Liberia: Wave of Violence Against Women 'Unacceptable'

(file photo).

— Liberian Women demand President Weah take action

Public concerns about the recent wave of violent activities across the country, especially the increasing number of violent assaults (physical, verbal and emotional) against women, was the principal reason for an array of women groups who assembled before the Foreign Ministry under a heavy downpour of rain to vent their anger and concern to President Weah.

At a well-attended petition event held on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 on the grounds of the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia, the women told President George Weah, “We acknowledge your recent statement reinforcing your dedication to peace and mandating the Justice Minister and officers of the Liberian National Police (LNP) to bring perpetrators of some of these recent incidents to justice, and we look forward to you ensuring that this mandate is carried out.”

The women continued: “We want you to contain incidences that are perpetuating violence against women and girls in our governance landscape.”

According to the women, the physical and verbal assaults of aspiring female political candidates, and their supporters in District #13 in November 2018, and District #15 in August 2019 Representative by-elections, respectively, and the online bullying during the recent 2019 Montserrado County Senatorial by-elections, were not only unpatriotic, but demonstrated the lack of respect for women, who sought to positively contribute to the nation by participating in the electoral process.

The women said these actions are in contravention of the Domestic Violence Bill, which the President signed into law less than two weeks ago.

“The systematic marginalization of women in government, politics, civil society, and the workforce as evidenced by statements those in government positions have made are potentially inciting chaos and violence,” the women groups said. Their statement was read to President Weah by a select representative.

The statement continued: “In the six-month period of December 2018 to July 2019, there were 2,021 reported cases of sexual gender-based Violence (SGBV) only in Monrovia. Based on this trend, by December 2019, this number can be expected to far exceed the 2,200 cases reported during  the 12-month period of December 2017 to December 2018. This is unacceptable.”

The women then called on President Weah to “ensure that the Ministry of Justice investigates police officers, who reportedly stood by and witnessed the violence against action Cornelia Kruah Togba, but did not intervene to stop the assaults in District #13, and the August 17, 2019 violent act against Ms. Telia Urey in District #15. We request an independent and impartial investigation into these incidents, and that the results be made accessible to the general public within two months.”

They also called on President Weah to “immediately suspend the Police Commissioner Walter Rays (LNP 105), for his repeated refusal to intervene in violent assaults against citizens perpetrated in his presence.”

According to the women, in the interest of peace, and to create a safe political space, President Weah should retract his purported statement that allegedly called for violence against female political candidates, and institute a zero-tolerance policy against government officials and political parties making comments that promote violence and derogatory comments against women and girls.

“Provide increased security presence throughout District #15 in the days immediately preceding and following the re-run date and until the winner is announced. Particular attention should be given to the six precincts that fall under the NEC’s mandate. All security personnel assigned to this detail must be professional in the execution of their duties. They must be well resourced, seasoned, disciplined and impartial security professionals who take their mandate seriously,” the women said to Weah.

They added that “Mandate the Ministry of Gender to provide a plan of action within two (2) weeks to address the issue of the increasing incidences of rape and other forms of SGBV and begin implementation immediately thereafter.

The women groups included Network of Peace and Security Women in ECOWAS Countries (NOPSWECO), Mano River Women in Peace Network (MARWOPNET), WONGOSOL, Women in Peace-building (WIPNET), Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH), Community Health Initiative (CHI), Kids’ Education Engagement Project (KEEP-Liberia), Green Climate Fund (GCF), U-FOUNDATION.

Receiving the statement, President Weah promised to address the concerns of the women to make Liberia a better place for everyone.

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