Several women heading a campaign for the prosecution of perpetrators behind Liberian girls being trapped in Lebanon, have expressed disappointment in female lawmakers and advocacy groups for their lack of concern for the girls.
According to them, 14 of the girls have been brought home and one has died.
Expressing frustration when they converged near the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia yesterday to petition the US Government to get involved in addressing the plight of the girls taken to Lebanon, the women including Mamensie Kabba and Tetee Gebro said they were surprised that female legislators and others in non-governmental circles are not showing any concern for the girls.
The small group of women assembled at the embassy to present the petition pointed out that the information has been in the media for a protracted period of time and women’s groups in the country are aware, but to their disappointment not any of them has expressed the need to put pressure on government to give consideration to the problems affecting the girls.
The women claimed that in spite of the current government being headed by a woman and women holding many positions in the government, they are helping to perpetuate poverty on the population so that girls will engage in sex slavery instead of seeking the welfare of women.
They said the absence of many women during the petition and their silence on the matter clearly manifests the fact that women with opportunities have no interest in the less privileged ones.
The women who were dominated in number by concerned men for the “Bring our girls back” campaign at the US Embassy said they will not be discouraged by the failure of privileged women to show concern, but will continue the struggle until the US Government and other partners hear their voices.
Some members of the group were heard saying that they will reciprocate lack of concern in 2017 for those in elected positions.
In their petition to the US Ambassador Deborah R. Malac, the advocacy group said it has been established that some Lebanese nationals in Liberia have trafficked many Liberian girls to Lebanon to be used as sex and domestic slaves.
The women did not clearly state those who are connected, but they claimed that certain Liberians and Lebanese are involved with the trafficking of the girls. They accused the government of being reluctant to act on the allegations of trafficking.
They recalled that the UN General Assembly Resolution 55/25 prohibits human trafficking and calls for punishment for anyone caught in the act, and that Liberia is a signatory to this resolution.
The women called on the United States Government, which they described as a powerful nation that respects human rights, to prevail on the Government of Liberia to bring the rest of the girls from Lebanon.
They also called on the American Government to prevail on the Liberian Government to reunite those girls already repatriated to their families and not continue to hold them in one location for such a long time.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act passed in 2000, the group said, should be used by the US to directly intervene to rescue the girls both in Lebanon and Liberia.
They also urged the US Government to prevail on the Liberian Government to stop delaying the case and to bring charges against those responsible for the alleged trafficking.
The women and men in the advocacy group also called on the US Government to ask the Liberian Government to provide information on the whereabouts of one Abass Debes, owner of the Speedo Printing Press, whom they alleged government has described as a person of interest in the case.
Contacts made to several women’s organizations for comments including the Female Legislative Caucus and the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) proved futile except for the Ministry of Gender and Child Protection.
When contacted, Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassel said Government through the Ministry of Labor has played its role by bringing home 14 of the girls who were taken to Lebanon.
She said those whose documents are yet to be processed and others who did not want to come are the ones who are still in Lebanon.
Minister Cassel said she did not see any reason why the advocacy group had to go to the United States Embassy, but should have gone to the Lebanese Embassy to raise the concern.
Meanwhile, the Press and Public Affairs Officer of the US Embassy, Sally Hodgson, received the petition and assured the group that she will deliver it to Ambassador Malac.
She said they at the embassy have already begun discussions on the matter and will be looking up to the Liberian Government to act in order to bring to justice perpetrators associated with trafficking of the girls to Lebanon.