…Orders Finance Minister Samuel Tweah to purchase two DNA machines
President George Weah has order Finance Minister Samuel Tweah to begin arrangements for the purchase of two DNA machines for the prosecution of rape cases and other related SGBV crimes. Both machines are expected to cost the government approximately US600,000 as the one donated by UNMIL a few years ago, cost half of that amount.
According to President Weah, he is saddened about the increase in rape cases in the country including babies who have not even learned to talk.
“Not only in the frequency of this terrible act but also in the depraved and demonic methods used by the perpetrators of this violent crime, including the defilement of young children – even infants are murder. As President, it is my responsibility to lead all efforts to address social and societal irregularities. Therefore, I hereby order the Finance Minister to purchase two DNA machines to assist prosecutors in dispensing justice for rape victims.
President Weah, who is the country Feminist-in-Chief re-emphasizes that this administration remains unrelentingly committed to curtailing this evil scourge that has taken over the country. President Weah’s statement comes following engagement with the government Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on SGBV.
Why the need for DNA machines?
Though the DNA machine from UNMIL has been in the country for years, the only problem is, it has never been used. So, with the pending purchase of two machines, it Increases the likelihood of holding perpetrators accountable since DNA evidence carries more weight in court.
And over the past few months, the government has only been able to prosecute 107 SGBV cases tried in court, leading to 44 convictions and 42 acquittals from January to June. However, according to data from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, there were more than 500 reported cases of rape between January and March, suggesting that by June that number may have doubled, showing the government to be dangerously lagging in the processing of SGBV cases.
These acquittals case, according to SGBV campaigners, is happening at an alarming rate in the country due to the fact that persecutors rely on first-hand accounts and other evidence that leaves room for interpretation. The decision of these Judge comes against the background that many of those imprisoned for alleged rape, spent months, if not years, in jail awaiting trial.
However, there were other instances where ‘suspected’ rapists denied committing the act even when the clothes of girl he was accused of sexually defiling was soaked with blood or bodily fluid discovered in her private area. Echoing this sentiment, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection Williametta E. Saydee-Tarr sometime last year said the primary difficulty in prosecution SGBV cases in court has always been lack of proof: DNA evidence.
Current Rape Statistic
In recent years, and even during the COVID-19 situation, Liberia has seen an unprecedented spike in rape and other SGBV-related cases, something that has attracted the attention of the Country’s Feminist-In-Chief, Dr. Weah.
According to data from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, there were 182 cases of rape reported in January 2019, as compared to January 2020, when 172 rape cases were reported. In February 2020, there were 174 rape cases as compared to the same month in 2019, which recorded 169 cases of rape. In March 2020, there were 160 rape cases reported compared to the same month in 2019, which recorded 154 cases of rape.
The Gender Ministry data suggests that between 2019 and 2020 there was very little disparity between the number of rape cases reported each month during the first quarter of either year. And for a small population like Liberia, this means that within the first quarter of any given year, on average, more than five hundred women fall prey to rape, counting only the reported cases.
“Vows to act decisively”
He also availed his unflinching support for capital punishments for those violating minors and instructed that the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce structured a technical team with relevant stakeholders, to discuss, consult and flesh out a finalized roadmap on enhancing the fight against SGBV, to be submitted to him in the quickest time possible.
During the meeting, President Weah lamented how disturbed he “was over the uncalled-for rise in rape and SGBV cases in Liberia and called for widespread actions across the country that will nip to the bud the unacceptable frequency of sexual gender-based violence against women, including children as young as under two years.”
President Weah, who vows to act decisively against perpetrators, disclosed his unflinching support for capital punishments for those violating minors. He then instructed the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce to put into place a technical team that comprises relevant stakeholders who will regularly discuss, consult and provide concrete and enforceable roadmap on enhancing the fight against SGBV and to submit to him their findings as promptly as possible for decisive actions.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, along with the Ministers of Health & Justice, made detailed presentations on the state of affairs as it regards the fight against rape and other SGBV cases.
Chief amongst their presentation were – the revision of the existing laws (Children’s, Rape, and Inheritance especially), for loopholes for possible amendments: for example – amending the Rape Law to prohibit re-victimizing of survivors by posting their photos, calling their names in public, etc..
The taskforce also recommends for the construction of a new prison in the remotest area to be found, conditioned for hard labor, geared toward hosting convicted perpetrators of SGBV crimes; and strengthening GoL’s funding support to the Gender, Justice and Health Ministries in order to reinforce their legal, wellbeing and health care support for survivors.