Monrovia - In recent months Liberia has witnessed a prevalent number of rape cases resulting in the deaths of minors, with the latest in Brewerville, a suburb of Monrovia involving a 12 year-old girl who died, after being allegedly raped by a 45 year-old man and another 11 year-old girl who was brutally sodomized by a 40 year-old man angering many Liberians.
Cross sections of Liberians have expressed their dissatisfaction over the incidents, and are asking the government to take drastic actions in dealing with rapists. Several women are demanding that rapists be handed harsh punishments including death, life imprisonment and castration. Out of five women who spoke with FrontPageAfrica, there are calling for death sentence; one of them wants life imprisonment while another is calling for rapists to be left with God to face punishment.
Men are also not in favor of the action of their fellow men and are also suggesting similar harsh punishments including death, life imprisonment and hard labor. In separate interviews with three men, two are suggesting that rapists be killed while another one is requesting hard labor. Oretha Flomo, a charcoal seller in Mamba Point, Monrovia wants the penis of men who rape to be cut off.
“I want government to laymen who rape penis over a stick and beat it fifty lashes because it is the penis that can do the raping. If we beat their penis fifty lashes, it won’t function to rape any child again”, Oretha says. She believes the acquittal of Hans Williams, who was accused of rape, but tried and set free by the court is one of the reasons for the increase in the number of rape cases.
Said Oretha: “The reason why this rape is happening is because Ma Ellen freed Hans Williams from prison, so men are saying if Hans Williams can be freed, they can also be freed when they rape. It looks like women in other communities are not together, so the men are raping their children, but if any man tries to rape in Mamba Point, they will kill him before Ellen or the police can come in, because it will already be late.”She is blaming President Sirleaf whom she believes is doing nothing to come down hard on rapists.
“Ellen does not have time for the woman's problem because she does not have a girl child and all of her grandchildren are in the US. I voted for Ellen for nothing because she is not doing anything for us, so my vote went in vain. Because right now, we don’t have any good government on the ground, because Ma Ellen is not protecting us, if she was protecting us, these things will not be happening to us”, Oretha continued.
The charcoal seller says Liberians made a mistake by electing President Sirleaf. “God, please forgive us, because we made mistakes to put a woman in the seat. So, I just want to tell the Liberian people to look up to God, until Ellen time can finish, because we are just hanging and anybody can do anything to us and nothing will come from it. I want to tell the mothers to mind their girls and not send them to sell, if you want to sell, put the market in front of your house where you can monitor your child”.
A Nigerian is in sympathy with Liberians over the widespread rape case describing it as painful. Mrs. Monyei Franasca says it is a painful experience for a parent to see their child get raped.
“This is a very painful case to see your child raped, in Nigeria, it is not like this. A case of rape is taken more seriously. In this case, where there is no capital punishment in Liberia, the men would keep on doing this, and the poor people will be affected. If the government does not protect the people who these things happen to, the people will take the law into their hands and deal with the rapists”, she said.
Mrs. Franasca has avowed that she would take matters into her own hands whenever she sees her child being raped. “As a mother, I will not look at my child suffering or dying in pain and just stand, I will take anything that I can grab at that moment and deal with that person. I'll retaliate and call others to help me also and deal with the rapist”. She's calling on the Government of Liberia to rethink the decision to ratify the treaty against capital punishment.
“At least the government should rethink and cancel the capital punishment treaty and begin imposing capital punishment on these men. And mothers let’s try to be mothers and keep our children out of the streets and out of danger. Let’s educate them and open up to them, so that they can tell us things affecting them”, she intimated. Audrey Dunbar,a resident of Mamba Point wants rapists killed.
“I want these men who rape to be killed, because this will continue to go on if action is not taken. I do not want government to take these rapists to jail, because when they break jail, they will get out and furthermore, other people will do it and be willing to go to jail and rest”, he expressed. Like others, Audrey wants the Government of Liberia to revisit the law against capital punishment.
Said Audrey: “The government should revisit the law and include capital punishment, and have these men killed. Because when rapists are killed, it will serve as a lesson to other men not to do the same, and rapes will decrease. To President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, we are asking her to take real action and kill these men and forget about the capital punishment treaty, so that this act can cease in our country. My advice to mothers who sent their children out to sell, or buy during late hours is they should stop because it is risky for girls.”
Hawa Abu, owner of a food kiosk popularly known as Ma, Hawa wants rapists to be taken to the infamous BellehYallah prison and put in jail for life. “The government should take these men who rape to BellehYallah prison and jail them for life so that they cannot be able to run away, because these kinds of men are killers and are not supposed to be among good people” Ma Hawa said. Despite being the owner of a food kiosk she says she did not send her children to sell on the street.
She asserted “As for me, my children cannot sell, but I can sell for them, because I only want them to go to school. So, I want to tell mothers to stop sending their children to sell, but they should sell for them. Let the mothers struggle for the children before the men spoil them for us because they are our future. I am feeling bad for my friends who children were raped. I want for the women to come together and stand so the government can take action against rape”. Mrs. Sarah Doteh also describes rape as something that was rare during the 1960s and said she is surprised with the recent trend in rape.
“During the 60's, I never heard about men raping children because men were a lover of children, but I do not know what kind of desire these men who rape have, to engage in such evil act. Nobody has to tell us how to protect our girl children because we are seeing and hearing it for ourselves, so we have to keep our children in the house to prevent this devilish act. I do not know if these men are raping the little girls for position or they do not have women or what?” Mrs. Doteh averred.
She believes that killing the men, who rape, won’t help due to a verse in the Holy Bible that speaks against taking away life. Mrs. Doteh said “killing these people won’t help because the Bible says thou shall not kill, but we should leave them so that God can deal with them. God knows what to do with them or what kind of punishment to give them. I think these men are possessed, because the devil is going around, because this is the time the bible talked about.”
Men’s take on rape
With the majority of the rape cases in Liberia committed by men, other men are against the actions of their fellowmen. Mathias Young, of Monrovia wants death punishment for men who rape.
“These rapists should be punished by death, if the President says we signed the UN treaty not to partake in capital punishment, but even according to the same UN treaty, when someone is found guilty of rape and send to prison, they should serve their term in jail. But what we see around here, is convicted rapists who are sent to jail, are out after a few months and are raping another person. I think we need to revisit that law and call for death penalty”, said Young. He recounted several instances in which rapists get out of prison and commit the same offense.
Young: “I will not say it is the war that is making men to rape children, but I would say it is the government’s inability to strengthen the judicial system in dealing with rape cases, because rapists always get out of jail. Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe spoke about a rape case involving a man who raped a girl in Bong and when he was sentenced to jail, during a prison break, the man fled and raped another nine year old boy. So I think if the death penalty was issued on rapists, this would not be happening”. He is also blaming the widespread rape cases on the street selling by young girls.
“Another thing I see in my district, little girls are just all on the streets selling little things which are risky for them. If these little girls are not sent to the streets to sell, it will help reduce rape. If parents are saying it is due to hardship that they are sending their children to sell, they should be the ones selling and not the little child because the child cannot protect him or herself. We need to take serious action against these rapists” he observed. In his community Young said a community meeting is being organized to sensitize people about rape.
Young discloses: “We are organizing a community meeting in my district to sensitize our community on the issue of rape. If a rapist is caught in my district, the police have to be there one minute after you are caught, because the angry mob will kill you, and you will become history by the time police gets there”. Another issue Young frowned on is the alleged refusal rape victims by some medical institutions.
“One thing I want to speak to is that when these rape victims are taken to the hospitals, they are refused. I have learned that the Senate has summoned the chief medical officer at Redemption Hospital who refused little Musu who died of rape, for questioning”, he disclosed. Young wants the Redemption Hospital official to be relieved of his post.
“I think he should be removed from his post. We have past the stage where Doctors and Nurses should run away from patients who are bleeding from the fear of Ebola, because there are enough PPEs provided. The doctors who refuse these patients are doing it on purpose, because they have not been punished, for doing so, but if the Legislature can set an example on the Chief medical officer of Redemption Hospital, other hospitals and clinics would be mindful. People who are charged with the responsibilities to save lives are not doing their jobs. So we hope that the government will take this thing seriously”, Young appealed.
Oliver Nelson believes that punishments against rapists are not holding. “The punishment for the rape cases is not holding because many of the perpetrators, who go to jail, are out in no time, while others still continue to carry on this act. As for me, I think the punishment for these rapists should be death penalty, because raping has intensified. When one or two persons are killed, it will serve as deterrence to other rapists and the act will reduce”, Nelson intimated. He wants the government to reinforce the rape law by adding death penalty for rapists.
Said Nelson: “My advice to the government is to reinforce the rape law by adding death penalty and forget about this UN treaty signed by Liberia, because our children are dying. And Parents, who are in the habit of sending their children on the streets to sell, should stop it because harm is coming to the children”. Musa Konnehis calling for rapists to be sentenced to life in jail.
“These rapists should be sentenced to jail for life instead of the previous five years imprisonment. But if these rapists are sentenced to jail for life with hard labor; this will serve as a lesson to many people out there. While they are in jail, they should be subjected to hard labor to the extent that they will regret doing what they did”, Konneh said.
Konneh is cautioning parents to avoid teen age marriages especially people from his Mandingo tribe. “And my advice to our parents, they should stop encouraging teen marriages because it is also rape. Because I am from a Muslim background, and we the Mandingo people, always give our little 13, 14, 15 and 16 year old daughters and sisters to a very potential man. So, I believe little Musu Fofana who was raped, was given to Musa as wife because by 12 midnight, what was she doing outside at that hour if she did not go to sleep with him, but unfortunately she died? While we all regret the situation of the child’s death, the family knows about their daughter’s rape, so they should be investigated also”, Konneh stated.
A few months ago, Gender, Children & Social Protection Minister Julia Duncan Cassell, suggested that rapists be castrated as punishment for the act, which she believes would serve as a deterrent to others not to rape. Minister Cassell insists that men are exploiting the weak rape law, and still raping young children.
Liberia is a signatory to the international convention against capital punishment such as death sentence, which would make it difficult for the punishments suggested by several Liberians to be implemented. But with the wave of murder and rape in the country, citizens are calling on the government to hand murderers and rapists’ death sentence in order to serve as deterrence to would be murderers and rapists.