Liberia: Man, 39, Charged with Statutory Rape

The alleged perpetrator, Sylvester Wesseh

… As police say, he admitted to committing the crime 

A 39-year-old man in Harper, Maryland County, has been sent to court for allegedly raping a 16-year-old female. 

The alleged perpetrator, Sylvester Wesseh, who works as a nurse aid at the JJ Dossen Hospital, in Harper has been charged with the crime of statutory rape, which is in violation of the revised penal code of Liberia. 

Rape, according to Liberian law, is a second-degree felony and is punishable with a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment. However, in the case of minors, it is a felony of the first degree, which can garner a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The case came to light after the mother of the 16-year-old victim reported Wesseh for allegedly raping her daughter to the  Women, Children, and Social Protection section of the Liberia National Police in Harper. 

The mother, in her report, provided a detailed account of the incident to the police, stating that her daughter had confided in her about the assault.

According to the victim’s testimony, on the evening of August 17, she and her brother Diamond were on their way to buy mosquito coils when Wesseh coerced her into entering his house and there he raped her. 

“When we received the victim’s complaint, we had her sent to the hospital for medical examination, and the report that came in confirmed that she was raped,” the police said in its investigation report.

“Police investigation also established that Sylvester Wesseh admitted to committing the act and is now charged and sent to court on the charges of statutory rape as the victim is under the age of 18 years. 

Wesseh, who is currently behind bars at the Harper Central Prison, is just one of the many daily cases of statutory rape in the country.

The issue of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), particularly rape in Liberia, has reportedly been on the increase despite thousands of Liberians protesting against the crime in 2020 in a bid to draw local and international attention to the country’s alarming rate of sexual assault.

Rape has been a long-standing concern and, in 2020, as a result of the wave of anti-rape protests in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, President George Weah declared rape a national emergency and ordered new measures to tackle the problem after a recent spike in the number of cases in the country, but this has not stopped its increase. 

While the true number of rape cases are unknown as most rape incidents go unreported, activists say the number is strikingly high with girls under 18 being the most affected. A 2016 report by the United Nations Human Rights and Protection Service found rape and domestic violence were the second most commonly reported serious crimes in Liberia. The report called the number of reported rapes in all 15 counties “extremely high.”