Liberia: Makeshift Motels, Teenage Prostitution Anger Lawmakers

-- Gender Minister, Police Chief, Others summoned

Members of the House of Representatives have frowned on the increasing rate of teenage prostitution and the proliferation of makeshift sex-shops, brothels and substandard motels in the country and unanimously voted to summon the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Wilhemina Piso Saydee Tarr; the Inspector General of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Patrick Sudue; and the LNP's head of the Women and Children Protection Unit.

The trio is expected to appear before the full Plenary on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 at 11:00 a.m., in the House Chamber, to also address the issues of the sexual based violence and rape in the country.

The motion was proffered by Maryland County District #3 Representative Isaac Roland and was amended by Montserrado County District #3 Rustonlyn S. Dennis, which includes the reports on sexual based violence and rape in the country.

The House's decision to invite the Gender Minister, Police IG and the Head of the LNP's Women and Children Protection Unit, stemmed from a communication from Bong County District #6 Representative, Moima Briggs-Mensah, on the "offenses against public morality", which violates Chapter 18, Sub-sections 1-9 of Liberian Penal Code.

"Honorable Speaker and Members, the issues surrounding prostitution in our country is distressing and alarming to the extent that it has connected children of early teens, increase the spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), encouraged rape and increased violence against women to include, human trafficking and abuse of human rights," Rep. Mensah wrote.

She added: "Moreover, records of recent past have shown that the blatant refusal to combat prostitution has resulted to a form of encouragement for young girls to drop out of school since it is considered by them as of one the easiest means to generate money."

Rep. Mensah further wrote: "Distinguished colleagues, it is my fervent hope, that we consider the matter with urgency and treat it with expediency, as this is speedily creeping and seeking to destroy not only the young girls but those who facilitate it as well."

During arguments, Rep. Mensah said her communication to the House's Plenary was prompted when she observed that tens of teenage and school-going girls were seen being carried in a makeshift lappa-be-door room, for what is termed as "short time" on 14th Street, Sinkor. According to her, the "short time" scenario is on the increase across the country.

She argued that the House should either criminalize prostitution of decriminalize prostitution to issue licenses, to regulate prostitution.

The chairperson of the House's Gender Committee, Rep. Julie Wiah, said the rise in prostitution is not only alarming but also embarrassing, while Rep. Francis Dopoh of River Gee County District #3, proposed a holistic investigation on the rise of prostitution, arguing that is an age-old profession, dating as far back as the Holy Bible and Koran.

According to Liberian Penal Code, some of the offenses against Public Morality include promoting prostitution, facilitating prostitution and patronizing prostitution, which constitutes a felony. Others are dissemination obscene materials, indecent exposure, loitering to solicit sexual activity, illegal gambling business, abuse of corpse and cruelty to animals.

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