MONROVIA, Montserrado – Following the completion of a national conference aimed at addressing an epidemic of sexual and gender-based violence, President George M. Weah has declared rape a national emergency.
The proclamation came about after hundreds of Liberians gathered on the street for three days protesting against rape and calling on their government to declare rape a national emergency. It was also one of the recommendations made at the subsequent conference that brought together relevant civil society groups, along with government officials and partners.
According to a press statement on the Executive Mansion website, the president issued a proclamation that made rape an emergency during a cabinet meeting on Friday, September 11.
The statement said the president would not spare any effort in ensuring that the SGBV epidemic scourging the country is curtailed.
Under the state of emergency, President Weah stated his administration would move quickly to ensure that commendations presented during the conference would be addressed expeditiously.
The declaration means the president will appoint a special prosecutor for rapes, establish a National Sex Offender Registry, and establish a National Security Taskforce on SGBV.
To show his commitment to the result from the conference, the president has announced an initial amount of US$2 million out of the US$6 million an inter-ministerial committee determined was needed to fight SGBV.
Weah, who declared himself ‘feminist-in-chief’ in 2018, noted that additional measures would be announced subsequently, including executive orders to protect the vulnerable and to ban harmful traditional practices in the country, which was also part of recommendations made by participants of the just-ended national conference on SGBV.
Weah also requested that fellow citizens, activists, as well as local and international partners, work with the government in the fight against SGBV in the country.
During the conference, the president had proclaimed, “We also want to ensure that our women, girls, boys and other vulnerable people at risk of abuse in our society will have increased access to information, protection, and specialized services.”
“As president, I want to assure you that I remain relentless in my commitment to the cause of reducing and eradicating sexual and gender-based violence in Liberia,” he added.
Norwu Harris, one of the leaders of the three-day protests against rapes, said she appreciated the president for taking the first step mentioned in the roadmap.
“The easiest one has been done – now it’s time to do the real work so let’s get the ball rolling,” she said.
She explained that in as much as the president is working on fulfilling his commitment, activists also need the involvement of everyone, including parents, family members, traditional leaders, and religious leaders.
Featured photo by the Executive Mansion