Liberia - Statutory Rape

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LIBERIA

July 5, 1999

Rape of minor girls on the rise in Liberia

Monrovia, Liberia - Police and doctors have given an appalling account of a sharp increase in the
number of rape cases involving male adults defiling minor girls in Monrovia, the Liberian capital.

Police director Joseph Tate told a news conference last week that most of the victims of rape
perpetrated by middle-aged men were girls "below the age of 15 years" and 24 such cases had been
reported in the first half of the year.

Tate cited two instances in which a 43-year-old man raped a six-year-old girl, and another case
involving a 27-year-old man who also violated a girl of six.

"This is just from Monrovia. The figures may be more if we get those from other parts of the
country," the police chief said.

One police officer explained that some of the victims were little girls being used by their parents to
peddle goods at street corners and in their communities from where they are lured by older
men under the pretext of wanting to transact business.

Pathologist Isaac Moses at the John F Kennedy Medical Centre said: "What makes it unimaginable
is that of late most of the victims fall below the age of 10."

"I am appalled by the rabidity of older men forcing minors into sexual intercourse," he said, adding that
"such rape cases are being reported on a weekly basis" at the hospital.

He told journalists that the situation has reached "an alarming proportion. So it is appropriate to raise the
alarm to create national awareness".

Most rape cases are referred to Moses who prepares a medical report used by police in court to
prosecute the culprits. The doctor said reasons forthe rape of minors range from adults taking
precaution against contracting the HIV/AIDS to a "natural passion" to have sex with children.

The offenders are also taking advantage of the hardship faced in the country which constrains both
male and female minors to fend for themselves after a devastating seven-year civil war.

A recent health ministry report stated that Monrovia is topping the list with 107 HIV/AIDS cases, with
the highest prevalence among the age group of 20-29.

Other doctors at the hospital told this reporter that "the probability is high" that many rape cases are not
reported to the hospital or police when the culprit and the family of the victim strike a compromise
wherein some money is paid as "damages and the child treated clandestinely".

The doctors did not mince words in expressing disdain about the practice "getting out of hand", and
calling on government to ensure that the culprits "bear the full weight of the law".

A child rights advocate group said it is worried that "the doers of this ugly act (child rape) usually go
away with impunity". 

The Committee of Journalists for the Protection of Children's Rights said it wants government to
enforce the law making the rape of children by adults a first degree felony.

Under current Liberian law, rape is a first degree felony if the rapist inflicts serious bodily injuries on
the victim, and faces the death penalty or life imprisonment.

The law also stipulates that sexual intercourse with a girl below 16 years is "statutory rape" because the
individual (girl) has no capacity to give "mental consent" to the act.

Rape is punishable by a definite prison term not to exceed 10 years, according to the new penal code
of the Liberian law. The committee said it believes "enforcing the law to the letter will eradicate the
rampant raping of little girls who are left with painful, indelible psychological and medical scars which
have an adverse effect on their lives".

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