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WONGOSOL Wants Amended Rape Law Recalled …Condemns Legislature; Vows To Lobby Others

 

Women of Liberia and a network of women’s organizations, under the Women’s NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL) condemned  the Liberian Senate’s passage of a contemptible amendment to the 2006 Rape Law.

In a release issued on October 12, 2017, WONGOSOL said the amended version of the rape law is crafted to allow perpetrators to receive both bail and parole, which was proposed by Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teahjay and passed without public consultation during the Senate’s session on Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017.

The decision by the Senate to amend the rape law undermines efforts by various women groups and international partners to address rape in Liberia.

WONGOSOL believes that a handful of Senators chose to amend the rape law in the absence of majority of their colleagues and without any consultation with the public or other stake holders.

“We are highly suspicious of the motives of the senators who voted in favor of this amendment in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the bill was passed by men, for men, to the great detriment of the women of Liberia. Although there are just 3 females at the senate; this bill was passed without a single female in attendance. Even if all three had been there, they would have been vastly outnumbered. This is a terrible affront to the women of Liberia, especially the women of Sinoe”.

“We stand in solidarity with the innumerable survivors of rape and will give voice to the victims that have succumbed to this horrific crime. We can only imagine the motives behind this bill, as it was introduced and passed with so many senators absent and so many Liberians focused on the elections. We called on Senator Teahjay and supporters of this bill to explain why, when their constituents are focused on jobs, roads, healthcare, education, and others”.

According to the women, after representative of Grand Gedeh Morias Waylee was publicly accused, the conversation about rape and impunity of rapists flooded homes, communities, and radio waves and that there indeed seems to be a nationwide consensus.

They recounts that said action by the senators would strengthen the abusive manner in which rape and sexual violence have being dealt with in the family way.

Meanwhile, according to the women statement, such decision by the Liberian Senate continue to abuse and dehumanize the women of Liberia,  throughout the campaign season on grounds that Liberian women from across the country have been making their voices heard on the issue of rape and impunity for rapists and statutory rapists.

The Women demand that they do not support the lawmakers’ action and acknowledge everyone to condemn the decision.

The women also called on all representatives and presidential candidates to publicly denounce the Senate’s decision to amend the rape Law.

Accordingly, the women said they expect lawmakers to be progressive by ensuring budgetary allocations and policies that would further invest in the implementation of such law and other critical actions including the establishment of county level SGBV crimes units, and branches of criminal court “E”; investment in forensic technology for the gathering and preservation of evidence and adequate support and services for survivors.

These actions, according to them will address the problem of pre-trial detention as well as ending violence against women and girls and not degrade women by ignoring their dignity.

They called on the lawmakers to rethink such                                “regressive legal direction” when Liberia faces multiple transitions- UNMIL drawdown, elections and recovery from Ebola and its impact on the economy and social cohesion.

The women angrily expressed that the actions of lawmakers must seek alignment to human rights and public health crisis of sexual violence and all other forms of violence against women and girls.

Moreover, the women said the state’s obligation is to address this developmental challenge and that the process will not be accepted in quick fix mode.

“We are demanding that the sitting members of the House of Representatives vote a resounding “NO” if and when this bill is introduced for concurrence.  We plead with the international community to stand in solidarity with us; to support us in sensitizing the public on this issue and apply pressure to the power brokers with whom they interact as we call on our lawmakers to recognize the value of mutual accountability, transparency and consultations.  By this, we request that they commence a process of external engagement and consultations with stakeholders in the women’s rights sector, the Association of Female Lawyers and other justice/protection groups to get concrete indications of the impact of the rape crisis on women and girls across Liberia”.

Meanwhile, the group of angry women appealed to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to publicly denounce the proposed amendment and make it known by vetoing the bill should it be forwarded for signature.

They women are confident that President Sirleaf as the first female president of Liberia and Africa should not allow such action to happen under her watchful leadership.

The demonstrators said the action by the Senators has the potential to undermine gains made since 2005.

The UNCHR 2016 Report cites multiple challenges, including institutional weaknesses, corruption, lack of due diligence by government as well as logistical and financial constraints; a widespread culture of impunity for SGBV, undue influence by traditional actors, cultural and patriarchal attitudes, as well as gender stereotyping and social pressure to informally settle cases out of court as barriers to survivors getting justice.