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Rape National Pandemic in Liberia

Sanniquellie, Nimba County, Seated in darkroom with a sparkling flowery dress, Six year old Decontee (Not her real name ) narrated a painful moment she encounter with a devil she has live with for years. “we went in the bush and my grandma sister son said look at the juicy plum so while running for the plum, he throws me down and took down my clothes and put his fingers in my puzzy (Virgina) and later put his toto (Penis) there and I started shouting.”

 22 year old Barlea; now serving a 20 year sentence is the cousin of little Decontee.

With tears beaming from her eyes; with thick heart; she further explained “When we got home, my grandmother asked me, because my eyes were red and I explained to my grandma about what happened”.

According to the six year old, the perpetrator ( Barlea) When asked by her grandmother ,  denied stating that little Decontee was saying something stupid and should be warn to desist.

She explained that her grandmother immediately ran to the police station, while 22 year Barlea immediately went under citizen arrest and turned over to police authorities.

Today, rape has become one of the most challenging menace in the Liberian Society that is having an adverse effect on Survivors and Victims.

 “I can just urinate and toilet on myself sometimes without me knowing, my stomach can be paining, especially when I am urinating and toileting and can make me cry” Decontee tearfully explain.

The government of Liberia and partners are not just campaigning to end the issues of rape in Liberia but the care for Victims and survivors are also key on their agenda.

“Hospitals take full responsibility of providing treatment for those affected by sexual and gender based violence, they are treated and undergo counseling” Nimba County Gender Coordinator Yaah Belleh Suah, who is focal point for the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection (MGCSP) in the County.

Decontee herself is pleased with the care she is receiving; “they are taking care of me good (Save Home), they can send me for treatment to the hospital and provide me food.”

Nimba like any part of Liberia experiences a huge number rape case over time.

According to Madam Suah, between August to October 2017, 18 cases of sexual and gender based violence case were reported.

However there are major issues confronting the court system, because of the delay in prosecuting perpetrators, especially those involved in rape.

“Sadly, from 2014 to 2016, only 12 cases were placed on the docket, which undermines the fight against SGBV, “Only 2 persons have been prosecuted for the past three years.”  Madam Suah narrated.

“We have like only 3 rape cases on the docket in a year so sometime, the court can free some of them, because of the delayed to prosecute perpetrators. The lawyer can free some and say go when anyone have case against you, we will call you,” she said.

But it seems little Decontee got some justice after 22 year old Barlea was sentence to 20 years in prison. His sentence should however be graver according to the six year old survivor.

“I want them put him in jail until he died there” in loud tone Decontee explained.

According to the Nimba County Gender Coordinator (Suah) a special court in Nimba to deal with only cases related to sexual and gender based violence, will help in the fight against SGBV.

Madam Suah explained that; tradition and family involvement is one of the impediment hampering the fight against sexual and gender based violence, adding that their usual involvement into comprises such cases.”

“We have most of these cases been discussed at the level of the community and not being reported. But we continue to educate the people on the important of reporting these cases. We have people who are married and leaving their wives and taking new homes, which is also a serious problem,” she said.

Survivors like little Decontee faces serious challenges with reuniting with the community, according to Madam Suah, “taking victims home remain a big stigma, because of discrimination, we always take the survivor where they person feel saved, some of the children raped are entrusted to close family members.”

Madam Suah said there is a need for more awareness and education in order to avoid family and community interference into sexual and gender based violence, especially the issue of rape and domestic violence.

“Consequences of rape do not stop halfway, but continue from the time the child survived and even working, because some may not have the opportunity to bear child. So we have to continue to carry on awareness and education to ensure that we prevent it,” she said.

She said intervention from government and partners continue to make impact as compare to the past where the issue of rape and domestic violence were taking place and not being reported.

“In time past, the issue of rape was taking place, but was not being reported. It’s because of the huge intervention that people can report these issues. One of the problems is the absent of police in some place,” she said.

She stressed the need to equip the police, including training in handling cases and equipment that will enable the police to carry on the work.

Rape in Liberia is one of the cruelest crimes committed against women and girls, with the victims being mostly Children under 12 years.

The quest to even give more hope to survivors and deterred others from committing the crime of rape has now falling on stones with no optimism of germination.

This is because in October 2017 the Liberian Senate amended the Rape law of Liberia making it billable for alleged perpetrators. 

On that faithful Wednesday’s only eight out of 30 Senators were in session to render a decision that several children like little Decontee would suffer from.

However, out the eight Senators, two would go down in history for having a different opinion (not voting in favour of the amendment).

Senators, Jonathan Kaipay of Grand Bassa County voted against the report to amend the law while Peter Coleman filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied. 

It has however being five months since the Senate made a decision that is still awaiting concurrence from the House of Representative.

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