In wake of the recent reported rape scandal at the More Than Me (MTM) Academy, the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) is proposing that the Liberian government legislate a law that would require individuals working with children, women and the helpless to serve as mandatory reporters.
In a release issued on Sunday, 4 November, ALJA calls on the Liberian government to institute rigorous oversight on individuals and organizations establishing non-profit organizations in the country.
ALJA wants government to ensure that individuals and organizations establishing non-profit organizations here meet the requisite qualifications and their conduct and operations are in conformity with the laws of Liberia.
ALJA says the scandal currently engulfing the MTM Academy is symptomatic of a system which does no criminal background check of individuals responsible for the care of the country’s vulnerable population especially, children.
According to a release signed by ALJA Secretary General Akai Awuletey Glidden, the Association notes that in most countries, mandatory reporting law requires professionals including teachers, health care workers, social workers, child care providers, among others to report suspected abuse as soon as possible.
The Association expresses hope that such law will put an end to the culture of silence where adults conveniently turn the other way while children and women are being sexually abused and exploited by individuals they look up to for guidance and support.
Meanwhile, ALJA says the Academy’s leadership including founder Katie Meyler and the entire board of directors must be held accountable and permanently replaced if, the ongoing investigation finds them culpable in the sexual abuse of the disadvantaged girls that the charity was established to protect.
The America – based Liberian journalists organization also, recommends that all local staff of the institution who had prior knowledge of the sexual abuse and failed to alert the authorities should also, be held accountable.
A recent news documentary produced by Pro Publica in partnership with Time Magazine provided disturbing accounts of systematic rape and abuse of a number of girls at More Than Me Academy by Mr. Macintosh Johnson, a former senior employee of the school.
Mr. Johnson, who is now dead, suffered from HIV. According to the documentary, as many as 30 girls were raped by Mr. Johnson and some of the girls are reported to have tested positive for HIV as well.
Following the publication of the documentary, More Than Me founder, Katie Meyler, announced that she was temporarily stepping down as Chief Executive Officer while the Chairman of the School’s Board of Directors, Skip Borghese, resigned.
The School said it would conduct its own in-depth investigation into the matter.
In the meantime, ALJA is commending the Liberian government for announcing the conduct of a full-scale investigation into the scandal and calls for the process to be transparent and the findings and recommendations be released to the public.
The Organization says the Liberian government should ensure that no organization, no matter how altruistic its motivations and goals are, is above the laws of Liberia.
According to Liberia’s Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection, from January to September 2017, a total of 892 sexual and gender-based violence cases were reported, of which 506 were rape cases, and 475 involved children.
ALJA says while the country has made significant strides in enacting legislations that protect women’s rights, it is urging the Liberian government to ensure that perpetrators of rape and gender-based violence against women are made to face the full weight of the law.–Press release