By Garmonyou Wilson
The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has told rapists in Liberia and around the world that even though the justice system is cordial to peace and stability, if someone rapes a one year old child, that bad sickness deserves bad medicine.
The Liberian Head of State said that rapists in Liberia who are convicted in court should have their pictures published in local newspapers and aso called on the Ministry of Justice to ensure that this happens.
Speaking during the Official Program of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, President Sirleaf called on parents to take closer care of their children and she also called on preachers to preach anti-rape messages on their pulpits and teachers to educate their pupils whether male or female to know the effects of rape.
Madam Sirleaf then called on children not only in Liberia but from around the world not to do things that would compromise the success of their future. She recalled that many Liberian children say that there are no playgrounds in their communities and the President agreeing pointed out that when she was coming up as a child there were also no playgrounds.
She continued that every week she receives reports on crimes throughout the country and she is always dismayed at the number of rape cases that are increasingly being committed in the country.
Lapu Grimes, a mother of six children said that in 2012 her six-year old daughter was a victim of rape by a next door neighbor who she entrusted with her very kids on many occasions.
Ms. Grimes said that the young man that did the act was never arrested because being that he was a family friend they handled the issue the family way.
Josephine Clarke said that in 2011 her two-month old baby girl was raped by a man in his mid-forties. She said that the man was known by the family but was not a relative. The perpetrator is now serving a lengthy prison sentence.
For many years rape was believed to be a crime involving the rape victim and the perpetrator, however this notion has been erased and the stopping of rape now involves everyone, man, woman and child, boy or girl.
This year’s National theme for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence is ‘Men as Agents of Change in Ending Violence Against Women and Girls.’
The 16 day period also highlighted other significant dates including November 29, International Woman Rights Defenders Day, December 1, World AIDS Day, and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
This year’s organizing framework in Liberia to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women is by engaging men to spearhead the campaign against rape, giving children the opportunity to make their voices heard on the issues that affect them, providing a forum for dialogue and strategy-sharing and by pressurizing the Judiciary to adequately address all cases in order to put an end to violence against women and children.
During the program marking the commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism, the keynote address which was delivered by the Assistant Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Philderald Pratt said principle perpetrators of rape are men, boys under 18, relatives, fathers, uncles and teachers.
He called on Governments across the globe to strengthen the criminal justice systems by ensuring zero tolerance on people raping and walking out free.
Statistics on rape in Liberia has seen an increasing number of boys under the age of 18 as victims of rape as well as a troubling increase in children under the age of one year being victimized. In 2009 the Liberian Government received 210 rape cases, in 2012, 1700 cases and as of September 2013, 1300.
A woman who spoke at the occasion said she was raped during the country’s 14 years of civil conflict and since the rape she is not able to have a relationship; she has two female children and she is afraid for them every day because though the war is over it has left many psychological traumas behind and young girls and boys are usually the victims of those traumas in Liberia today.
In a related development, the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity renowned for engaging in host of worthwhile activities in the country has once more come to the fold with another milestone program in an effort to fight against Gender Based Violence (GBV).
At a well attended program which marked 16 Days of Activism (November 25 – December 10), to end Gender Based Violence, the Alpha Phi Alpha led a parade from the Fish Market in Sinkor to the Antoinette Tubman Stadium on the United Nations Drive where a program was held .
The exercise which brought together the business community, students, Civil Society Groups, Market Women, Health Practitioners, Athletes, Etc. had several speakers with Alpha Phi Alpha President T. Nelson Williams, II among other things saying “for us at Alpha Phi Alpha, we are one hundred percent behind efforts to stop and eradicate violence against women and children. Today begins not the 16 days of Activism but 365 days of Activism”.
The Alpha Phi Alpha head then gave information where an eight year old child named Massa was raped on the 29th of August this year, and died on August 30th with no autopsy done and the perpetrator still around.
Mr. Williams then disclosed that a hot line number, “1906” which he said will be used to report cases in bringing perpetrators of Gender Based Violence to justice.
The occasion was quite a memorable one that brought both sorrow and joy as caskets symbolizing children killed as a result of rape were displayed, while there were inspirational music and a host of chanting as people said no to Gender Based Violence.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says there is a need to expose rapists and says there must be a collective fight against rape.
Speaking on Monday, December 2, at program marking 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium, President Sirleaf noted that the value system has turned upside down with the issue of rape very high.
She wondered what has happened to us as a people as the issue of rape continues to dominate the society.
She then indicated “We will expose them (rapists); we will put them in the papers”.
The president then urged mothers not to defend rapists and said they must all collectively fight rape.
She declared the 16 days of Activism as a period of awakening in fighting rape and called for everyone suggestion in fighting it.
President Sirleaf urged mothers to take care of their children who will in turn take care of them.
She also urged teachers not to engage in such ugly act as have been reported in some cases and asked “preachers, where are you? On your pulpit, you talk about corruption but why are you not talking about rape”?