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Rapists deserve harsher punishments

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Rape, in general terms, is considered a sexual violence usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent – an act committed through the use of physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or against a person who is incapable of valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated or below the legal age of consent.

Statistics of rape cases in Liberia as reported by the government, through its Ministry of Gender, suggest a very alarming situation of the sexual violence against women and children. There are a total of 2,493 sexual and gender-based violence crimes, for example, across Liberia- up from 2,029 cases in 2010- 58% of these were rape cases, of which 92% or 1,348 involved children between three months and 17 years.

Even in the first six months of 2013, four referral hospitals in Monrovia alone treated 814 rape cases, 95% of which were children, with a total of five deaths, while 2012 accounted for ten deaths. Up to present the number of incidents continues to rise at a more alarming rate and brutal as evident by the recent wave sexual violence in Bong County in Central Liberia and Monrovia.

The continuous escalation of the crime- in no way- shows any sign of decline for some times now. Disturbingly, most rape cases – in recent times- result to the death of victims with perpetrators either at large or the cases compromised.

According to a Liberian Gender Ministry data, there’s high rate of cases of rape, especially committed against children. While the Government of Liberia and President Sirleaf may be anxiously serious and determined to defend the rights by ensuring justice for victimized women and girls, such mere commitment to prosecute those who continuously violate the rights of these children and women must go far beyond.

In view of the foregoing, the government’s intervention, through the law, must be manifested in very harsh punishments for perpetrators, their accomplices and those involved in compromises, including legal practitioners (especially lawyers) who facilitate such compromises tantamount to undermining such commitment.

We are of the fervent belief that considering the fact that most rape victims are severely traumatized by the violent assault and may have difficulty functioning, probably for a long period of time, and recognizing that after being raped, it is common for the victim to experience acute stress disorder, including symptoms similar to those of posttraumatic stress disorder, such as intense- sometimes unpredictable emotions, and may find it hard to deal with their memories of the event, such harsh punishments would deter would-rapists et al and further save other vulnerable women and girls.

We do sincerely believe that revisiting the rape law of Liberia for strengthening, in furtherance of tougher measures against rapists and those who facilitate “out-of-court” settlement would, to a greater extent, serve as deterring preventive measures against the commission of such heinous crime against “humanity”.

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