Through a newly launched Policy Brief, the Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL) with support from USAID through LAVI has proposed a number of measures to help combat rape and other sexual gender – based violence (SGBV) issues in Liberia.
Based on its analytical considerations presented Wednesday, 4 November in Sinkor, WONGOSOL proposes sustained policy engagement and influencing advocacy with the inter-ministerial taskforce to follow-up on the implementation of the anti – rape and SGBV reform commitments made by the government.
It also proposes the need to advocate for a holistic judicial reform addressing the legal, institutional and human resource functions and the need to prioritize engaging men and boys and providing economic empowerment to women and girls to reduce power imbalance in homes which it says, most often result in intimate partner violence.
Making the presentation on behalf of WONGOSL, Ms Lena T. Cummings Ms. Cummings suggests the need to become more proactive to engage government, adding that it should not be seen as the people’s thing, but a national issue for all.
“Because the virus of rape is not running behind … women and girls; it’s adding boys and all into it. We reported that from our own work we did, we have five of those cases,” she says.
According to her, during the Covid period between March to September this year, the Ministry of Gender recorded 992 rape cases out which 22 accused were convicted while the rest are pending court trial.
She notes that when WONGOSOL did its own study over that same period working in Montserrado and Margibi Counties, it also documented 109 cases.
63 percent of the 109 cases were documented in Montserrado, according to Ms. Cummings, while about 40 percent of the cases were documented in Margibi.
She reveals that five percent of the cases were male survivors, and 104 accounted for female survivors. She notes that the study found two major violence which includes intimate partner violence and sexual violence.
She adds that the natures of rape cases were mainly gang rape, statutory rape, and incestuous rape, as well as rape by community members and duty bearers such as police, prophet and guardians. “This suggests communities and homes are gender – unsafe – environment for women, girls and babies,” she says further.
In the wake of these rapes incidents, Ms. Cummings indicates that the two – day National Anti – Rape and SGBV conference held at the Ministerial Complex from 8 to 9 September this year following the three – day record anti – rape protest represents crucial reform action by the government.
She recalls that during the conference, a road map was developed to serve as a working tool to address all forms of SGBV within the short, medium and long term from September 2020 to September 2022.
Potential challenges identified by the study include policies and politics, as Ms. Cummings points to the colossal culture of lack between policy or laws and practice and demonstrated political [will], a major risk to the implementation of the road map.
Political will for the judicial systems reform is also cited as a challenge, specifically looking at the structural challenges, quantity and quality of human resource and system rigidity as well as systemic corruption that back survivors in their path to accessing justice and undermine speedy trial.
Giving the overview earlier, Ms. Eliza Dahn says the event is intended to communicate a policy brief prepared by the Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia with support from USAID through LAVI.
She says during the presentation on the major content of the policy brief, it provides evidence and analysis regarding SGBV statistics, laws, policies, debates and plans.
She continues that within a frame of analytical considerations of evidence, WONGOSOL mapped – out potential challenges to implement the anti – rape and SGBV roadmap.
Additionally, she indicates that it presents breakthrough recommendations to the government and advocacy actions to CSOs and activists on mitigating the challenges and successfully implementing the roadmap.
Launching the Policy Brief, Deputy Gender Minister Madam Alice Howard says the work speaks volume, saying it talks a lot about what the president has already declared an emergency.She notes that data wakes people up, adding that this is why “we are here today to agree with WONGOSOL for the work and the donor that gave them the funding to do this project.”
Minister Howard stresses the importance of continuously doing such project, expressing hope that the study could help solve the problem in Liberia.
“I take this time to launch this Policy Brief and it be a working tool for us to use in this country, going forward,” Minister Howard says.
In remarks, Madam Tenneh Johnson from the SGBV Unit at the Ministry of Justice says the ministry has prosecuted and won five cases from January this year for Montserrado alone, and there are lot of indictments on the table.
She notes that there’s a need to work with the actors in an effort to fast track those cases. Representing Carter Center, Madam Cerue Konah Garlo recommends that in spite of all the laws and policies in place, anti – rape and SGBV dialogue should be taken to the community level to have community – led approaches to combat SGBV, especially rape.
“Because people in the community, especially men, how do they see women? What’s the value system they have for women? Right, sit with them and dialogue. I think the best way to do it is to have a lot of dialogue at the community level,” she concludes. By Winston W. Parley