Shame: Another Type of Gender Based Violence

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Muffittee Panma and Helen Gardeah, two of the 14 young women who lost their legal battle against men who they alleged lured them to Lebanon

You might wonder why so many cases of gender based violence end up with ‘no head or tail’ (legal direction) after the victim reports it to the rightful authorities. Majority of the cases that are reported by victims can be won in court only if the domestic violence law were effective; it would cartel to punishing even those who compromise cases.

Keep these things in mind when you hear the words Gender Based Violence (GBV), they include intimate partner or spousal violence, rape and sexual assault, pedophilia, family rape, sexual cruelty and harassment, human trafficking and sexual exploitation and abuse especially of girls. A lot of cases of violence against women in Liberia go unreported because the justice system has a poor ‘case win’ when it comes to GBV; Families don’t want to waste their time or money on a lose-lose situation they say, “It is too humiliating for the victim.”

Like the recent case of the young women who were allegedly trafficked to Lebanon under false pretense and later forced to live hardship lives that was not part of their agreement in living a better one once there. After they returned to Liberia with the intervention of Ministry of Labor and immigration, they fought their alleged violators head on with the support of Ministry of Gender, Labor and Justice. Unfortunately, they could not win the intense battle against a privately ran law firm of lawyers that were hired by their alleged perpetrators. They lost their cases twice and each verdict was a humiliation to what had allegedly happened to each of them during their stay at Lebanon.

“The case was transferred to Bomi Hill because MOJ did not want any interference with the case. Madam Deddeh was the prosecutor. The first trail was a hung jury and the second one, we at Gender ministry were not present and learned it was completely thrown out and it is finished with. The case is no longer in court,” stated an employee and source at the Gender Ministry, department of Social Outreach.

Some of the young women were left bending their heads down low with no hope left afterwards, relocated from community to community to get away from the shame of losing their case and the new life that come when justice has been served.

How it all ended for the Trafficked young women from Lebanon 

Meanwhile, MOG was able to get the girls back on track way before their legal ordeal, to prepare them for the fresh start needed to fit back into Liberia’s already slow economy.

“We ran out of funds and complained to Ministry of Finance and Justice about it before their hearings. The money that they gave us for the 11, one was already here on ground, was for six months and we were giving them allowances of $150.00 USD per person; clothed them and did everything that you can think of. Some came sick and we had to treat them. Doctor Jallah would tend to them and send their bill and we couldn’t continue it,” stated madam Lywolo of Social Protection. “They signed for whatever we gave them each time so that they will not say that we did not do anything for them,”

According to Madam Lywolo, a final report was submitted and funding stopped way before the young women had their second case hearing, but there was some long term arrangements made for them.

“They came back to us and said they did not like how the first case ended and we were able to send them back to justice to do an appeal. We asked them what they wanted or wanted to do so we can give them, some said they were in school and wanted to complete and some wanted to sell. There were some who saw our offer as an opportunity and IMO (International Migration Organization) came in and said ok, we are not going to give you all money, for example we will continue your courses for another two or three years. If u wants to do business, we will fix the table, buy the market etc,” she added.

Many who have seen the young women since their court ordeal say “Since they lost their case, they are ok, we can see them.”

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