Liberia: Women Group Petitions 54th Legislature

A Liberian anti-rape protester outside President George Weah's office at the ministry of foreign affairs in downtown Monrovia.

Group of women under the banner Affiliation of Women and Child Rights Advocates has petitioned the 54thNational Legislature over alarming rape cases in the country.

Reading the petition Tuesday, 25 August at the Capitol on behalf of the group,Miss Iren Smith, a teenager, lamented that there have been hundreds of rape cases across the country and the number keeps climbing exponentially.

She noted that mothers and daughters of the Land are under serious attack daily by predators,who have no fear for the law of Liberia.

Little Iren said these outrageous acts are only persisting because the justice system has been so weak that perpetrators commit these atrocities and go with impunity, as the laws are filled with loopholes that criminals continue to exploit.

In their petition, they recommended that the Legislature increase budgetary allocation in the FY 2020/2021 national budget and subsequent budgets for Criminal Court 'E' that is responsible for rape cases and to strengthening the entire judicial system to ensure speedy trial of rape and other sexual and gender based violence cases, including hiring of more judges to hear and determine rape and SGBV cases in a speedy and expeditious manner.

The petition also recommends increase budgetary allotment for healthcare delivery and to ensure that all counties have functional safe homes to accommodate rape and SGBV survivors.

At the same time, the protesters called for establishment of specialized criminal courts specifically, for the purpose of prosecuting and facilitating speedy trial of rape, increasing the capacity of women and children protection division of the Liberia National Police with funding, training, logistics, among others.

Receiving the petition on behalf of the Legislature, Lofa County electoral district #2 Representative Julie F. Wiah, who chairs the House's committee on Gender and Protection, assures the petitioners that their requests will be taken very seriously because the issue of rape is everybody's business and the Legislature would respond very soon.

The new Rape Law of 2006 states, among others that a person who has sexual intercourse with another person (male or female) without his/her consent has committed rape that is punishable by ten (10) years or lifetime imprisonment depending on the degree of the rape (rape of a minor, rape resulting I serious bodily harm, rape using a weapon, and gang rape).

The new rape law came to effect in January 2006. The Act also requires in-camera hearings of all rape cases with a special court (Criminal Court E) set up at the Temple of Justices to fast track cases. Despite these measures, the crime continues unabated, becoming a societal challenge.

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