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Target resources to rape survivors

-U.S. Embassy urges government

The United States Embassy near Monrovia says taking practical actions such as establishing an SGBV call center and providing resources for survivor support will demonstrate the Government of Liberia’s resolve in fighting endemic rape in the country.

“We urge the Government to target resources to survivors, take a strong stand against female genital mutilation, and ensure swift and transparent prosecution”, says the Embassy in statement posted on its website on Monday, 31 August.

“In responding to SGBV, we must listen to the voices of the survivors and their allies, voices which have been suppressed too long and too often. We underscore the importance of protecting the rights to peacefully exercise freedoms of expression, petition, and assembly.”

It emphasizes that the U.S. Embassy stands with all those who have joined to fight sexual- and gender- based violence in the country, stressing that preventing and addressing violence against women, girls and others who are vulnerable is a human rights imperative, not only in Liberia, but globally.

However, it notes that ending SGBV will require active, persistent, and above all, unified leadership from policymakers, health practitioners, community and faith-based groups, law enforcement and civil society. “From rape to intimate partner violence to harassment and intimidation of activists, SGBV remains pervasive, and no country has ended it. SGBV threatens the health and safety of survivors and is a barrier to social and economic development.”

The U.S. Embassy reveals that through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), it partners with Liberians to address SGBV in all its forms and to share best practices and lessons learned.

The statement continues that USAID’s “My Voice Platform” launched in June 2020 in Margibi County receives SMS messages or phone calls from victims of SGBV to provide instant referral to support services, and that USAID’s advocacy has resulted in the collection and inclusion of SGBV data, including information on female genital mutilation and domestic violence, in the 2019-2020 Liberia Demographic and Health Survey (LDHS) to help inform effective responses to the problem.

It adds that International Narcotic Law embedded advisors work alongside Liberian counterparts in the Liberia National Police to offer technical assistance on investigation of SGBV cases, while providing consultative support to attorneys in the Liberian SGBV unit on prosecution of SGBV cases and to court personnel on timely and appropriate processing.

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The U.S. government’s annual “16 Days of Activism Against GBV” campaign each November highlights success stories and work yet to be accomplished on SGBV around the world, including in Liberia, it says.

The statement recalls that last week, concerned Liberian citizens peacefully and passionately called attention to sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV), protesting the high incidence of rape cases in Liberia, the impunity of perpetrators and the lack of support for survivors.

At the same time the U.S. Embassy commends the efforts of President George M. Weah in putting forth a well-considered Roadmap to End Sexual and Gender-based Violence that includes a comprehensive prevention strategy and commitment to funding for various ministries to support the strategy.

“As Liberians move forward to turn last week’s demonstrations into robust action against SGBV”, it says, the United States will continue to support the people and Government of Liberia in fighting this scourge.

President George Manneh Weah is optimistic that Liberia can overcome the scourge of rape but it would require unity of purpose and deliberate focus amongst all Liberians on what can be collectively done.

President Weah on Monday, 31 August received a roadmap dossier from the inter-ministerial taskforce on SGBV at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town.

According to the Executive Mansion, the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce was constituted by the President on July 29, 2020 with a mandate to put into place a technical team comprising relevant stakeholders who will regularly discuss, consult and provide concrete and enforceable recommendations on enhancing the fight against SGBV.

“Rape is a serious issue that needs to be weeded out of society,” the President is quoted as saying. “There must be a zero-tolerance on rape and all forms of SGBV. We must protect our girls, boys and women. It is paramount we do so without fear or favor”, he adds.

Mr. Weah notes, “As President of Liberia, it is my responsibility to lead all efforts to address social and societal irregularities and threats that befall our people or any segment of it. I have stated on many occasions that, as Feminist-in-Chief, I have zero tolerance for Sexual and Gender Based Violence. And I mean it.”

According to the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce Chair, Gender Minister Williametta E. Saydee-Tarr, the roadmap document comprises findings and recommendations in the short, medium and longtime to address and possibly weed out rape beginning September 2020 to September 2022.

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