In the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, Liberia is witnessing another scourge – increased gender-based violence, particularly rape-related cases. The current wave of cases involving rape is, indeed, worrying as the country is grappling to ensure that all of its citizens – men, women and children – are safe from Covid-19.
According to a FrontPage Africa newspaper publication dated July 13, 2020, a review of the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Corrections’ statistics for the months of January to July 2020 shows that more than 600 cases of aggravated assault, sodomy with criminal intent and rape were reported and are currently being investigated. There have been a total of 450 incidents of statutory rape, 100 cases of rape, 55 cases of gang-related rape and 10 cases involving sodomy.
The alleged perpetrators of these rape cases include law enforcement officers, men of God, teachers and guidance counselors.
The attention of MenEngage Liberia is drawn to the case in the Logan Town Community, which involves a pastor who was arrested by the Liberia National Police on June 17 for alleged rape.
We are concerned about the case involving a 36 year-old man who pleaded for forgiveness after being accused of raping his 15-year old step-daughter.
We are concerned about a 33 year-old man who was arrested for allegedly raping a 15-year old girl in the Neezoe Community.
We are troubled by the case involving a 29 year-old man who allegedly raped twin girls aged 2-years-10-months.
We are also troubled by the case involving an officer of the Liberia National Police who allegedly raped a 15-year old girl in the King Gray Community.
All of the above cases, including many which we don’t mention here are of concern to us – and, as a society, we must all be outraged by them and act to condemn them accordingly.
Who enforces the law if law enforcement officers are involved in such acts? Who prays for and counsels the rape survivors if men of God also commit such acts?
MenEngage Liberia strongly believes that these actions by men are not only wicked, cruel, and malicious, but they are devilish and an abomination and a disgrace to all Liberian men, including authorities at different levels, individuals and communities who are doing little or nothing to curtail such ugly acts.
MenEngage Liberia, therefore, condemns in the strongest terms all forms of violence, including rape against women and children – both girls and boys. Rape should not – and cannot – be tolerated in our society.
MenEngage Liberia is deeply concerned about the psychological trauma as well as the physical and emotional pains the actions of abusive men have on their targets.
As a call to action, MenEngage Liberia joins the Lutheran Church of Liberia in making demands for action as follows:
We call on all Liberian men to join the Thursdays in Black Champaign by wearing a black shirt or suit on every Thursday as a way of raising our voices and standing up to rape and all forms of violence against women.
We call on all Liberian men to do everything in their power to help create an environment in which our sisters, daughters, every woman, girls and boys will feel safe to live as children who can trust men as uncles, brothers, fathers, friends, and so on.
We join UN Women and other partners to call for stronger laws against rape. Furthermore, we call on the National Legislature not to pass any law that will make rape a bailable offence in Liberia, but to drive legislations that will influence social and traditional norms as well as women’s empowerment.
We acknowledge that the government is working with international partners to address the concerns raised in this media statement according to a recent Justice Ministry release. However, we want to bring to the attention of the government that some of these international partners, including Amnesty International have reported that rape victims do not achieve justice due to multiple challenges, some of which include institutional weaknesses, corruption, lack of due diligence by government as well as logistical and financial constraints.
“These combined factors have led to a widespread culture of impunity for sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), particularly for rape, putting women and children at continued serious risk of sexual violence.” We, therefore, call on the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Justice to address the low hanging fruits that will help bring perpetrators to book and give justice to survivors in a timely manner. We call on the Liberian government to strengthen and promote psychosocial support to rape and survivors of other forms of gender-based violence in the country.
We call on all religious institutions across the country to avail their platforms for the promotion of anti-rape and SGBV messages during regular worship hours and at other religious functions. We call on all Bishops, the Liberia Council of Churches, the National Muslim Council of Liberia and the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia to help lead this process.
We call on the Ministry of Health to ensure that the identities of rape survivors are protected at all times to avoid social stigma and discrimination.
We call on all key stakeholders to begin naming and shaming alleged perpetrators of rape.