— if President Weah fails to address their concern
Undeterred by previous state security brutality, the organizers of the just-ended nationwide anti-rape protest, has threatened to stream back into the nation’s streets if President George Weah government refused to take deliberate and visible steps to address the issue of rape and declare it ‘national emergency.’
The organizer, the Affiliation of Women and Child Rights Activists, said they intended to return to the streets in the next three weeks if their demands are not meet in the soonest possible time.
“We will mobilize social forces to return to the streets within three weeks. If the government does not take concrete steps to end this rape pandemic, we will be forced to return to the streets to demand solution. We need solutions now and there is no joke about this,” said Natalyn Omell Beh, one of the protest planners.
The three days protest, which saw thousands of Liberians on the street marching against rape and other acts of sexual and gender-based violence, comes amid the rapid increase in these crimes across the country, particularly 900 plus rape cases, within the first six months of this year.
As part of their demands, the group is calling on the legislature to deliver on their petition, beginning with a public hearing on rape and SGBV to increase budgetary allotment for the Ministries of Health, Gender, Children and Social Protection and the Liberia National Police to empower these structures to combat the scourge of rape.
The threat of another demonstration comes just days after President Weah has defended his decision not to personally receive the anti-rape protesters’ petition during their three-day protest last week, stressing that it was the protesters that never wanted him receive their message.
The protesters had refused earlier to present their petition to Gender Minister Williametta Saydee-Tarr and her deputy Mamensie Kabba based on mistrust.
According to the President, his presence at the protest never mattered, as demanded by the protesters, as much as that the petition that should have been submitted to his deputies.
“Whenever you have issues, and you want to bring it to me and I cannot receive it, I have a deputy to receive it. So if you do not give your message to the deputy that I sent, then you do not want me to know what the issues are about,” President said on August 31.
In addition to these demands, the protest organizers also demanded that the President declares of rape as a national emergency and enforce proactive investigation into rape-related cases across Liberia, and the decentralization of Criminal Court E to address the prevalence of sexual violence to ensure victims have access sensitive justice.
“Also, ensure the amendment of the Domestic Violence Act to emphasize the gross violation of female genital mutilation across Liberia and ensure that such practice is criminalized and punishable; and that people accused of rape and perpetrators of such crime are tried in a court of competent jurisdiction, so as to understand the case index and ensure that prolonged pre-trial detainees access justice,” the group said.
The protest organizers are also pushing for the establishment of more safe homes across Liberia for victims of sexual abuse and that DNA Labs are equipped with specialized technicians.
“As well as the rape law and existing Liberian human rights laws are introduced as course on sexual violence in every institution of learning and ensure that charity, religious, government, and political parties enforce gender safeguarding policy to promote gender protection at informal and formal sectors of the working spaces,” the group demanded.