Youth – led rights group Action for Justice and Human Rights (AjHR) is proposing series of measures that it thinks will help to stop the “cruel act” of sexual violence perpetrated predominately against children and women, ranging from tough legislations to robust judicial actions and community involvement.
At a press conference Tuesday, 18 June, AjHR Executive Director Satta Sheriff called on the Legislature and the Judiciary to join the fight, recommending that instead of amending the rape law, “we must work to improve our judiciary system,” expand the jurisdiction of the sexual offense court Criminal Court “E” and increase the number of judges it has.
“This cruel act of violence will only stop when practical steps are taken to ensure the survivors are supported and the perpetrators of abuse are brought to justice. The time to act is now!” she says.
AjHR expresses deep concern about the increase in sexual violence cases in Liberia, adding that it believes that the Judiciary and Legislature play a critical role in the fight against sexual violence here.
However Miss Sheriff voices observation that the over crowdedness of the docket of Criminal Court “E” is one of the major reasons for delay in access to justice for survivors.
Further, she says many survivors have never accessed justice due to financial constraints, lack of due diligence and political will coupled with low implementation of the Rape Law.
“We encourage parents, community leaders, CSOs, religious groups and everyone to join the fight against sexual violence. Rape is everybody business,” she continues.
According to Miss Sheriff, AjHR remains committed to advocating and ensuring the protection of every human rights and to the fight against sexual violence in Liberia.
She alarms that almost 90% of rape victims are children.
“It is disheartening to note that 803 Sexual Gender-Based Violence cases were reported from a single quarter (January to March 2019),” she explains.
In that report, Miss Sheriff notes that rape alone constituted 513 cases, but only 216 perpetrators were arrested while over 578 perpetrators still allegedly remain on the run.
“The saddest fact is that, out of the 803 SGBV cases, 605 were cases of children under 17 years. This is unacceptable and beyond pathetic,” she adds.
As an institution, Miss Sheriff says AjHR demands justice for every victim/survivor affected by the harsh reality of the sexual violence situation in Liberia.
She announces AjHR’s commitment in standing stand with the parents of the late Odell Sherman to demand full medical autopsy on the remains of the victim.
Further, she says AjHR stands with the late Yatta Kamara who was allegedly raped to death, calling for full investigation into Yatta’s death.
“We stand with the 15 and 13 years old that were gang raped to death, the 5 years, 3 years, and 2 years old girls, including the 6 other males reported in Ministry of Gender SGBV report and all those who were sexually abused,” she stresses.By Winston W. Parley