Liberia declares rape as national emergency amid rising cases of sexual assault

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Liberian President George Weah on Friday the 11th of September, 2020 declared the act of rape a national emergency, following a conference in the capital city of Monrovia on tackling sexual violence on Wednesday, September 9th. In his address at the conference, President Weah said, “Liberia is witnessing what is actually an epidemic of rape within the (Covid-19) Pandemic, affecting mostly children and young girls across the country.”

As part of this decision, the government has proposed the establishment of a “National Security Task Force” on Sexual and Gender Based Violence. In addition to this, President Weah announced that a Special Prosecutor for Rape as well as a National Sex Offender Registry would be set up in Liberia as well. Along with this, his office in a statement on Friday said further detailed measures would follow soon. This decision comes in after thousands of citizens in the capital city of Monrovia protested against a recent rise in incidents of sexual assault in the country to draw the government’s attention to the same.

The high rates of sexual assault cases reported in the impoverished nation-state have been a long-standing concern, albeit neglected resulting from a sense of immunity due to the Liberian Civil Wars between 1989 and 1997, and again from 1999 to 2003, wherein sexual assault was commonplace. Moreover, the issue was also forced to compete for attention with other issues such as the Ebola Virus outbreak as well as the Covid-19 pandemic recently.

According to a 2016 United Nations Report, 803 cases of rape were registered in Liberia the previous year while only around two percent ended in a solid conviction. Margaret Taylor, the Director of the Liberia Women’s Empowerment Network, an NGO, stated that around 600 cases of rape were registered between June and August 2020, as compared to about a 100 cases in May.

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