Liberia Women from various groups are calling on members of the House of Representatives not to concur with the Senate to amend the rape law.
Women in the campaign come from various groups including Liberia Feminist Forum (LFF), Liberia Girls Guide Association, Medical Liberia, Action Aid Liberia, Community Health Care Initiative (CHI), Paramount Young Women Initiative, INCHR, YAPE, UMC/HRM, and WONGOSOL
The Liberian Senate is said to have voted on 3 October to amend the New Rape Law, but the women groups claim that the Senate’s action is in an effort to weaken the law by neutralizing the intended purpose of the 2005 amendment that serves as deterrent to statutory rape.
In a release issued Thursday, 5 October, they say the amendment includes making rape bailable for all offenses and granting convicted rapists’ parole.
Currently, the crime non-bailable for first degree felony and convicts do not get parole. These two major amendments defeat the purpose of having a strong rape law despite the challenges, the women groups warn.
Their press release says the Senate has forwarded the amendment to the House for concurrence. Currently, there is only one sexual offenses court which is situated in Monrovia. No DNA testing facility or equipment are available in the entire country and there is an overcrowded docket of pre-trial detainees awaiting trial while the victims live in fear and trauma with no justice in sight.
The women argue that in the midst of these challenges, the Liberian Senate has chosen the option to avoid addressing the structural and logistical barrier to ending violence against women and girls.
Having expressed their disappointment in the action of the Senate, the women call on lawmakers at the Lower House to vote against the new amendment because it is not in the true spirit of justice and equality.
“We call on lawmakers to be progressive by ensuring budgetary allocations and policies that further invest in the implementation of the law such as the establishment of county levels SGBV crimes unit and branches of criminal court “E”, invest in forensic technology for the preservation and gathering evidence,” a press release says.
They call on lawmakers to rethink this regressive legal direction when Liberia faces multiple transitions. It is important to highlight the non-negotiable action of aligning future actions, particularly from the House of Representatives to national women’s rights context on violence against women and girls, the release adds.–Press release