9 October 2018

Liberia: Female Lawyers Extoled Govt

Photo: Credit: Credit: Dan Klotz/Burness
More than half of Liberia's 4.3 million people live on land held under customary tenure, which provides traditional rights to land but is not secured or recognised by legal title, said the United States Agency for International Development.

The Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) is praising the government of Liberia for ensuring the passage of the delayed Land Rights bill into law.

Atty. Vivian Neal, President of AFELL said the passage of the law by the legislature and its subsequent ratification by President George M. Weah is in the right direction to maintain peace and stability in Liberia.

Speaking at a three-day women dialogue retreat held in Bomi County, Madam Neal wants presumptive marriage of the Civil Procedural Law of 1973, Chapter 24, Section 24.4 captured under the definition of marriage in the Land Rights Act be addressed.

"This is a good step but we need something more concrete. We need to have an exclusive bill that will protect the rights of those women who find themselves living with men for a protracted period without marriage," she said.

Atty. Neal said the Cohabitation Bill when passed into law will turn the many years of cohabitation into marriage that will be acceptable under the Law.

She said this bill was once introduced by Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott but was later downplayed, promising that it will be resubmitted through AFELL's assistance with a call for women across the country to join the campaign.

The AFELL boss indicated that cohabitation law is working well in some African countries including Sierra Leone, Kenya and Uganda where a man and woman who live together for six months, one year or more are considered husband and wife.

Atty. Neal said the Female Lawyers Association is urging the government through the National Legislature to prioritize the passage of the cohabitation bill into law when it is submitted before them.

Meanwhile, Madam Neal is appealing to the National Legislature to consider the passage of the domestic violence bill into law because its perpetual delay was giving ground for ill-treatment of women and girls in the country.

She wants government to take the lead in finding the best way possible to protect its citizens especially women and girls who are usually victims of violence.

"The issue of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) is increasing like a hurricane, destroying the lives of women, girls and boys leaving some of them dead and life time trauma," she said.

Quoting the 2016 report of the office of the High Commission on Human Rights regarding addressing impunity for rape in Liberia, Madam Neal said it was discovered that the number of reported rape cases is extremely high and that alleged perpetrators some time go with impunity.

According to her, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Gender-Based Violence annual statistical report of 2015, only two percent of all SGBV cases were reported to response actors like health facilities, NGOs and LNP/WACPS."

Madam Neal: "Could this be the culture of impunity where justice is slow to come and sometimes it does not come at all - could this be poverty that is causing some parents to compromise rape cases and encourage their young daughters to put food on their tables?" she wondered.

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