(Monrovia Liberia) In an effort to curb the unacceptable increase of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) cases in Liberia, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and line Ministries (Justice, Health, Labor, Finance and Education) have developed an integrated roadmap approach to curtail this menace.
As the lead Institution clothed with the authority to promote the development, empowerment and protection of women, girls and children; as well as the welfare and integration of persons with
disabilities, the vulnerable, extremely poor, excluded and disadvantaged, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection chaired a zoom meeting of line Ministries on Thursday, July 9, 2020, aimed at addressing the systemic abuse of women and girls across the Country. These abuses include rape, gang rape, sodomy and sexual assault.
In opening remarks, Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister, Williametta E. Saydee-Tarr reminded her colleagues that violence against women and girls remains an entrenched socio-cultural problem in Liberia that has destroyed the lives of present and future generations and needs immediate action. "Gender-Based Violence particularly rape, gang rape, sodomy and sexual assault still remain a major threat to the security and development of women and children throughout the Country", Minister Tarr expressed.
Minister Tarr emphasized the dire need for a synchronized effort and plan on the part of line Ministries to address the scourge of sexual and gender-based violence as well as strengthening men’s role in the protection of women, girls and marginalized groups particularly in areas of rape, gang rape, sodomy and sexual assault.
According to the Chair of the high-level meeting, gender-based violence and other social inequalities women and girls face will only become a thing of the past provided we fully implement Pillar One: Power to the People, which highlights among others Gender Equity of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).
Minister Saydee-Tarr applauded line Ministries for the cordial and collaborative coordination exhibited over the years in fighting SGBV.
Co-chairing the meeting, Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean, Jr. assured his colleagues that his institution will continuous to strengthen the justice system in pursuing fair and timely dispensation of justice across the country.
Cllr. Dean expressed frustration that some reporters of sexual and gender-based violence cases end up being the very same one trying to, or comprising the very same cases that include: parents, care-takers and guardians. The Attorney General confirmed that when reporters of SGBV return to the community, there are a lot of interferences from community members leading to reporters abandoning their cases which result to compromising of cases. "In view of this and in this case, when trial has been called, neither the child nor the parents/care-givers/guardians appear to testify which creates a lot of problems to dispense justice", Cllr. Dean disclosed.
"I'm excited that we now have specialized courts in Bong, Montserrado and Nimba Counties devoted exclusively to sexual and gender-based violence cases. I'm pleading with Liberian women to pursue law studies in order to increase female judges in these courts", Minister Dean noted.
The Justice Minister stated that the International Community has been engaging the Ministry of Justice to institute mobile courts to help boost speedy and fair trial of SGVB cases.
Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., Minister of Finance and Development Planning and a joint Co-chair of the meeting reaffirmed Government's commitment to funding programs aimed at curbing sexual and gender-based violence. Minister Tweah pointed out the need for massive awareness and outreach on the Domestic Violence Law to inform women and children of their rights as well as influencing behavioral change of would-be perpetrators.
Labor Minister Moses Y. Kollie pointed out that domestic violence against children has many forms which include: forced child labor, child trafficking, among others. Minister Kollie averred that the Ministry of Labor has been elevated to Tier 2 Country in the fight against human trafficking and forced child labor by the US Government's monitoring system on Trafficking In Persons (TIP).
The Labor Boss said, this took the collective efforts of every member of the taskforce including, Labor (Chair), Ministry of Justice (Co-chair) as well as, other Statutory members comprising of Foreign Affairs, Health, Gender, Internal Affairs, Liberia National Police and the Liberia Immigration Service. Minister Kollie expressed optimism in curbing sexual and gender-based violence cases provided line Ministries exert similar if not more efforts as was done with Trafficking In Persons. He lauded Government for additional funding to the budget line to fight against Trafficking In Persons which helped to achieve a goal in attaining Tier year two.
Also speaking, the Minister of Youth and Sports, D. Zoegar Wilson underscored the urgent need for concrete actions to be taken against those who commit these crimes in the Liberian Society.
Minister Wilson stressed that it is saddened to note that despite frantic efforts being applied in the sensitization against sexual and gender-based violence, certain individuals are still bent on committing these crimes.
He assured the Youth and Sports Ministry's collaborative efforts in the fight against the social menace.
For his part, Deputy Minister for Planning Research and Development at the Ministry of Education, Alton V. Kesselly said the Ministry of Education maintains zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassments of students.
The Inspector-General of the Liberia National Police, Col. Patrick Sudue frowned on those who continue to perpetrate these crimes in the Liberian Society.
Col. Sudue stressed that the Liberian National Police will spear no efforts in arresting would-be perpetrators to ensuring that justice is served.
In brief remarks, Cllr. Isaac L. George, Jr. - Director, sexual and gender-based violence crimes unit, Ministry of Justice stressed the need for more awareness on sexual and gender-based violence and sex education in Institutions of learning.
Madam Sussie Telleh - Director of Women And Children Protection Section at the Ministry of Justice underscored that the increased number of SGBV cases during this COVID -19 pandemic is more family-related than otherwise. Director Telleh calls on stakeholders to strengthen security personnel of the Liberia National Police specifically, the Women And Children Protection Section.