have equal access to, and benefits from legal norms through laws related to work and employment, marriage, divorce, death, and inheritance,” she said.

Reducing the Gap

Joseph Madzvamuse, the Advocacy Campaigns and Policy Manager of ActionAid Liberia at the event said his organization has worked in Montserrado, Margibi, and Gbapolu Counties with the local communities’ initiative to address the issue of SGBV for girls, women, and sexual minority.

The project, he says will address social vices that prevent women from enjoying their rights.

“One of the things we have learned over the past few years from implementing this project is that we are building grassroots leadership for women that can do enough by changing the power struggle in their communities,” he said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created more violence. The project came at a time that is very important because if the government is to succeed in implementing the PAPD, the SGBV needs to be addressed because it limits the women’s economic opportunity and participation in leadership.”