10 March 2013

Liberia: Women Get Universal Backing Obama Signs Legislation - Ellen Does the Same

World leaders are in the lead in appending their signatures to legislations that provide basic protection from rape, sexual and gender-based violence and all forms of humiliation for women across the globe.

While President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was, on Friday March 6, 2013 launching "the Zero Tolerance Campaign against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence here in Monrovia, US President Barack Obama was signing a landmark legislation that gives women full protection.

Dubbed as serious national nightmare that needs national action, President Sirleaf challenged all sectors of Liberian society to get involved in the fight.

"Liberians must do something to stop babies from continuously being raped," an Executive Mansion statement quoted President Sirleaf as saying.

More than that, Madam Sirleaf called on the Ministry of Justice and security forces to play the leading role in bringing to book those who see it as pleasure to perpetrate these crimes against children.

"It could be any one of us - daughter, mother or sister in this hall - that could be victims, she said, which should make everyone involved. The President further called upon the National Legislature to debate, in their respective Houses, the Zero Tolerance Campaign which she said would be in the vast interest of everyone," the president noted.

According to statistics issued by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, 70 percent of women worldwide report experiencing physical and/or sexual violence; 50% of sexual assaults reports are committed against girls under 16 years of age.

603 million women live in countries where domestic violence has not been criminalized.

In a message delivered by his Special Representative to Liberia, Madam Karin Landgren, Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said too many women and girls face intimidation and physical and sexual abuse, often from those who should care for and respect them - fathers, husbands, brothers, teachers, colleagues, and supervisors.

However, President Sirleaf, who commented on the report, described it as embarrassing and unfortunate, but expressed optimism that significant progress could be made in changing the statistics for the better provided everyone formed a common front against SGBV.

Judge A. Blamo Dixon of Criminal Courts "A & B", who was keynote at programs marking international women day, challenged the women and girls of Liberia to unite and form a network as a means of claiming the attention of central government.

"This", he said, "is one of the surest ways to put government to work in making gender equality a priority issue, as gender disparity undermines national growth."

"Despite the pivotal role played by women in bringing peace to Liberia and contributing to its economic growth, a large number of them are still targets of violence from their male counterparts."

Describing acts against women such as rape as barbaric and unacceptable, he said that despite life imprisonment being the penalty for someone convicted of rape, the crime was still rampant in Liberia.

An UNMIL report points out that of forty rape cases reported in Liberia in 2012, only five were adjudicated and there were guilty verdicts in three of the cases.

In 1975, the United Nations set aside March 8 of each year to be celebrated as International Women's Day. It is traditionally marked with a message from the Secretary-General, with global and national themes. This year's global theme is "The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum," while the national theme is "Preventing Violence against Women and Girls for Nation Building."

Two weeks ago, President Sirleaf signed a pledge, committing the Liberian Government to formulating and promoting policies that will protect the rights of women and girls. That commitment was presented to the UN in New York on Friday by Gender and Development Minister, Julia Duncan Cassell, on behalf of President Sirleaf.

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