Sabotaging the Legacy: The Betrayal of Women

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As President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s second term winds down, Liberians are anxious for evidence of her positive legacy. Liberia’s and Africa’s first female president faces an imperative to drastically changethe socioeconomic and security landscape in which Liberian women exist, and compel governments across the world to follow suit.

Success in the area would constitute worthy payback to the many women here and abroad who supported Madam Sirleaf with their prayers, promotion, funding, ballots and motherly manipulation (unbeknownst to the then candidate,many women hid their young sons’ voter registration cards to prevent them from voting for CDC, in 2005).

We are quick to acknowledge that some progress has been made: Liberianwomen now have equal rights to land ownership;girls’enrolment and retention in elementary through high school has sharply increased;thousands of fistula victims have been healed through Mercy Ships and other organizations; and strong laws against sexual and gender based violence have been ratified.

And yet, countless women and girls daily fall victim to rape by close family members, associates, or complete strangers,at home or on the street – only to be betrayed by a Government that denies them recoursethrough refusal to enforce the law –a Government where women have the highest authority.

The last two years alone have seen a litany of bailouts, waivers and Presidential pardons against convicted rapists and pedophiles – Liberian and Lebanese, young and old. Those aged 65 through 81 were pardoned by President Sirleaf herself,at Christmas, on grounds of poor health and good behavior.

We are appalled atthe President’s decision, given that the elderly rapists pardoned were not too frail to violate a child, and given thatthere clearly are no little girls to rape in jail, hence their‘good behavior’.If the President were looking for someone to pardon, could she not have chosen a Red Light rogue? They need second chances too. Instead, she let a predator back on the loose!

It is alsospineless and evil of Judge Ceaineh Clinton Johnson to release(on meager bail) Lebanese rapist, on the basis of possible mental instability, when they clearly had the presence of mind to video tape their sexual crimes against Liberian girls, traffic and sexually exploit young Moroccan women. This sends a message across Africa, that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her government could not care less about women in Liberia or anywhere.

It is already widely known how much contempt the Lebanese have for Liberians. They would never, for example, allow a Liberian man to marry one of their daughters – because, to them, we are dirt. And yet, it is not enough that our government, our president, continues to allow them to hold our economy in their firm grasp – but they get to abuse our daughters, too? This is an outrage!

International statistics show that at least one in every three women and girls has been, or will be, sexually violated in her lifetime. The statistics may be higher in postwar Liberia, where women were raped with machetes, flash lights or other objects; or forced by rebels to submit to rape by male family members, on threat of death.Some wear the pain and disgrace all over their faces; others have mastered the art of hiding it. But the statistics remain: at least one in every three women walking the streets today is torn to shreds on the inside, with little hope of justice.

President Sirleaf and Judge Clinton Johnson are only two women. If joined by a third, which one could we guess has been raped? Which one sexually abused or battered by a man? And if a woman has been through such abuse, is it not intuitive that she would help someone who shares that experience?

Instead, our esteemed head of state and her honor the judge have spat in the faces of women across this land, handing them over to predators at the going rate of a US$25,000 bond. One wonders what, in Judge Clinton Johnson’s view, is the price of a woman’s dignity?

This newspaper deems the release of these incarcerated rapists an act of treason, and holds President Sirleaf chiefly responsible.

President Sirleaf must dismiss Judge Clinton Johnson, reverse her rulings on the cases in question, extradite and incarceratethe Lebanese rapists, orresign.

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