President Boakai Image: Emansion

Since the end of Liberia’s 14-year civil disturbance, women and girls have faced various forms of violence, including rape, domestic violence, unemployment, underemployment, underrepresentation, social media bullying, and no or restricted access to justice.

With rape being high among the crimes women and girls faced in Liberia, in 2023, the integrity of the country was brought into serious question internationally when two diplomas who were employees of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA) were sentenced to nine years in prison each for sexual assault in a court in Busan, South Korea.

After nearly eight months of trial, the judge presiding over the case ruled that Moses Owen Browne, Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in the United Kingdom, and Daniel Tarr, Director of the Department of Marine Environmental Protection at LiMA, were qualified after being detained in South Korea since last year for allegedly raping two Korean teenagers.

Right after Brown and Tarr were sentenced, two Liberian students who were also employees of both the ministries of Finance and Information were also arrested separately in the state of Punjab, India, on the allegations of rape. 

Carlos T. Dahn, an official of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, was arrested by Khanna for allegedly raping a 22-year-old Liberian student. The accused is currently imprisoned as police conduct additional investigations that will lead to judicial proceedings.

Dahn received study leave in 2021 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and Accounting (B.Com.) at the Gulzar Group of Institutes (GGP) in Punjab.

Dahn allegedly raped a 22-year-old Liberian student named Withheld at his rented accommodation in Khanna. The young lady had enrolled in the same college in Khanna. Dahn, a college friend, and fellow Liberian native, offered to let her stay at his rented apartment when she was abused.

Barely two months after Dahn was arrested for allegedly raping a Liberian student, another Liberian student, Promise Worzeen Klehkleh, reportedly raped a 22-year-old lady from Zimbabwe.

Atty. Mmonbeydo Joah, head of the Organization for Women and Children, when responding to the international rape cases, described the saga as sad and a confirmation of the ENOUGH consultation that was held in Liberia.

She said during the consultation, 60% of the respondents showed justifiable reasons for violence against women.

Joah, like Scott-Johnson and UNDP, believes that the Liberian government needs to fix the system of handling rape cases and provide accountability for women and girls. 

The challenges faced by women go beyond sexual violence. Evidence shows that just a few weeks after Boakai took over, it was reported that a 30-year-old man named Momo Konah allegedly wasted acid water on his former girlfriend in Lowah, Klay District, Bomi County.

Hawa Sheriff, the survivor, is currently seeking medical attention at the Liberian Government Hospital in Tubmanburg.

In April 2023, the Daily Observer Newspaper reported that a young lady believed to be in her mid-twenties was reportedly stabbed to death by a man believed to be her ex-lover.

Lucia Gonleseh, a mother of a two-year-old child, was allegedly killed by Jefferson Kwia, 30, after a brief tussle during the late evening hours of April 14.

With all of those challenges faced by women and girls, it remains unclear at what level this new administration intends to address issues affecting women and girls as both Boakai’s inaugural address and State of the Nation Address (SONA) did not include his administration’s plan to address rape and other Gender-Based Violence (GBV) even though rape was declared a National Emergency.

In Article 58 of the 1986 Constitution, the SONA is done on every fourth working Monday in January, and the president shall present his legislative agenda to both houses of the legislature in a joint session presided over by the speaker of the House of Representatives. 

With Boakai unable to clearly state his administration’s plan about rape and other abuses against women and girls, The Stage Media contacted Kula Fofana, Presidential Press Secretary, both via WhatsApp and Messenger, to discuss the government’s plan on addressing SGBV in 2024, but she has yet to respond to our inquiry; when she does, this article will be updated.

However, according to Siatta Scott-Johnson, Executive Director of Women in Media Development, the Boakai administration needs to provide easy access to justice for women who have been abused because women are vital in ensuring the Unity Party’s success in the 2023 general elections.

Like Scott-Johnson, UNDP reported that the poor justice system and the widespread impunity enjoyed by perpetrators have been on the increase, despite the crime being a non-billable offense. 

According to UNDP, sexual violence cases hit a high of 2,708 in 2019 and 2,240 in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The increase in rape and other forms of violence across the country in August 2020 led to three days of nationwide anti-rape protests. The protest organizers took their grievances to the legislature and the US Embassy but struggled to present their petition to former President George M. Weah. 

A few weeks after the protest, rape was declared a national emergency, and the government ordered new measures to tackle the problem by setting up a national security task force on sexual and gender-based violence. 

According to the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, a total of 1,975 cases of gender-based violence were reported in 2022. Rape, gang rape, and sodomy accounted for 66.4%, while other forms of gender-based violence accounted for 33.6%.

Despite two public statements, the president has yet to reveal his administration’s strategy for combating gender-based violence. Liberians will continue to combat this threat as long as the president remains silent.


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