The Mission Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), John Mark Winfield, has said that rape is not a “family matter” but is a serious crime and those who perpetuate the violence should be held accountable.
Rape has devastating effects on the victims and their communities, they often suffer lifetime damages, including physical and psycho-social trauma. It divides families and communities, Mr. Winfield explained.
He was addressing a one day National Stakeholders’ Dialogue conference on rape yesterday.
The conference is a culmination of eight Community Consultation Forums that were held in four counties – Montserrado, Margibi, Bong and Nimba, to determine the perspective of grassroots communities on the impact of rape and what could be done to stop it.
The aim of the one day conference was to reinforce ongoing advocacy efforts and influence policymakers to consider options for well-coordinated and sustainable solutions to the problem.
It was also intended to develop a strategy for grassroots community approach in the fight to end rape.
The conference, funded by USAID through IREX, was held in partnership with the Liberia Women’s Media Action Committee, (LIWOMAC) and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
It can be recalled between 2010 and 2012, incidents of rape in Liberia increased from 2,029 to 2,493, according to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection report.
Fifty-eight percent of rape cases reported in 2012 involved children between ages three months to 17 years. In the first two months of 2015, media reports catalogued some violent cases of alleged rape with at least two reported deaths (a 12-year-old girl in Brewerville and a 7-year-old girl in Tinker’s Village.
IREX with funding from USAID is in the sixth year of implementing the Civil Society and Media Leadership Program (CSML). CSML strives to ensure that the rights of women are respected and that women are equally and fairly represented in
It was inspired in part by a number of child rape deaths in Liberia, in particular, the case involving a 12-year old Brewerville girl who died in the middle of the night while her guardians were trying to get her to the hospital.
He said USAID firmly believes in the power of ordinary Liberians and community organizations to fix problems and make positive changes where they live. “That’s why we partners with IREX and LIWOMAC to host these forums and dialogues-to have leaders like you come together and develop a plan for how you can work at the community level to reduce the levels of rape in your communities,” he said.
The USAID Mission Director indicated Liberia has instituted an anti-rape law, and established a special court that is supposed to deal with rape cases only.
But while these laws and policies are in place to reduce the instances of Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Liberia, committed community leadership engagement are keys to making sure they are implemented effectively, said Winfield.
According to him, the solutions need to be multifaceted-there is no silver bullet for ending rape cases. Instead, “You’ll need to work with the community health officials, local law enforcement officials, religious and traditional leaders, local media, teachers to get involved in the process,” he told participants.
“I urge you now, don’t stop the good work. Keep up this momentum. Channel it to other issues that are planning to ensure your communities, like Sexual and Gender Based Violence. Let’s continue to ensure that our children, our girls, are protected and grow to live healthy, happy, and productive lives,” he indicated.
Serving as keynote speaker on the one day National Stakeholders’ Dialogue conference on rape, Senator of Bong, Madam Jewel Howard Taylor called on government to provide a safe environment for children; engage in employment and wealth creation as well as put in place strong laws that will discourage sex trade in the country.
Madam Taylor also indicated the government needs to provide education for females on good societal norms and create an environment which pays special attention to victims’ families and communities to encourage them to increase communities disdain for acts of violence.
In her keynote address, the Bong County Senator indicated that the mere fact that rape is an act done without the permission of someone leaves its victims with physical and emotional scars that may never heal, which she said it must be erased from the society.
Said Sen. Taylor: “It is clear stated today; based on the statistics available in Liberia and other parts of the world; that rape as a violent act is indeed a threat to survival and development of women the world over, but more so in underdeveloped, poor nations such as ours. Where women’s right and opportunities are limited as a result of societal norms and behaviors; it is therefore an uphill battle to keep women’s issues and concerns on the front burner of National concerns, especially in male dominated societies like ours.”
However, in spite of the difficulties, “I can safely say that the discussion on this topic 40 years ago would not have been a National discussion, so we are slowly moving forward, and are grateful because today rape can be reported, investigated, prosecuted and perpetrators can be punished up to maximum term of life imprisonment,” she said.
For their part, several rape victims who testify yesterday said that some of them were abuse badly, insulted by men and at the end leads to rape.
A-45-year old man who also testifies with tears running down his cheek said four men rape his wife in his present.
Some even suggested that government should past laws that killed the perpetrator and not putting them in jail because it will be meaningless to see them going to jail.