Women Decry Violence -Say Their Rights Are Human Rights

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The Liberia Feminist Forum and other women and human right organizations in Liberia are deeply concerned over the continuing wave of violence against women and girls in Liberia, more recently the violence in District 15th By-Elections on August 17, 2019 involving a female political candidate, Ms. Telia Urey.  The women said the Government of Liberia must move beyond condemnation and act in accordance to its constitutional mandate to end the continuing and pervasive violence against all women in Liberia. 

A release issued yesterday said the violence against Telia disappointingly follows previous electoral violence in same District earlier this month and recent reports of cyber bullying against Senatorial Candidate, Paulita Wie.

“We also remind the Government of similar acts of violence against another female Candidate in District 13th By-Election, Cornelia Kruah-Togba and the leaked sex videos during 2017 Elections,” the women said in their release.

“Violence against women, be it domestic, economic, political, sexual harassment, rape and abuse, continues to be the most pervasive human rights violation affecting women and girls in Liberia,” the women continued, saying, “It continues to deny women the freedom, autonomy, access, and opportunities and marginalize their voice, participation and ability to exercise their civic and political rights.”

The recent electoral related violence is horrifying and calls for swift actions to curtail these acts of violence. It not only has the propensity to undermine the peace [hard fought for and won by Liberian women], but also to continue to encourage a culture of impunity that promote the low socio-economic status of women and girls in Liberia, irrespective of class, age, ethnicity, ability, orientation, education, political affiliation and income level. We note that the failure on the part of the Government to fix the justice system and ensure timely access to Justice is eroding citizens, especially women, trust and confidence in the state as the primary duty bearer, the release noted.

According to the release, “This comes despite our demands to take measures to protect women and girls from violence and recommendations we have put forward. This includes policy reforms, strengthening the autonomy and capacity of law enforcement and judiciary, support services for survivors and timely response to issues of violence.

“The Government of Liberia must recognize, as enshrined it its own constitution and national policies and actions plans, that violence against women is a violation of women’s fundamental human rights and that failure to address violations promotes gender inequality, adversely impact the economy (damages from property or lost wages) and inhibits inclusive and sustainable development,” the women averred .

In this regard, the said, “we hereby call on the Government of Liberia to speedily investigate these incidents and ensure ALL perpetrators are brought to justice. The Government of Liberia must recognize that it is its mandate to uphold the fundamental human rights of ALL women to include freedom from violence, freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom to acquire quality education and earn a decent living to live a life of dignity. We are also calling on all political parties and stakeholders concerned to operate within the confines of the law.”

“It is our hope that those with grievances will use the judicial means to address their issues. Political parties must also ensure that women’s political participation goes beyond tokenistic representation and scarcity to a constitutional commitment of their organizing for political leadership. Women political participation must be inclusive, accountable and meeting, and or preferably exceeding, the National Elections’ minimum threshold (Section 4.5 of Liberia’s New Election Law – no less than 30% representation of each gender on the lists of candidates),” the release highlighted.

The women said they remain resolute in our calls for gender equality, the end to patriarchal norms, values and beliefs and promotion of women socio-economic, cultural, civic and political rights.

We therefore demanded the following, saying that the Liberia National Police and the Judiciary act with speed and conduct investigations into the recent incidents of violence in the two By-Elections and timely resolution; and that the Government (inclusive of the Current legislature) strengthen the capacity and resourcing of the Women and Child Protection Unit of the Liberian National Police and Criminal Court “E”. This includes budgetary allocation to these institutions and support services for survivors.

They also demanded that That the National Elections Commissions upholds it mandate to act swiftly in addressing political parties found liable in perpetrating acts of violence and commence a nationwide public education on protecting women civic and political rights, and demanded further that Government of Liberia also recognize the intersections of issues of sexual harassment, exploitation, discrimination and abuse on women’s civic and political rights, to ensure its prevention efforts go beyond the surface to long terms shifts in aligning women rights as critical development goals.

“This includes implementation and enforcement of recently signed Domestic Violence Law and Land Rights Act, full functionality of the Forensic (DNA) machines to address backlog of rape cases, full criminalization of FGM and support to passage of the Gender Parity Bill for sustainable actions on women fundamental human rights,” the release concluded.

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