Several Liberian women groups have condemned the Senate for amending the rape law, thus making it bailable, unlike the previous one.
The women groups said the Liberian Senate's decision to amend the rape law in intended to weaken the law by neutralizing the intended purpose of the 2005 amendment that serves as a deterrent to statutory rape.
"This amendment includes making Rape bailable for all offenses (it is currently quasi bailable/non-bailable for first degree felony) and granting convicted RAPISTS parole (they currently do not get parole). These two (2) major amendments defeat the purpose of having a strong rape law despite the challenges," they said in a press statement.
The women said currently, there is only one Sexual Offenses court which is situated in Monrovia, no DNA testing facility or equipment in the entire country and an overcrowded docket of pre-trial detainees awaiting trial while the victims live in fear and trauma with no justice in sight.
In the midst of these challenges, they said the Senate chose the option to avoid addressing the structural and logistical barrier to ending violence against women and girls. This is disappointing.
The women group called on members of the House of Representatives to vote against the new amendment because it is not in the true spirit of justice and equality, which should be the hallmarks of the society.
They also called on the legislature to be progressive by ensuring budgetary allocations and policies that further invest in the implementation of the law such as the establishment of county levels SGBV crimes unit and branches of criminal court "E" , invest in forensic technology for the preservation and gathering evidence.
"We call on our lawmakers to recognize the value of mutual accountability and innovation. By this, we request that they commence a process of external engagement and consultations with stakeholders in the women's rights sector, the Association of Female Lawyers and other justice/protection groups to get concrete indications of the impact of the rape crisis on women and girls across Liberia. We make specific reference to the tragic documentary, 'Small, Small Things', a must watch educational tool for all lawmakers and leaders in the justice sector in Liberia," the women said in the release.
Continuing, the Liberian women called on the lawmakers to rethink this regressive legal direction when Liberia faces multiple transitions, noting "It is important to highlight the non-negotiable action of aligning future actions, particularly from the House of Representatives to national women's rights context on violence against women and girls. Additionally, we emphasize specific concerns to the current prevalence of sexual violence in the Liberian society and the state's obligation to address this human rights and public health crisis."
The women groups include Liberia Feminist Forum (LFF), LIWAN, Liberia Girls Guide Association, medica Liberia, Action Aid Liberia, Community Health Care Initiative (CHI), Paramount Young Women Initiative, among others.