Amidst reported 900 cases of Sexual and Gender – Based Violence (SGBV) against women and children through January to May 2020, Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) president Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe proposes that the government through the Ministries of Gender, Education and Internal Affairs undertakes massive public awareness to limit violation of the law.
Presenting Thursday, 6 August during a policy dialogue in Congo Town on Domestic Violence Law under the auspices of ActionAid Liberia and other stakeholders, Cllr. Gongloe warned that in the absence of massive public education, people will continue to violate laws, even though ignorance to the law is no excuse.
“The Ministries of Gender and Social [Protection] and Education, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs should engage in massive public awareness on the existence of this law,” he says.
He notes that generally domestic violence is committed by the strong against the weak in every household, and most often the wives and children are the victims while once in a while, the husband can be a victim because he is physically weak or non – violent.
Cllr. Gongloe says the Domestic Violence Act is good for making every household in Liberia a safe place for every member, and serves as a deterrence for perpetrators of domestic violence.
But he suggests that the Ministry of Internal Affairs deploys monitors in all of the counties here with the motives to make unannounced visits to homes as a way of encouraging adherence to the domestic violence law.
According to him, the idea of the massive public education on existing laws is that there are so many cases coming to the police stations and the courts, which are now overwhelming these organs of the justice system and may “take us so many years, maybe hundred years” to actually get them dealt with.
He warns that the absence of proper awareness on existing laws may appear like laws are set as a trap to prosecute violators.
Dr. Linda Birch, president of Liberia Medical and Dental Council says health practitioners face challenges at the various medical hubs when it comes to playing their roles in implementing the law, calling for political will and government’s support to minimize these cases.
She suggests that there should be precedence set, void of selective justice, noting that “you cannot prosecute one person and another person commits the same act and when it comes to implementation of the law, it’s a different thing.”
Further, Dr. Birch discloses that health facilities hardly see domestic violence being reported by victims with the true story, saying victims will report motor accidents even when it is glaring that they are a victim of domestic violence.
“So if the people themselves are not willing to explain the story as it is, that itself creates a challenge for us because you cannot go forward, you can’t proceed,” she says, adding that victims flee health facilities if further efforts are made to invite security.
Human Rights Commission Country Director Madam Caroline Browne states that domestic violence is more than just physical abuse, but it also includes emotional, physical and economic abuses, which is seen in homes where parents would refuse to provide financial support for their family.
Ms. Patience Landford, representing ActionAid Liberia, says through partnerships with stakeholders including the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL), they have been able to come together to actualize the empowerment of women and address sexual and gender – based violence here.
She thanks participants for their commitment in showing up at the dialogue in seeking a way to harmonize Liberian laws to ensure cohesiveness across the board.
Atty. Vivian Neal, AFELL president, says the statistics of 900 reported cases of sexual gender – based violence against women and children from January to May this year is alarming, saying it suggests that civil society must continue to contribute its ideas and efforts to finding lasting solution that will end violence against women and children.
By Winston W. Parley