Report of one Day INCHR Consultative Meeting on Child Rape in Liberi

Held at the Ministry of Gender Conference  Room on February 14, 2013, the meeting started with welcome statement and special remarks made by Government officials, representatives of donor community, National and International NGOs, UNMIL, the World Bank, UN women, US Embassy, Representatives of the United Nations Secretary General and Representatives of the Judicial Branch of Government.

In her welcome statement, Honorable Julia Ducan Cassel, Minister of Gender and Development welcomed all participants to the consultative meeting on child rape and revealed that child rape was one of the main challenges facing the Gender Ministry as more and more cases continue to pour in her office. She said child rape takes place mainly in the family; as such the crime is always hidden or covered. The Minister concluded her statement by expressing appreciation to donors and partners for supporting the fight against child rape in Liberia and for attending the meeting.

After the Minister’s welcome statement, Commissioner Boakai Dukuly of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights gave the overview of the consultative meeting. Commissioner Dukuly said the consultative meeting on child rape is a one year project organized by the Independent National Commission on Human Rights in collaboration with the Liberia Coalition of Human Rights Defenders with support from European Union and other partners.  He said the purpose of the meeting is to strategize and explore ways by which child rape can be stopped and identify ways by which the crime of child rape can be reported. Commissioner Dukuly emphasized that the meeting was the first in a series of meetings that will be held in the coming months. He said INCHR is now ready to engage the public through this and other related programs as a means of jointly fighting against the crime of child rape in Liberia. According to the commissioner the refusal of family and community members to report child rape to the police, the courts and the Ministry of Gender could seriously undermine efforts of the government and the civil society to stamp out the crime in our communities and the country as a whole. In conclusion, Commissioner Boakai Dukuly thanked all the participants for responding to their invitation to attend the one day brainstorming child rape consultative meeting.

On a one by one bases all the participants including the representative of the office of the special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General spoke strong against the increase of child rape in the Country and pledged that the donor community including International NGOs, UNMIL, the World Bank, UN women, US Embassy and representatives of the United Nations Secretary General will not hesitate to support the fight against child rape in Liberia.

After the presentation of remarks from Government Officials, donor community, the US Embassy, UN Agencies, Liberian Civil Society including the Liberia Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (LICHRD), and all the participants gathered for group photo to conclude the first session of the consultative meeting.

 Session I: Presentations on thematic areas;

All the speakers including Partners, Government and the Civil Society made excellent presentations on thematic areas such as the Rape Law, Gender based violence, justice for victims, impact on victims and the role of Gender Ministry and other protection agencies.

Ms. Dedded Kwekwe, spoke on Gender based violence. She said gender based violence and child rape was on the increase in Liberia. She agreed with earlier speakers that child rape and gender based violence were occurring in the family and that family and community members were refusing to report the crime.

Ms kwekwe said that victim of child rape do not often report the case because of the psychological torture and tension that is associated with the crime. In most cases, family members influence child rape victims against reporting the crime to police authorities and Ministry of Gender or Civil Society. Ms Kwekwe concluded by saying that compromising rape and Gender based violence was undermining fights against these crimes in Liberia. She said the rape law has been criticized as been too harsh yet the crime is increasing day by day.

Cllr. Felicia Coleman of the Gender Based violence (GBV) unit of the Ministry of Gender spoke on the roles and functions of the Ministry of Gender. Cllr. Coleman said the role of the Ministry of Gender is to create awareness and promote laws that protect women and children in Liberia.

The representative of the Liberia National Police Women and Children Protection section presented on the sub-topic: Protecting our girls from sexual violence. He said there were two basic issues involved in the protection of girls from rape which include:

  • protection before the abuse and
  •  protection after the abuse

The police representative said on protection before the abuse, the police department strategy is to carry on regular awareness in schools and youth organizations so that rape victims and would be perpetrators of the crime will understand the issue.  He said protection after the abuse involved quick and impartial trial and prosecution with proven medical evidence as a guide.

The Liberia National Police representative continuing his presentation defined rape as any forceful sexual penetration of the vaginal or rectum by a male. He said the consequences associated with child rape crime are grave. He named some of the consequences as shame and disgrace in the family and communities prolong psychological torture, destruction of female uterus and other dehumanizing impact on the victims.

The police representative then presented the following statistics of rape cases brought before the Liberian National Police in 2012:

  • 1826 cases females victim of rape nationwide
  •   369 sexual based violence nationwide
  •   917 domestic violence(65% were not followed up of that number 55-60% of the cases came from Monrovia)
  •   125 cases of rape(Monrovia)

The victims in these cases ranged from age 6-13 years. Of that number 27% were females while 3% were males.

Most of the rape cases involved age ranged from 18-30% with 30-60 years old. Out of these 125 cases are to be taken to court.

The next topic was justice for victims and this was deliberated by Hon. Everlina Quaqua, Circuit Court Judge. Judge Quaqua said justice for rape victim is difficult to be achieved. But we will get there. She said families of rape victims most time need quick justice but our judiciary or court system takes long time to gather evidence before prosecution. And because of the non-billable offense alleged perpetrators are always placed in detention while evidence is being gathered.  It is this latest court procedure that is constantly being criticized by the public including the civil society. She said in spite of these challenges, the courts are trying to provide justice for rape and gender based violence in Liberia

Another guest presenter was Dr. Williamena Jallah who deliberated on the sub topic: Medical effects of rape on victims and survivals. Dr. Jallah said that rape can be done by forced sexual penetration through the mouth, rectum or vagina. She furthered that the widely known Olivia rape documentary is a documentary about a 6 years old girl who was raped through her anus by her own uncle. Because of the rape Olivia developed fistula that cause her to toilet through her vagina. The raping done through her anus destroyed her back. She  said the bleeding that resulted from the act and the fear that it is her father, uncle, or  one who pays her school fees are reasons victims don’t often report these cases for treatment and eventually the infection enters the womb and may cause the victim not to even be able to conceive.

Dr.Williamena Jallah continuing her presentation described fistula as an opening between the anus and the vagina. If the case is not reported the infection increase and enters the womb. She names some of the effects of rape as:

  • Painful menstruation
  • Fistula problem
  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • STD
  • HIV/AIDS

Dr.Jallah then narrated a case in which a young girl was raped in the anus and died in the hospital as the result of profuse bleeding. This very young girl blatantly refused to tell the doctors the cause of her bleeding. The doctors got to know after her death that her parents, guardians and community member urged her not to tell anybody.

For Olivia in the documentary, she got safe because she told her story.  She concluded by the question, what is there in raping a little girl?  Dr. Jallah finally recommended that holistic program be developed to teach women and girls self discipline against rape.

The next presenter was Ms Quendi Appleton who lectured on the subtopic: The psychosocial impact of SGBV on victims and survivors. In her presentation, she  explained her personal story in which she was raped by her older relative when she was in her teens. Quendi said she was coerced not to report the incidence by the perpetrator and other family members and because of that the infection increased in her for years causing her severe psychological and health problem even in her married home at the present age of 35 years. Ms Appleton said, she began getting counseling when she started openly telling her child rape victimization story. She further said that her husband has understood her problem for which he is also counseling her. She said she is now a professional woman working on issues of rape in Liberia. Ms Appleton concluded her presentation by saying that the best way to safeguard against child rape is to report the case without shame or favor and more awareness be done in the communities across the Country.

Speaking on the same topic Ms Rosana Schaa, a participant to the meeting briefly told the audience that the rape law should be enforced and that fast track court is in her view the best way to stamp out rape in Liberia.

The last presenter on the thematic areas was Ambassador Miatta Fahnbulleh,  Liberia Goodwill Ambassador  for maternal and infant mortality said that rape is so alarming in our society to the extent that there continue to be early marriage, child marriage and all forms of abuses against the girl child in our Liberian society. She stressed that women account for 50-52% of Liberia’s population. Therefore we have the power to stop rape in our country. Protecting our children against gender based violence should be everybody’s business as children of age 13 to 15 years become victims of child rape all the times in Liberia.

Liberia is a nosy society as we claim so we must rise up to protect our children against rape. Ambassador Fahnbulleh further emphasized that it is not all well with women and girls in Liberia as President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf continue to urge the Traditional Council of Liberia to hurt the practice of young girls circumcision/female genital mutilation in our country.

Session II: Group works

  • National challenges and perspectives
  • Identifying key priorities

The participants were placed into four topical groups.

Group 1: Rationale of the Rape Law

Group 2: role and Responsibilities of National institutions

Group 3: breaking the silence as Rights holders

Group 4; Community Awareness as key message

In their respective group reports, the groups recognized the difficulties in gathering evidence from rape victims, the non billable nature of the rape law, poor judicial system and refusal of victims to report the case of child rape as key challenges facing the government and civil society. On the identification of key priorities, the group recommended sustained public awareness, access to justice for victims and encouraging trends to reduce the culture strain on Liberian law and court system.

The consultative meeting ended with many words of appreciation to LICHRD, the donors and participants for the successful program by Hon. Boakai Dukuly of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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