“Say No to Rape” “Her No Is No!” These are campaign slogans that have been around for decades. Despite tireless efforts by stakeholders, rape remains one of the most frequently reported crimes in Liberia today, with cases growing at an exponential rate. Rape culture is pervasive. It is embedded in our culture for which the need for holistic action to root it out is urgent.
Protestation has been one of the media through which citizens have expressed their anger against such inhumane crime; as citizens of Liberia come together to give their stand on this growing nightmare, what can we expect? Is protest a permanent solution to curb this national emergency?
The world has watched thousands of protests against rape and sexual violence, yet the problem remains prevalent among us today. In Liberia, the rise in rape cases and sexual violence saw the urgent demands for improved judicial remedies, which led to the setting up a special court in December 2018 to exclusively deal with sexual offenses, Criminal Court “E” while high caseloads, reduced functioning of the jury system, and lack of support services for survivors limited the Court’s effectiveness, the Sirleaf’s administration fought to enusre that this crime saw a level of decrease in the country.
Despite significant efforts made by the past administration, just after two years of a new administration, rape is creeping back to become an even moe daily evil. With increasing fear and a new demand to curb this nightmare, can an administration that has so much link to promiscuity be trusted to handle this national emergency?
When writing, I try to feel the agonizing pain brought on our innocent girls by some “less animals” calling themselves men. I feel their pains knowing that our children are no longer safe in our local communities, homes, and streets. Over the past years and oddly enough, between January and June of 2020 , we have experienced hundreds of different protests for different reasons ranging from corruption, nepotism, injustice, and even rape and sexual violence in their enormity. Petitions were presented to the national government with demands but nothing has been done.
As we have taken to the street to speak for the vulnerable and the victims of rape, what can we learn from the past protest, what can we do differently to ensure that the objectives of the protest are achieved amidst this regime? I am sure no number of protest will meet our objective nor a death penalty. I don’t want to leave the street today and hear a thousand cases tomorrow.
I am aware that cases are increasing in geometric progression order and the urge for immediate action can never be as needed. As we take the street to allow our government and international partners know our stand on this strangulating nightmare and pandemic, I am here worried about what will happen after this historic protest against rape. I am optimistic that after our protest actions, the appropriate legislation will be enacted to protect our vulnerable girls and boys against rape and sodomy. While I remain committed to the struggle of eliminating rape in Liberia and to be a part of the struggle, I also believed rape is an age-old problem that cannot be solved with a day of protest.
As the maxim goes, “old sore needs old treatment”, I would suggest a post-protest plan. We as protestors need to focus efforts on attacking the source of the problem as protectors. Cases are mostly reported from our local communities, this tells me the local community is our predominant source of attack in remedying the surge in rape crimes. Let’s take the right information — rape prevention measures and reporting strategies — to our diffeent communities while at the same time seeking for a more robust judicial proceedings to ensure a justified penalty action for rape crimes. It’s obvious that no woman or girl should feel threatened because of the way they dress; no man has the right to abuse them, which is why the availability of this information to our local communities can empower the fight against rape.
Even more, to help the fight against rape, parents need to keep surveillance and the community needs to step up an awareness team: Parents need to keep watch on their children, we need to provide the right information to our children of both genders and often inform our children on what to do in case of someone calling them or when they feel insecure. As the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child”, it is time for the community to step up and watch out for each other, report suspected cases and raise alarm when there is suspicion on someone.
As we join our voices to say NO to rape, it is time to declare rape a national emergency, just as we have seen posters of Corona virus everywhere; it is time to do the same with this nightmare hunting our vulnerable ones. Let’s combat Rape together.