Liberia and Its Women : Rape Protests, Violence Against Women

We watched with anguish and dismay yesterday, as a reportedly premeditated assault on peaceful protesters ensued at what should have been the close of a three-day demonstration. Liberian women, stopped from marching to their planned destination for the Stop Rape Protest, were being beaten and dragged into police vans just because they were standing up for their own survival. Some Liberia National Police officers, while intimidating protesters, reportedly accused them of “trying to make Liberia look ugly.”

In observance of International Women's Day, participants march from the centre of Monrovia to the Temple of Justice, home of the Liberian Supreme Court, where they staged a peaceful sit-in protest against gender-based violence. UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein
In observance of International Women’s Day, participants march from the centre of Monrovia to the Temple of Justice, home of the Liberian Supreme Court, where they staged a peaceful sit-in protest against gender-based violence. UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

Notably absent from the scene – and from the entire week’s events – was the self-professed Feminist in Chief, President George Manneh Weah. The President has snubbed the protesters since Monday, cowering in his office or elsewhere, instead of dignifying their cries with his presence. And now this.

Does he not remember who stopped the war? God first, it was Liberia’s women. They protested, they lobbied regional and international bodies. They combined their social, political and economic clout with their fervent prayer, and they forced warring factions to negotiate a truce. And then they made it last by electing a competent leader to sustain it. All this while the men of Liberia cowered and scrambled in the chaos. Is that who you’ve decided to pick a fight with, Mr. President? Liberian Women?

Maybe you’re taking the women of Liberia for granted because they have not shown the full force of their might. God blessed you that they’ve borne patience as you’ve encouraged your partisans to attack female opposition candidates. God blessed you they’ve been lenient as your supporters beat female dissidents to death, for speaking out against your Government, while you said and did nothing. How long do you think their patience will last?

We recall the battle cry for the South African struggle. “Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock!” Get your house in order, Mr President. Your days are numbered.

 We now address the women surrounding the President and those in the ruling coalition. Perhaps you make him feel justified by refusing to hold him to account – or by only doing so in quiet tones that do not convey the urgency of the matter at hand. Only a man who honours ALL women can truly love and respect you. If he doesn’t, its only a matter of time before he shows you his true colours… if he hasn’t already. And just because he is kind to you does not excuse his neglect of the people he is sworn to protect.

Be warned that your affiliation with the President and his henchmen can never shield you and your loved ones from sexual violence. Don’t wait to learn the hard way that no job, money or proximity to power is worth your dignity… or anyone else’s. Learn from the stories of your sisters in the South African anti-apartheid struggle. Many of those women were being raped by their own comrades in the fight. When they tried to speak up, they were told to shut up; to stop ruining the credibility of the struggle; to sacrifice their dignity and right to justice on the altar of the party’s image.

Take heed and speak up, women of the Coalition for Democratic Change. Your sisters in the streets are not protesting against you or your party. These women are speaking up for all women, boys and girls – including you and yours. Join them! And better late than never.

When Liberia’s women are united, they are a mightier force than any president. They have prevailed before and will again, no matter how long it takes. The more brutal the attacks, the bolder and more determined they become until they win. Whose side do you want to be on, in the end?

Lastly, we call on Weah’s international network of football stars. You are all out there protesting about Black Lives Matter. Well, there are some black female and male lives that matter right here in Liberia. Pressure your former teammate to do his job and stop rape.

Source: Daily Observer

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