The Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) in collaboration with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) on Wednesday, December 5, ended a week-long validation of the simplified version of the Domestic Violence Act in Monrovia.
The validation exercise is part of activities marking this year’s 16 Days of Activism from November 25 to December 10 and includes Human Rights Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is a campaign against gender-based violence.
The campaign serves as a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
The international campaign originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.
The Domestic Violence Act, which is still at the Legislature pending its passage, is being implemented based on Executive Order #92, which was issued by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and criminalizes domestic violence. It will expire at the end of the year.
In spite of Madam Sirleaf’s issuance of Executive Order #92, the Domestic Violence Bill was not signed by lawmakers of the 53rd Legislature as required by the Liberian Constitution.
The Constitution calls for lawmakers to sign a United Bill and forward same to the President before it comes into law.
Madam Sirleaf’s decision to sign the document into law was a necessary action provided under the Constitution to have a law that would criminalize domestic violence against women, men and children.
AFELL and partners, including IRC, embarked on the exercise to simplify the Domestic Violence Act with the aim to make it readable for the illiterate population, especially those in rural parts of the country.
This process brought together high dignitaries from UN Women, UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund), MOGCSP, AFELL, IRC (International Rescue Committee), Liberia National Police (LNP) Women and Child Protection Section, INGOs (International non-governmental organizations), NGOs (Non-governmental organizations), CSOs (Civil Society Organizations), and community leaders.
Cllr. Zeor Bernard, Advisor to AFELL President, said gender-based violence (GBV) remains a major threat to the progress of women and girls in the country.
Bernard said that it was necessary to simplify the law so it would touch the most vulnerable in society, “because laws are not made for the elite; rather, the ordinary people who are prone to coming into conflict with the law.”
Cllr. Bernard expressed confidence in the level of work members of AFELL were doing through legal advocacy for women, thereby grading their progress at 50 percent.
She has meanwhile called on Liberian men to join their female counterparts in the fight against GBV in the country, where women would be considered as men’s counterpart.
Cllr. Bernard then recommitted AFELL’s commitment to work with relevant institutions, including the Legislature, to ensure the passage of the Act that is still lingering at that august body.
Other GBV taskforce partners also encouraged their colleagues to advocate for the passage of the Domestic Violence Act by practicing accountability in their daily lives and at home, workplaces, communities and the country at large.
IRC’s Acting Women and Child Protection Coordinator, Mrs. Anita Krubo Tokpa Monger, reaffirmed IRC’s commitment to support the fight against gender-based violence in Liberia.
In a related development, IRC in collaboration with GBV actors, will today, Friday, December 7, embark on testing the simplified version of the Domestic Violence Act.
According to IRC, the simplified version of the Act will be taken to community people to test their understanding and response to the document.
The testing will, accordingly, be done in Todee, rural Montserrado County, and West Point Township simultaneously, as part of the 16 Days of Activism.
IRC’s participation in this initiative is funded by Irish Aid, as part of its gender advocacy work to reduce gender-based violence in Liberia.