The alarming rate of rape cases in Liberia continues to remain scaring with solution still far from reach. In 2013 so far, 1,730 cases have been recorded by the Government of Liberia, while hundreds more may go unreported.
According to the Liberian Government, through the Gender and Development Minister Julius Duncan Cassell, of the 1,730 cases reported, 90% of the victims are children-10 of whom had died either immediately or while undergoing treatment after abuse. Minister Cassell, presenting the statistics during the recent launch of 16 Days of Activism against SGBV, indicated that legal actions were only taken in 20 of the cases- just 1% cent without explanation as to why the others are left untried.
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who highlighted the issue of rape during her inauguration in 2006, acknowledged the struggle against rape because she has been a part of it. “I recall the inhumanity of confinement, the terror of attempted rape.” Organizations like the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) led effective women rights campaigns and proper penalties for rape, making such crime illegal with a proposal for life sentences for gang rape and child rape, thus a special chamber for handling rape issues was created.
With all these, accusing fingers continued to be pointed at the police for either doing little or not knowing how to deal with rape victims, compiling evidence and pursuing the perpetrators-a criticism the Liberia National Police seems not be to be appreciating with all that it has done to refer rape cases to court following preliminary investigations. The court, too, is criticized for not fast-tracking cases.
Despite rape survivors increasingly speaking out and seeking help, as awareness of rights increases, social taboos persist, while seeking justice does not always mean that justice is served. In the wake of all of these challenges confronting rape victims, advocates, as well as the justice system to include the police, the need for a robust and uncompromising strategy and action cannot be over-emphasized.
Efforts must be redoubled with full efficiency and effectiveness devoid of family inventions, as a way of discouraging such heinous crime. Amid the foregoing, there must be a meeting of the minds between the Executive and Judicial Branches of Government for such uncompromising and robust strategy to effectively battle rape of all sorts from the face of our land. Other than blaming the police, the court or whosoever, the success against rape in Liberia must be a national or collective effort backed openness, as international donors buttress our efforts.