Rape

Liberia Tackles Sexual Violence Head On

Monday, June 27, 2011

Rape continues to be the most frequently reported serious crime in Liberia. A new multipronged approach is underway to reduce sexual and gender-based violence.

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Advocating for Women's Rights

The Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia is another nongovernmental organization working to put an end to sexual and gender-based violence in Liberia.

"Our role in stopping sexual and gender-based violence is advocating for women who have been violated and to represent victims at the court," says Zeor Daylue Bernard, a lawyer and the organization's president.

She says her organization's campaigns have influenced the justice system here.

A court solely responsible for trying sexual and gender-based violence-related cases was formed, known as the Criminal Court E, Bernard says.

The rape law was also amended to increase the age of consent from 16 to 18 and the penalty for violating this, a second-degree felony, from seven to 10 years in prison, according to the Liberian Demographic and Health Survey. The penalty for gang rape and rape of a minor under 18, first-degree felonies, is now life in prison.

Out of the 388 sexual and gender-based violence cases reported in 2010, 148 were sent to the court, says George Sagbeh, deputy chief prosecutor of the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Crimes Unit, the special unit created in 2009 along with Criminal Court E.

"The unit is the first of its kind in Liberia, and through the unit women have access to justice and can now brave the storm to report cases of sexual and gender-based violence," he says.

The unit also has a hotline.

"Sometimes we receive three to five calls daily," he says.

The Women and Child Protection Section at the Liberia National Police is another effort by the state to end violence against women. Ruth Kolleh, a section police officer, says they receive sexual and gender-based violence cases almost daily and now take action.

"We send cases to court, arrest perpetrators and make peace when necessary," she says.

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ATTRIBUTION: Adapted from original content published by the Global Press Institute. Read the original article here. All shared content has been copyrighted by Global Press Institute.

Laura Golakeh reports for Global Press Institute's Liberia News Desk. She aims to highlight women's issues and give a voice to the voiceless through her stories.

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