28 February 2018

Liberia: New Gender Minister to Reopen Rape Case Involving Former Lawmaker

Monrovia — New Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister is aiming to reopen investigation into the alleged rape case involving former Grand Gedeh County lawmaker, Morias Waylee.

Mr. Waylee reportedly impregnated his 13-year-old niece (name withheld) who was staying with him but was later moved to an unknown location after the alleged rape was reported.

The incident allegedly took place in May 2017. The girl's father was also reported to be the driver of the former Grand Gedeh lawmaker.

Madam Piso Saydee Tarr in an exclusive interview with FrontPageAfrica in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia said she will ensure the sexual and gender based-violence unit of the ministry points out faults in order to take the case to court.

"I do know about the case, (but) I know that it was reported, so with me at the ministry this is the kind of cases that we will be looking at and how we can go and advocate for the rights of the victim," Tarr said.

She continued: "If there are hitches at the legal system, we will push for the legal system to push through and if it is something else we will try to study the situation and understand how we can get involved in it."

The Liberia National Police arrested the former lawmaker and charged him and his wife Welleh Waylee with multiple crimes that included criminal conspiracy in violation of chapter 10.4.

However, due to insufficient information, the LNP could not charge him with rape. The lawmaker was also charged with 'tampering with witness,' which is a violation of Chapter 12 sub-chapter C 12.40b1 and Chapter 12 sub-chapter C Section 12.411 of the Revised Penal Code of the Republic of Liberia.

To date, the Ministry of Gender, Ministry of Justice and regulatory authorities have failed to give any information about the 13-year-old survivor, who is said to be in hiding.

A prosecutor said the county's refusal to collaborate is impeding the trial and as such they may or may not continue with the case.

Since the case was reported, none of the lawmaker or county leaders has spoken or promised to find the victim. They have rather kept mute over the issue.

The 13-year-old girl could be either seriously ill, malnourished or on the verge of death after his wife allegedly threw her out of the house, when she became pregnant, according to Police investigation.

The fate of the infant she painfully brought into this world leading to a battle with fistula is unknown.

Yet, the community, and the entire county have remained silent even as authorities finally zero-in on bringing statutory rape charges against the former lawmaker.

The authorities have not been able to charge Waylee because the victim at the center of the tragedy is nowhere to be found.

Waylee has been successful in perhaps convincing the family to keep quiet and the girl was reportedly taken to the Sande bush while the driver of the lawmaker, who is said to be in the know of what actually happened, is also in hiding - or according to Waylee, somewhere in the sick bush.

But Minister Tarr said gender based violence has nothing to do with tradition, adding that those involve in any violent act should be prosecuted through the law.

"People should not be involved in raping and being violent and the tradition take control of the situation. But within this case, i think it is norm and that is wrong, it is nobody right to harm another person especially sexually hurt another person and the norm takes precedence."

She says although Liberia's culture is taken as a norm, she doesn't think it is right for norms to overshadow sexual cases, adding that she will engage traditional leaders to get their bargain and get their perspective.

"And if they are doing things that they think are right and not right to us, we want to break the barriers and try to change their minds and attitudes.

"As I said I will definitely reach out to my sexual and gender based violence unit and find out what the status of the case is and then when I am informed I will know the next step to take."

Tarr represented Liberia at the consultation meeting titled, The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62), the premier intergovernmental global forum for gender equality and the empowerment of women in Addis Abba.

It is a platform for policy dialogue, review, and for norms and standards-setting that plays a critical role in bringing together Governments, UN entities, women rights' organizations, civil society and international and regional organizations around inclusive, transformative policy decisions.

"As a Minister I want to decentralize and work with women who living in rural areas, my focus will be decentralizing and will do a county tour, I have a lot of reports on my desk but I would like to get to the counties and see how I can fix things that each county cares about," she said.

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