Source: FrontPageAfrica
Six children who lost their lives to injuries caused by rape during last year and the first half of this 2013 were on Wednesday remembered by the nation through lighting of candles by six other children at the launch of the Anti-Rape Campaign. Experts say the number may be more than six deaths as many families would not report rape because of the stigma.

The speeches of the young Liberians brought tears to many faces removing the make-up of some of the most powerful women in Liberia today. "As we sat there listening to the children the justice minister and I were warping tears from our eyes", said President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Four out of Ten Victims Under 12

Doctors Without Borders (DWB) reported in 2011 that 92 percent of females treated for rape in its Liberia facilities were under 18. A DWB study published in November said that of about 1,500 females treated in Monrovia clinics in 2008 and 2009 after rape, four out of 10 were younger than 12.

One in 10 was younger than five. "Half of the survivors were children aged 13 years or younger and included infants and toddlers," according to the report.

Reports from the Gender Ministry says 2012 2,493 case of gender based violence were reported up from 2,383 in the previous year. Statistic shows that Montserrado account for the highest number 1,493.

One of the most gripping cases involved 14-year-old rape victim Olivia Zinnah who was buried on Dec. 22 2012 after suffering years of pain and surgeries following a rape by her own uncle when she was just 7.

On Wednesday, the President wept for the many who were victimized but observers say the reality is that many more children, some as young as three-months-old continue to suffer. More recently a 43-year-old Lebanese National raped and videotaped over a dozen young Liberian girls 15 and under.

"Unfortunately some of our most recent cases have been very young children. One of the perpetrators had most of the victims between the ages of 6 and 11 years old. Sometimes it's easy to look at the evidence. This is one time since I have been in the criminal Justice system I could not review the evidence. Justice Minister Christiana Tah said. "It was just too difficult, too graphic, and too horrific, it was more than sickness it was just pure evil; so bad to the extent that the solicitor general took her own money to set up a special grand jury. We didn't wait for government to give us money"

Numerous challenges tackling Rapes

But as government declared war on the unwholesome act the challenges are just too many to see victory over this plague that is fast eating up the fabric of the first African State founded on the principle of Human Rights.

"In the fight against rape the ministry and its partner's faces serious challenges, some of the most serious challenges include; finding the support for survivors; compromise of rape cases by parents; influenced by traditional and religious leaders, lack of forensic lab for evidence gathering and speedy access to justice", said Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassel.

The challenge is not at the Gender and Development ministry. Even the courts responsible to dispense justice have serious problems themselves Justices Jamesetta Wolokollie, a member of the Supreme Court bench admits.

Said Associate Justice Wolokollie: "The only thing I can say is that, if we say we rely on the court to stop rape, it's not going to happen just now. Because I think the people that are raping now are going on the increase because they are trying to test the system. And the system we have is not up to the task."

"We are in a predicament because this motto that says that justice is blind put us in the predicament where we listen to evidence and we give judgment based upon the evidence. Just a week ago we meet with the judge of criminal court E. She frustrated this whole term. I have only two witnesses appearing before me, " Wolokollie said.

For Wolokollie, the way forward in this nationwide battle against rape, is not the court. "What do we use to prosecute the person? "So the thing is not the court, the thing is the evidence, commitment and training of the CID or those who investigate the cases".

Unorthodox means required

But president Sirleaf in the quest to see this pandemic minimized said much more should be done get justice. "Justice, I know you talked about prevention but that's not enough we have to get some convictions."

Said Sirleaf: "Sexual violence is a growing concern in our country especially the rape of children. Statistics from the ministry of Gender and Development shows that over sixty percent are children less than 14 years. We are failing short when it comes to prosecuting SGBV case.'

The President said the reason is because when cases are sent to court, it is very hard to get the evidence. "And most times rape is not given the highest priority. Of the 30 case received in Bong County only two were tired. In Montserrado 40 were on the docket on during February and August terms of court only 15 were tired; 8 guilty, 5 not guilty and 2 cases dismissed. During the term of court 101 cases were dropped from the court for lack of evidence. The most recent one in the battery factory area children raped and sodomized, videotaped by the perpetrator, which means he had no feeling of guilt, a 43-year- old Lebanese National. We can't allow them to come and enjoy, sit in our country and rape our children? No! I said to the minister of Justice we need some unorthodox means. We don't know exactly what they are but we will find it."

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