The United Nations has teamed up with the Government of Liberia to launch a nationwide campaign to prevent and punish the crime of rape, one of the most serious challenges the West African nation is grappling with as it emerges from years of conflict.
“Rape is the most frequently committed serious crime in Liberia so we must find more effective ways to stop these crimes before more women and girls are hurt and abused,” said Alan Doss, outgoing Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
The campaign, called “Stop rape – it could be your mother, your daughter, your sister, your niece,” will be taken around the country over the next six months. It was launched following a call by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Mr. Doss for stepped-up efforts to tackle the crime.
According to UN Police (UNPOL) Commissioner Mohammed Alhassan, the number of reported rape cases had increased from 351 in 2006 to 425 in 2007. He encouraged victims to report rape, as “UNPOL will continue to work with the Liberia National Police (LNP) to ensure that there is no hiding place for rapists.”
He added that, as part of the campaign, women and children’s protection units are being established around the country with specially trained officers to help track down perpetrators.
In a related development, Mr. Doss yesterday handed over a newly reconstructed Gender and Development office building in Voinjama, the capital of Lofa County, which was completed through UNMIL’s Quick Impact Projects.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, he emphasized the importance of involving women in all aspects of public life. “Women must always be placed at the centre of communities and at the centre of our lives because a successful country always ensures the full participation of women in national and local life.”