Monrovia — In the wake of the increasing waves of rape cases against women and children, a group of Liberians, predominately young people, have petitioned the 54th National Legislature to broaden its oversight responsibilities in strengthening the justice system to curb the menance.
Dressed in all black, with placards depicting anti-rape slogans, the group marched through Tubman Boulevard unto Capitol Hill and presented their petition to the Chairperson of the House Committee on Claims and Petition, Rep. Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis (District #4, Montserrado County).
"Honorable Members of the Legislature, we have a rape pandemic on our hands. There have been hundreds of rape cases across the country and the numbers keep climbing exponentially," the petitioners lamented.
"Our mothers and daughters are under attack daily by predators that have no fear of bearing the full weight of the law. These outrageous acts are only persisting because our justice system has been so weak that perpetrators commit these atrocities and go scot-free; because our laws have been made lax and created loopholes for these criminals to exploit."
As the first branch of government collectively and as direct representatives of the people that were elected to push the best interests of the people individually, they continue, "we have come to you as peaceful citizens to beseech you to see a reason to take the necessary steps, make the relevant decisions and take a stand against these inhumane acts. We believe that you have the power and an important role to play in making the drastic changes that are needed to end this pandemic. We are here to say Enough is Enough".
In their petition, the group laid out several recommendations they believe when implemented by the Government of Liberia will help end this nightmare for the people of Liberia.
The petition from the group stated: Increase budgetary allocation in the FY 2020/2021 budget, and subsequent budgets for Criminal Court "E"; and to facilitate the strengthening of the judicial system for speedy trial of rape and other Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) cases including the hiring of more judges to hear and determine rape and SGBV cases speedily and expeditiously.
Also, the protesters want the government to increase budgetary allotment for health care delivery systems. Ensure that all counties have functional safe homes to accommodate survivors of rape and other SGBV cases.
The establishment of specialized Criminal Courts specifically to prosecute and facilitate the speedy trial of rape and other SGBV cases in all counties that do not have such courts.
The group also wants the government to increase the capacity of the Women and Children Protection Division of the Liberia National Police with funding, training, logistics, and other types of equipment.
To increase Legislative oversight over relevant government institutions including the Ministry of Gender, Social and Child Protection, Ministry of Health, the Liberian National Police, the Criminal Courts to end rape, and other SGBV related crimes were part of their petition.
In addition, the petitioners called on the lawmakers to host town hall meetings in your various constituency to raise awareness on rape and find local solutions by working with communities and the commencing of a public hearing within the next two weeks on the issue of rape and other forms of SGBV with key stakeholders especially the national government and institutions working in the sector.
The protestors refused to give their petition to the Minister of Gender Williametta Piso Saydee-Tarr on the ground that the ministry has not done enough to curb the increase of rape in the country.
There have been more than 900 rape cases recorded since this year only. According to many, the outbreak of the coronavirus and the issue about failing to arrest and prosecution of alleged perpetrators has been a serious stumbling block in curtailing the increased numbers of rape cases in the country.
As the group marched through the Tubman Boulevard, they chanted anti-rape slogans. Also, many individuals carried placards with different messages against rape. Some had their faces painted with the inscriptions against rape.
Many Liberian musicians were present for the march against rape. Some mothers were also seen with the little ones marching through the heavy crowd.
When the group reached the President's office at the Foreign Ministry to present their petition, they blocked the entire road making it impossible for motorists to use the main road for more than three hours.
As the group stopped to present their petition to the President, Gender Minister Williametta Piso Saydee-Tarr, Assistance Minister of Gender Mamensie Kabba, Assistance Minister of Justice Eddie Trawally and scores of other officials went at the entrance to receive the petition but were denied by the group from receiving the petition.
The leaders of the group stressed that they wanted no other officials of government to receive their petition beside President George Weah.
There were several attempts made by the Gender Minister and other officials to receive the petition but were denied by the group of protesters.
Patience Koteah is one of the organizers of the protest. According to Koteah, the Ministry of Gender had played lip service in fighting rape in the country. And for that reason, they see it prudent for only the President to receive their petition.
Koteah said: "The Gender Minister, she is aware of the issues, what are they doing at the Ministry of Gender. Are they aligning with community-based organizations to work?"
"Do they see us as their ally? Today we are not listening to them. The President with the title of 'Feminist-in-Chief' must come here and address us. All of us need to come together and find a solution to this rape issue. If not, we are here and are here for good."
FrontPageAfrica gathered that the President was not at his office.