Feminist-in-Chief President George Manneh Weah has announced stern actions towards curbing the surge in rape and other sexual crimes in Liberia with setting up of dedicated unit within the Liberia National Police to exclusively deal with Sexual Gender Base Violence (SGBV) cases.
According to an Information Ministry press release, President Weah spoke at a special stakeholders’ meeting on Wednesday, July 29, 2020. The aim of the meeting was to do an overview of the status of rape and other SGBV cases in the country.
The meeting follows a month-long engagement of the Government of Liberia’s Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on SGBV.
The Taskforce, Chaired by the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection and Co-Chaired by the Ministers of Justice and Finance and Development Planning, submitted preliminary findings to the Office of the President on July 18th, 2020 for his consideration and further mandate. Once conveyed to His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, he immediately responded, stressing the need to have a GoL-wide consultation meeting to address mitigating the scourge of rape, especially as it seemed to have surged during this COVID-19 Pandemic.
The meeting of key stakeholders which was called and Chaired by President Weah, brought together several other high profile government officials including Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor who Co-chaired the meeting. The Speaker of the House of Representatives Bhofal Chambers, the President Pro-Tempore Albert Chie and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Francis S. Kporkor Sr. attended in observance.
Cabinet members who attended included the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection Mrs. Williametta E. Saydee-Tarr, Justice Minister Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, Jr., Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel F. McGill, Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., Internal Affairs Minister, Varney A. Sirleaf, Minister of Youths & Sports, D. Zeogar Wilson, Information Minister, Eugene Lenn Nagbe, Labor Minister, Moses Y. Kollie, Minister of State without Portfolio, Trokon Kpui, and Presidential Legal Advisor Archibald Bernard. The City of Mayor of Monrovia, Jefferson T. Koijee, the Deputy Minister of Education Alton Kesselle and MGCSP’s Deputy Ministers Hassan Karneh and Parleh Harris were also present at the meeting.
During the meeting, President Weah expressed that the country is witnessing an alarming increase in Sexual and Gender Based Violence especially rape, during a time when we are at war with the ravaging Coronavirus Pandemic. According to the Liberian President, the crime of rape has risen to an unacceptable level in Liberia today. “Not only in the frequency of this terrible act, but also in the depraved and demonic methods used by the perpetrators of this violent crime, including the defilement of young children – even infants are murder”, he noted. “As President of Liberia, it is my responsibility to lead all efforts to address social and societal irregularities. As Feminist-in-Chief, I have stated on many occasions that I have zero tolerance for Sexual and Gender Based Violence. Let me re-emphasize that this Administration remains unrelentingly committed to curtailing this evil scourge”, the Liberian President assured the stakeholders and the public.
The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, along with the Ministers of Health & Justice, made detailed presentations on the state of affairs as it regards the fight against rape and other SGBV cases. Included in their presentations were the challenges faced within the fight, and recommendations to be considered for the surest ways of curbing the overall SGBV plague. After the presentations, the President then led the body into a period of discussion on what had been presented to them and, on how else the GoL can tackle the issues surrounding rape.
Prime amongst the suggestions were – the revision of the existing laws (Children’s, Rape, and Inheritance especially), for loopholes for possible amendments – for example – Amendment of the Rape Law to prohibit re-victimizing of survivors by posting their photos, calling their names in public etc.; considerations of building a new prison in the remotest area to be found, conditioned for hard labor, geared toward hosting convicted perpetrators of SGBV crimes; strengthening GoL’s funding support to the Gender, Justice and Health Ministries in order to reinforce their legal, well-being and health care support for survivors – including support to Safe Homes and One Stop Centers; the operationalization of the sex offenders registry and a specialized Gender Taskforce Unit within the Liberia National Police, same as the ERU or PSU, to specifically handle SGBV cases; the establishment of Community SGBV Monitors and the hosting of an Anti-SGBV National Consultation/Conference.
H.E. Dr. Weah availed his unflinching support for capital punishments for those violating minors and instructed that the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce structured a technical team with relevant stakeholders, to discuss, consult and flesh out a finalized roadmap on enhancing the fight against SGBV, to be submitted to him in the quickest time possible. The President also instructed the Finance Minister to purchase two DNA machines to assist prosecutors in dispensing justice to rape victims whether dead or alive.