The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for a swift investigation and trial of a rape case involving a 3-year-old survivor in line with measures in place for handling children in contact with the law, both as victims and perpetrators.
It can be recalled that a 15-year-old boy in Gbarpolu County admitted raping a 3-year-old girl using a razor blade to cut her private part to enable him to penetrate.
In Liberia, the fight against rape has become a major challenge even though the rape law calls for anyone convicted of rape to spend not less than ten years in prison.
With the intention of making a tough law to end Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) against women and girls, the issue of rape was also declared a non-bailable offense, but the issue of police and family members comprising the act has set the basis for its increase thus leading women groups to call for a corruption-free justice system that will adjudicate cases of rape and SGBV to help minimize or eliminate the practices.
Lila O. Gad, UNICEF Representative to Liberia in a press release on August 17, 2020, expressed shock over the rape of a three-year-old girl in Gbabolu County by an 18-year-old high school student.
Gad, having come across the news, warned that the identity of the survivors of rape and sexual abuse should be protected and every effort should be made to preserve them anonymous and full recovery from this ‘horrendous act.’
“UNICEF is particularly concerned about how children, especially girls, are the majority of victims/survivors of SGBV in Liberia. In 2019, at least 70 percent of reported cases of rape through the GBV IMS were girls between the ages of 12–17 years old. Moreover, this recent incident shows how children as young as 3 years old are victims of this gruesome act, and increasingly more adolescent boys are arrested as suspects,” she said.
“Unfortunately,” Gad said, “Liberia has already experienced increased vulnerabilities of children and women as victims of SGBV. During the Ebola epidemic (2014-2015), there were increased reports of sexual violence against women and children, especially girls; increased number of adolescent girls becoming pregnant and eventually dropping out of school. Thus UNICEF and partners are concerned about how the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the preventive measures are having an adverse impact on women and children.”
She said the efforts of the Government of Liberia under the leadership of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and partners to end Sexual and Gender-Based Violence against girls and women are welcomed and the communities and their leaders should support mitigation measures to avoid any future stigma for survivors and their families.
Gad reaffirmed UNICEF’s and partners’ continued support to the Government and the civil society to address violence against girls and women in Liberia and to ensure their safety both within the confines of their homes and in public places.
She, however, urged the community dwellers, religious leaders, and decision-makers to support the efforts to end Sexual and Gender-Based Violence against girls and women by putting an end to the culture of silence as a first step for making a change.
Gad said UNICEF together with other UN agencies (UN Women, UNDP, UNFPA, UN OHCHR, and UNHCR) are delivering as one body in addressing violence against women and girls through the Spotlight Initiative in Liberia, supporting the Government of Liberia with funding from the European Union.
Further, the Government of Sweden continues to support UNICEF in child protection including on SGBV.
UNICEF in Liberia works closely with key government ministries (MOGCSP, MOJ, MOH, and MOYS) and CSOs to ensure child victims/survivors receive child-centered and gender-sensitive multi-disciplinary services to ensure their long-term recovery. UNICEF is also working closely with community-based groups (including child welfare committees, GBV observatories, and the Liberian Children Forum) to raise awareness on SGBV and address gender inequitable norms and values that are detrimental to children, girls, and boys.”