The Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Julia Duncan Cassell, has observed that the issue of rape remains a major challenge to the government as children are being the direct victims on a daily bases.
Minister Cassell made the observation at the official launch of ActionAid’s Safe Cities for women and girls campaign held in Paynesville Town Hall recently. She disclosed that the ages of rape victims show that over 90 percent of rape cases are children. She urged Liberian women to stand firm to win the fight against rape and all forms of crimes against children and women.
The government, she said, is working to ensure that Sexual Gender Base Violence (SGBV) against women and girls comes to an end.
She added that despite all efforts exerted by government, children are still victims of rape and women also continue suffering from SGBV.
“With all the efforts, SGBV is still on the increase in the country at an unacceptable rate where 1,175 cases were recorded in 2013 and more than 1,500 cases in 2014 with a total of 14 deaths that resulted from rape in the last two years, Minister Cassell indicated.
She called on all Liberians to work together to ensure that women and girls are free from being attacked and that sexual harassments against them are stopped.
She mentioned that many women and girls who are victims of rape and harassments do not have the means to take perpetrators to justice so they are left with no alternative but to live with pain in their hearts.
“Enough is enough, and therefore we will stand up to defend our children and women so that they can live a better life by ensuring that we have safe cities for them,” she declared.
At the same time, ActionAid Country Director, Korto Williams, said the issue of violence against women and girls is critical to the extent that women around the world have organized themselves to track violence in urban and public spaces.
Madam Korto pledged her organization’s support to ensure that massive awareness is taken to the campuses of universities, urban areas and public spaces to create safe cities for women.
“Women around the world have recognized that people’s rights are violated everyday either based on the lack of social services, the lack of gender social services or the culture of abuse where people believe that women are objects that can be raped, beaten upon or sexually harassed,” she said.
For this too, she said ActionAid has taken up the challenge to stop the issue of “sex for grades at various campuses, mainly on the campuses of the universities where the girls on the other hand want to obtain a degree.”
She said ActionAid-Liberia about two years ago did a research which revealed that transactional sex was a serious problem at various university campuses around the country.
Madam Williams noted that ActionAid and women around the world set May 20 as International Safe Cities Day to highlight issues based on the context of each country.
For Liberia, she said the Safe Cities program is highlighting the areas of the lack of gender responsive social services, public services as well as how do these services interrupt them in exercising their rights as women.
According to her, she and her team have been working on the program for the last seven years leading up to May 20 which starts the real implementation of a three-year campaign.
“This is very historic when it comes to working in the interest of women and girls.”
The three year project seeks to work with women and adolescents from the universities and community dwellers that know the realities of what was happening at the schools and in the communities.
“It is very important to have Safe Cities because if the cities are dark, it becomes insecure for the women and girls as well as the men and boys.”
She said if safe cities are not created, people cannot live comfortably therefore Madam Korto has stressed the need for every human to live in safe cities with electricity to enable them to go about their regular activities.