The Liberia Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (LICHRD), a local civil society organization, over the weekend officially launched the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) project.
The project is being funded by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) that seeks to increase respect for access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, which centers on the fundamental right for all women and girls to have the right to decide over their own body.
RFSU is a Swedish State Agency committed to the promotion of Sexual and Reproductive health rights in Sweden and in other countries.
Sam Nimely, LICHRD Program Coordinator, said that the project seeks to address fundamental issues that includes safe and legal abortion in the country.
LICHRD is a member of regional and international networks. It is a member of the West African Human Rights Defenders’ Network, and member of the Pan African Human Rights Network.
Nimely said as a result of this problem, there are complicated and untimely deaths of most women, who practice unsafe and illegal abortion in their communities and other places.
He said some of the women have gone to the extent of using unwanted substances just to get rid of the pregnancy.
“If you look at the Penal Code (law) that talks about abortion, something needs to be done, because when we are implementing the project, we will work with people, who have the legal knowledge to count on their advice and consultancy on these issues,” Nimely said.
“The marriage law,” he said, “needs to be revisited, because the constitution talks about 18 years as the age of maturity, but the customary law is saying that at 16 years a girl should be prepared for marriage.”
Nimely said there is a need to harmonize those laws, “and this is a problem, because most traditional people and others take advantage of the customary law and marry to underage children.”
He also spoke of the need to harmonize these laws for girl children to focus on their education, instead of early marriage, because the law is also contributing to forced and early marriages.
Mrs. Roseline Thomas Richards, Co-chair of the LICHRD Board, called on members of the coalition to commit themselves to their ambition and achieve together.
Mrs. Richards reminded her colleagues that the country is still challenged in dealing with ‘highly entrenched cultures, and dreaded social norms practiced’ before and now.
She said these challenges have and continue to bedevil the collective progress, and have narrowed the path to achieving a sense of bodily integrity or well-being, and saddled the overall growth and development as a people and country, thus leading to infringements upon rights to information and sexual and reproductive health rights.
Elizabeth Harleman, Head of Development Cooperation at the Swedish Embassy near Monrovia, said that the launch of the project is an example of Sweden at work pursuing common goals for development assistance to Liberia.
Madam Harleman said the Embassy is pleased that RFSU has identified Liberia as one of the priority countries for its support.
She said RFSU’s support to local CSOs to strengthen SRHR response complements the embassy’s existing work in the area.