News / Africa

Liberia Vows to End Violence Against Women

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf attends a West African regional bloc ECOWAS summit on the crisis in Mali and Guinea Bissau, at Fondation Felix Houphouet Boigny in Yamoussoukro, February 27, 2013.
Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf attends a West African regional bloc ECOWAS summit on the crisis in Mali and Guinea Bissau, at Fondation Felix Houphouet Boigny in Yamoussoukro, February 27, 2013.
Jennifer Lazuta
In the lead up to Women’s Day, on March 8, Liberia has become the latest nation to sign a pledge to end violence against women and girls. In Dakar, the human-rights group U.N. Women says nearly 100 countries have no specific legal provisions against domestic violence.

A 45-year-old housewife from Monrovia, Lucy Morris, says violence against women is a serious problem in Liberia.

“Many of us are beaten by our husbands.  My husband beats me almost every time.  He hurts me a lot.  I have taken the complaints to the female [rights] lawyer and they have called him for an investigation, but this is still happening," she said.

Morris is not alone.

The latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) show 33 percent of married women in Liberia have reported experiencing domestic violence.  Up to 77 percent of Liberian women say they have been the victim of sexual violence.

Human rights groups say it is likely these numbers are even higher, as many of the cases go unreported.

Liberian Ministry of Gender and Development spokesperson Smith Toby says Liberia has laws in place against both domestic violence and rape, but many cases are never prosecuted.

“All of these things [rape, violence] happen, but at times it is being settled outside of court.  There is a situation where some family members will come in and they want to settle it the family way.  And those out-of-court settlements are what the government is trying to put a very, very strong restriction on,” he said.

He said many women are too scared to report sexual or domestic violence.

Earlier this month, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took a step forward in addressing the issue when she signed a U.N. pledge to end violence against women and girls.  She is only the 19th head of state to do so.

In the pledge, the Liberian government has promised to adopt and implement stronger domestic violence legislation, allocate funds for a National Action Plan on Sexual and Gender-based Violence, and increase efforts to improve women’s access to justice in cases of gender-based violence.

Toby said this pledge will help more women come forward and bring the perpetrators of violence to justice.

"Now you have women in Liberia who can speak on issues that affect them," he said. "They know what their rights are and they speak for their rights.  So it is the hope of the ministry that the signing of this document will also boost awareness and help women, and also educate men against gender and sexual-based violence, and domestic violence.”

The acting administrative coordinator of Women in Progressive Action is Salome Cankpane.  Her local aid organization helps victims of gender-based violence seek legal counsel.

She says the pledge is an important gesture on behalf of the government, but it is now up to Liberian women to take a stand.

“The government has been trying to stop it [violence against women] because they have put rules in place.  The laws are there," she said. "I think this particular signing is going to take effect - if we, who hear these cases, bring it up and speak about it, and speak against it, the law will be forced to take effect.  Justice will follow right now.”

In accordance with the pledge, Liberia’s Ministry of Gender and Development says they plan to continue to work alongside the government, as well as human-rights groups, to ensure that the rights of women and girls are better protected.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid