Liberia: Catholic Prelate Speaks Against Death Penalty, Calls for Strengthening of Existing Laws to Curtail Rape, Protect Survivors

Rape, murder, violence against women.

Paynesville — The Head of the St. Kizito Catholic Church in Paynesville, Rev. Father Ambrose Kroma says the application of death penalty against perpetrators of rape is not the best solution in tackling the menace.

Father Kromah's comments comes in the wake of increasing calls from high profile officials and rights advocates calling for harsh punishments including the death penalty against perpetrators of rape.

However, in his homily on Sunday, Father Kromah, while denounced the 'diabolical acts' cautioned that the death penalty will certainly be counterproductive to efforts in breaking the existing culture of silence against rape.

"... I am compelled in conscience to categorically differ and reject the call for the death penalty as a deterrent or solution to rape," he said.

"Yes, rape in any form and against anyone-male or female; babies, minors, teenage, adult or youth is intrinsically evil; it is diabolical; and must at all times be denounced in the strongest terms and perpetrators, irrespective of who they are; status or position must be given their due before the law."

In 2020, sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) cases continue to increase at an alarming rate, especially at a time the country is grappling with a deadly coronavirus pandemic. Rights advocates and observers believe that Liberia, which currently ranked 177th out of 188 countries in the annual Gender Inequality Index is poised to see more decline amid the wave of SGBV cases.

A review of statistics from the Bureau of Corrections at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) for the months of January to June 2020 shows that more than 600 cases of aggravated assault, sodomy, sodomy with criminal intent and rape were reported and are currently being investigated.

According to the Sexual Gender Based Violence Unit of the MOJ, total new cases from January to June indicated: 107 cases tried in court, leading to 44 convictions and 42 acquittals. This includes all cases received from the Liberian National Police (LNP) and have or being adjudicated by the SGBV Unit at the MOJ. The Data covers Montserrado, Bong, Nimba, Lofa, Maryland, Grand Gedeh, River Gee and Grand Kru Counties.

In recent weeks, there have been more reports of rape cases committed against babies, girls, boys as well as adults.

From law enforcement officers to men of God and family members, the alleged perpetrators have come in all forms from all parts of Liberia, with one motive in mind, destroy the innocence of young boys and girls.

Against this backdrop, the calls for a tougher punishment for perpetrators have heightened and among those trumpeting these calls are some top officials including Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor and 2011 Nobel Laureate Layma Gbowee. Liberia's 173rd Independence Day Orator, Simeon L. Dunbar of the Liberty Christian Fellowship and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Prince C. Johnson went as far as calling for the death penalty.

But the Reverend Father Kroma, preaching further in his sermon, said the call for the death penalty is more of a result of an outrage than a serious reflection and thought as to what can change the prevailing situation.

Speaking further, he called for counseling, financial and moral support leading to total healing from the damages, harm and trauma caused by rape.

He said: "We must fast track rape cases and strengthen the relevant agencies in bringing justice to the victims." We, as a people and a nation must not resort to the death penalty as a deterrent or solution to this wave of evil being perpetrated against our babies, minors, daughters, sisters and mothers including our sons. Resorting to the Death Penalty in my conscience I believe will amount to institutionalizing barbarism and a culture of death."

According to him, the death penalty for rape in such a society like ours will further entrench the Liberian demeaning approach to such an evil which says: Lets' talk it the family way.

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