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Liberia Declares War on Rape

Posted Aug 14, 2007 1:13 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Throughout Africa, rape reportedly has been used as a weapon of civil war in many countries by militiamen, rebels and government armies. The crime has rarely been punished, even when children are the victims.

But that is changing in Liberia, whose female president publicly says she herself was the victim of an attempted rape, in an effort to help dispel the stigma associated with reporting the crime. An 18-month-old law now provides for potential life imprisonment for convicted rapists, and a so-called war on rape is being publicly promoted to encourage victims to seek justice, according to the Associated Press.

This is a radical change. "Rape was so prevalent during the civil war that many have come to see it as a petty offense compared with other atrocities common during the conflict," reports AP—and Liberia is far from unique in that regard. (The situation in Sudan was detailed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post.)

After four years of peace in Liberia, though other atrocities have ended, rape—especially of children—is a continuing issue. Since the end of the war, more than half of the 658 rape victims treated at the capital's main rape clinic were younger than 12, and 85 percent were under age 18.

"Despite these figures and the line of women that forms outside the rape clinic every morning, five convicted rapists are serving sentences in Monrovia's central prison," reports AP.

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