House Speaker Bhofal Chambers has assured protesters against rape that members of the 54th Legislature, seeing the urgency and quick need for addressing the issue, will soon bring the petition on the floor of the plenary to address it promptly and appropriately.
The petition was presented on August 25, 2020, by a large group of citizens under the banner, “Affiliation of Women and Child Rights Advocates” to Gbarpolu County District #2 Representative and Co-chair on the House Committee on Judiciary, Kanie Wesso, and Lofa County District # 2 Representative and Chairman on the House Committee on Gender, Julie Wiah.
On a local radio yesterday, Speaker Chambers said he appreciates the action of the citizens to call on the government to look into the issue of rape, but equally wants them to do so in the confines of the law. Speaker Chambers further said that the Legislature has already started working with the various line ministries to find a way forward to the rape issue.
“I want the protesters to express themselves rightfully. I heard that they intend to reach the residence of President George M. Weah to present their petition, which I think might have different intentions,” said Speaker Chambers.
“There are people in the crowd among the protesters who are trying to dilute the entire process of rape, but this is something that we are strongly working on. We want the citizens to remain calm and look up to us,” he said.
According to Speaker Chambers, the intention of the protesters to present their petition only to the President appears to label Liberia as a monarchial state.
“To seek only the President’s attention on national issues does not find the solution to the problem. You cannot go to the home of the President to influence him to pass a particular decree because Liberia is not a monarchy form of government,” he said.
But the protesters had earlier said that they did not trust officials of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. Thus, they demanded to hand-deliver their petition to President George Manneh Weah.
According to him, there is a need for citizens to work collectively with both the Executive and the Legislative branches of government to find solutions to national problems.
He added: “We would like to urge our citizens that we all have collective responsibilities to protect and ensure that this country enjoys peace and stability. If you intend to disrupt the peace of others, what is it that you want to achieve?”
Even though Liberia is a signatory to the international protocol that forbids capital punishment, Speaker Chambers intoned that this law has not been repealed but remains active in the books.
“We have on our books death penalty to remedy rape. Nobody should think that this is not in our law. It needs to be domesticated. But if the majority of the citizens want the death penalty law, it is something we can support, although many countries around the world do not do so nowadays,” he stated.
Following the National Flag Day holiday, anti-rape protesters began peacefully parading the streets of Monrovia, calling on the Government of Liberia to strengthen the justice system to allow rape survivors to get justice as a means of putting to end the harmful act against women, girls, and boys.
The protest went on peacefully on the first and second days but was disrupted by officers of the Liberia National Police and other state security officers who used tear gas and brutality to disperse the protesters on the third day. Regardless of the use of force, protesters remained persistent and continued till late afternoon on Thursday before adjourning.