Rape "second most reported" serious crime in Liberia: UN

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Salem Police Station in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: Marcus Bleasdale/VII

Rape is the "second most reported" serious crime in Liberia and often goes unpunished, a report by the UN Mission in the country (UNMIL) has found.

Peacekeepers and human rights officers with the UN gathered information between January and March 2015, and documented 803 rape cases.

Close to 80 per cent of the victims were minors, including at least five cases of girls under the age of five.

Jocelyne Sambira reports.

The vast majority of perpetrators of rape in Liberia are males over the age of 18, who are known to the victim. 

Liberia's high incidence of rape is in part a legacy of its 14-year civil conflict, from which the country is still rebuilding. 

According to the World Health Organization, "between 61and 77 per cent of women and girls in Liberia were raped during the war." 

Marcel Akopovo is the head of the Human Rights office for UNMIL 

"And despite this, there has been no criminal accountability for perpetrators of war crimes in Liberia, including perpetrators of wartime sexual violence. Impunity also prevails for recent rape cases that we have been able to document; with only two per cent of rapes and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) cases reported last year resulting in a conviction in court. It's very, very limited." 

Social pressure to informally settle cases out of court is a major obstacle to justice. Other challenges include institutional weaknesses, corruption, lack of due diligence by government as well as logistical and financial constraints. 

The UN made several recommendations to the Liberian government including developing forensic investigation, harmonizing rape provisions in the penal code and enacting the Domestic Violence Act which would make spousal rape a criminal offence. 

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.  

Duration: 1’19″

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