…UN Women Country Rep. says
UN Women Country Representative, Madam Marie Goreth Nizigama, has said that from January to September this year, a total number of 2,018 incidents of Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) have been reported, of which 1,363 (67.5%) were rape cases.
Pearl Atuhaire, who proxied for Madam Goreth, said 70 percent of the rape cases, involved children below 17 years, while of the 2,018 cases, only 14 persons were convicted so far.
“This is appalling,” she said, adding, “This underlines the reason why we need to focus on protecting the rights of women and girls, as well as the marginalized and vulnerable groups.”
Atuhaire made the statement at program marking the celebration of the 71st International Human Rights Day and the end of 16 Days of Activism against Sexual and Gender Based Violence, held in Gbarnga, Bong County. The celebration, which brought together over 200 students, youth groups, CSOs representatives, United Nations organizations, government officials, as well as officials of foreign missions to Liberia, was held under the international theme; “Youth Standing Up for Human Rights,” and the national theme, “Empowering Youth to Stand Up for Human Rights.”
Atuhaire said the celebration is a great opportunity to re-affirm a call for action on the promotion of human rights, “but yet another opportunity to encourage youths and every individual to speak out, take a stand, act and make a difference to defend the rights of every girl and woman, man and boy, especially those who belong to the marginalized and vulnerable groups.”
She said the theme focuses on empowering youths to promote human rights; it is also important to also ponder on the rights of women and girls, and how they are being violated, starting from their homes, and extending into the public spaces.
“Violence affects women and girls everywhere, because it manifests through four main forms, including physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence,” Atuhaire said.
Atuhaire said violence remains one of the most systematic, widespread human rights violations worldwide with deep-reaching effects to survivors.
She said the government, in collaboration with local and international partners, has shown impressive commitment to tackling SGBV, especially rape, domestic violence, child marriages, and Female Genital Mutilation.
“Tackling violence against women and girls, especially the youths, is key to defending human rights, but is more essential for ensuring that they achieve education; are protected from the risks of maternal mortality, and contracting HIV, and that they have the ability, and are given safe environment to become self-sufficient,” Atuhaire told the gathering.
Charles Lawrence, Sweden Embassy Program Officer, Governance and Human Rights, said as the world celebrates 71 years since the signing of the universal declaration of human rights, they join the world to act for “zero tolerance of violence against women and girls.”
Lawrence described as serious challenge, gender-based violence to realize the rights of women and girls.
He recommended that public education about the Domestic Violence Act should be prioritized to support changes to traditional norms.
He said that Liberia youth made up the largest proportion of the country’s population.
Peter S. Bemah, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports for Technical and Vocational Training, expressed the hope that the celebration will be a time for individuals to reflect on the ultimately complex definition of rights in the context of Liberia’s history, while discussing the way forward for sustainable solution to violation of all forms of human rights.
Bemah said it is critical, to begin with the establishment of peace as the foundation for building a prosperous nation, because it frames the purpose for a commitment to human rights, as a government and as a nation.
Bartholomew B. Colley, Acting Chair of Independent National Commission on Human Rights, said it is necessary for Liberia to uphold the careful development universal human rights principals that sustain peace, justice, and sustainable development. To ensure more effective decision-making and to build greater trust and harmony across their nations, he added, the leaders of every society should listen to their people and act in accordance with their needs and demands.