[Svrilist] Liberia: Rape Victims'
svri at mrc.ac.za
Tue Apr 11 09:34:27 SAST 2006
LIBERIA: Rape victims' voices not heard, aid workers
MONROVIA, 7 April (IRIN) - The post-war reconstruction of battered
buildings and shattered lives is underway in Liberia, but rape, a common
weapon in the 14-years of fighting, is still a problem and some aid
workers reckon it's on the rise.
Rape is "alarmingly increasing on a daily basis," according to
Counsellor Lois Bruthus, the head of the Association of Female Lawyers
of Liberia (AFELL). "Each day we receive up to six rape cases at our
office," said Bruthus.
Rape continues to flourish in the Liberia's camps for displaced people,
according to a study released on Thursday by conflict prevention NGO
International Crisis Group which also report that child rape may be on
However, after years of brutal conflict that destroyed state mechanisms
and data, reports are based on anecdotal evidence.
Rape and sexual abuse was a common form of violence during the war which
ended in 2003 and many young girls and women were forcibly taken as
"bush wives" - cooks, cleaners and sex slaves to the fighters. Prior to
last year's new rape law only gang rape was a crime.
Despite the passage of a new rape law by Liberia's parliament in
December, accompanied by a personal pledge from newly elected President
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf that "no rapist would go unpunished", rape
prosecutions are progressing achingly slowly, say aid workers.
An awareness campaign using radio jingles and catchy music has been
launched to publicise the rape law. But Chi Mgbako an analyst with
Crisis Group, told IRIN that the law needs to be better implemented.
"There has been a lot of attention given to this new bill, but unless it
is more broadly disseminated around the country women and men will not
be aware of women's new rights. We need to hone in on the fact that we
can't just celebrate the rape bill itself, we also need to implement
it," Mgbako said.
AFELL head Bruthus said Liberian courts have been slow to bring rape
cases to trial. Of 110 rape cases on the court's dockets, only five have
been assigned for trial during this court term, and even these are
progressing too slowly to be of value to the victims, according to AFELL.
Many rape or sexual assault victims do not have access to the courts,
said Crisis Group. Traditional leaders are the only recourse open to
many women but many chiefs are reluctant to get involved, the Crisis
Group report added.
"Community members often view rape and other sexual violence as matters
to be settled privately, outside the judicial system," said the report,
Liberia: Resurrecting the Justice System.
To speed things up, AFELL's Bruthus recommends the establishment of a
special court just to try rape cases.
"We have petitioned the legislature to have a special court to deal with
rape cases since the other criminal courts are slow to try them," said
Liberian legislators have assured AFELL that they would consider passing
a law for such a court.
"AFELL has good concerns that we legislators must give due consideration
to," Edwin Snowe, the Speaker of the Liberian Parliament said.
Crisis Group's report said that reform of the country's justice system,
including the trial and prosecution of sexual offenders, needs to be a
foremost priority of the new government and donors if they are to end
the culture of impunity.
"After fourteen years of civil war, the system is in shambles. Impunity
Source: U N I T E D N A T I O N S,
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,
Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) - 1995-2005 ten years
serving the humanitarian community
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