First Lady Clar Marie Weah has suggested here that instead of focusing on tough punishment for rapists, and people committing all forms of violence against women and children, government should direct its attention to prevention.
“However, I strongly believe our concentration should focus more on prevention rather than punishment because of the physical, emotional and psychological impacts SGBV has on its victim”, she said.
Mrs. Weah made the suggestion Tuesday, September 8, 2020, at the opening of anational conference on Sexual and Gender Base Violence held at the Ministerial Complex in Oldest Congo Town.
President George MannehWeah who declared himself as Liberia’s Feminist-In-Chief, led an array of officials to the conference.
According to the First Lady, procuring DNA machine and establishing safe homes are necessary but stressed that vigorous public awareness should be the main tool in fighting SGBV in Liberia.
Madam Weah explained that DNA machine will identify perpetrators, while safe houses will provide temporary shelter for victims, but the scars from SGBV are permanent, adding, “Therefore, we should prevent it from happening.”
“We must educate our men and boys in schools, Churches, Mosques and our communities against SGBV; Let us speak out and not be silent; prosecute the perpetrators and not shield them. We must protect the victims and refuse to compromise with people who are committing these atrocities.”
First Lady Weah said since her ascendency to office, she has closely worked with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and international partners on SGBV issues.
“In June 2019, we launched the ‘She’s U Movement.’ A movement geared at providing necessary support for women, girls and children victimized by SGBV, as well as providing help to other vulnerable and marginalized groups.”
However, she noted that despite these efforts, SGBV still persists, lamenting that it is sickening to hear children as young as 10 years are being raped with outcries demanding penalties for perpetrators or would-be perpetrators, noting that the Anti-SGBV Road Map 2020-2022 provides clearer directions.
She thanked organizers of the conference, including the Government of Liberia through the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on SGBV for the forum.
She also noted that with the theme, “A National Call to Action: Inclusive Involvement to Fight Rape/SGBV in Liberia!” the conference came at a very challenging time when the COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on the way people live and the economy, saying, “Instead of us galvanizing our efforts on mitigating the pandemic, we are here to find solution to another crisis, Rape.”
Madam Weah said rape pricks her heart as a mother and a female, and that there should be no excuse for rape, describing all forms of SGBV as both inhumane and unacceptable.
But President Weah, who prides himself asFeminist-In-Chief, initially refused to personally receive petition from anti-rape protesters here despite demanding so during three days of protests in the streets of Monrovia that ended with clashes with Police, resulting to injuries.
The President subsequently on Monday, 31 August received a roadmap dossier from the inter-ministerial taskforce on SGBV at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, remarking, “Rape is a serious issue that needs to be weeded out of society.”
“As President of Liberia, it is my responsibility to lead all efforts to address social and societal irregularities and threats that befall our people or any segment of it. I have stated on many occasions that, as Feminist-in-Chief, I have zero tolerance for Sexual and Gender Based Violence. And I mean it”, the Executive Mansion quoted Mr. Weah as saying.
In a statement, the United States Embassy near Monrovia called for practical actions such as establishing an SGBV call center and providing resources for survivor support to demonstrate the Government of Liberia’s resolve in fighting endemic rape in the country.
“We urge the Government to target resources to survivors, take a strong stand against female genital mutilation, and ensure swift and transparent prosecution”, the Embassy said in statement posted on its website on Monday, 31 August.
By Lewis S. Teh–Editing by Jonathan Browne