Activists Call for Permanent Domestic Violence Legislation

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Campaigners march with placards pushing for legislation to end domestic violence.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) on Tuesday, November 27 hosted a program in Monrovia commemorating the International 16 Days of Activism Campaign to end gender-based violence. The event was held under the global theme, “End Gender-based Violence in the World of Work,” and on the national theme, “End Gender-based Violence in Workplaces, Schools, and Communities: Take Action and Promote Violence-Free Places in Liberia.”

The Ministry of Gender, Social and Children Protection (MoGSCP) Assistant Director for Gender-based Violence (GBV), Simeon O. Kweie, recalled that from January – December, 2017, the country recorded a total of 1,685 GBV cases with sexual violence accounting for 69 percent, of which survivors were children less than 18 years.

According to him, 1,838 cases were recorded from January-October, 2018. Of this number, sexual violence amounted to 81.6 percent (1,496), while the total raped constituted 63.5 percent (1,176); child rape accounted for 57.4 percent (1,053). Of all recorded GBV cases, women and girls accounted for 97.4 percent (1, 792), and males were 2-5 percent (46).

He said violence against women and girls remained a critical issue in Liberia, and has been on the increase despite substantial progress and achievement in human development since the end of the country’s civil war.

“Children, especially girls, are subjected to sexual violence, including rape, abuse, harassment and exploitation, citing harmful cultural and traditional practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) that are  widely practiced in Liberia,” he said.

Tuesday’s event commenced with a parade from the IRC’s main office in Sinkor, down Tubman Boulevard to the Monrovia Christian Fellowship Center on 9th street, followed by a program addressing GBV and calling on policy makers to pass legislation against domestic violence.

Over 250 individuals from IRC, the MoGCSP, and partner organizations attended the event.

In a welcome statement, IRC’s Acting Women and Child Protection Coordinator, Anita Monger, said the 16 Days of Activism is celebrated every year all over the world where women speak out against the prevalence of gender-based violence and call for action to protect the rights of women and girls.

Mrs. Monger called on Liberians, irrespective of status, to speak with one voice that GBV must stop. IRC has played a key role, in collaboration with the MOGCSP and other stakeholders in the passage of the Domestic Violence Bill that was signed into law for a one-year period by former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf through Executive Order #92, since it has not been signed by lawmakers of the 53rd Legislature.

Tuesday’s event called on lawmakers to sign the Domestic Violence Law to become permanent. The IRC, in collaboration with the MOGCSP and the Association of Female Lawyers in Liberia, supported the simplification of the Domestic Violence Law to prepare a layperson’s copy of the bill that could be understood by people at all levels.

This processes aimed to ensure that citizens are not only knowledgeable about their rights under the bill, but also mobilize to demand policy makers to permanently pass the Domestic Violence Law. 16 Days of Activism is observed annually from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to December 10, Human Rights Day.

It was initiated in 1991 by the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute. Since 1991, women rights organizations and activists continue to commemorate the day.

With funding from Irish Aid, the IRC implements two projects — Giving Girls Choices and She Leads — providing clinical and psycho-social services to survivors of GBV through five One Stop Centers as well as community-based programming in the communities around the centers to prevent and respond to GBV, through community activism, empowerment and service delivery.

The five One Stop Centers are located  at Star of the Sea (West Point), Duport Road (Paynesville), Redemption Hospital (New Kru Town), James N. David Junior (J.D.J.) Hospital (Paynesville), and Hope for Women Hospital (Paynesville) in Montserrado County.

The community program focuses on reducing women’s vulnerability to violence through increasing their access to and control over economic resources, engaging men and boys in individual positive behavioral change and supporting women and girls’ rights through advocacy.

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