Liberia

Population: 4,128,572 (2011 estimate)
Location: West Africa

SV Statistics

  • During the war sexual violence (SV) was use against all women, regardless of age and sex.
  • Rape of women and of men is often used as a weapon of war, as a form of attack on the enemy, typifying the conquest and degradation of its women or men or captured male or female fighters. (Swiss S et al. Violence against women during the Liberian civil conflict. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998, 279:625–629.)
  • Post-war extreme poverty and high unemployment is causing ongoing SV, with girls/women and boys/men selling sex in return for money and/or food.

Tearfund’s community research (2010) showed that:

  • Teenagers as the most common targets of SV.
  • SV survivors in general are stigmatised and rejected, although some families and/or individuals are supportive.
  • There is strong dissatisfaction with the judiciary system, as perpetrators are not caught and/or punished and bribery is common.
  • The church is accused of seeing sex and SV as non-spiritual matters and therefore not the business of the church.
  • At the same time the research participants are convinced that the church can and should play a central role in addressing SV and its consequences.

Background to conflict

The recent past of Liberia is rife with armed conflict.  The country was involved in a civil war for 14 years, with a series of coups and counter-coups creating a volatile boiling pot where armed response was seen as an accepted way of responding to differences.

The roots of the civil war started in the early 19th century, when the United States of America identified Liberia as the region of Africa to which freed American slaves can emigrate and live in independence. Americo-Liberian discrimination began against the original indigenous people of Liberia, a situation deeply resented by the oppressed indigenous tribes (Adebajo, 2002:19).

Discrimination against and exploitation of the indigenous tribes is seen as one of the main reasons for the civil war, or at least for the coups that triggered the civil war. In 1980, amid a food crisis and serious international debt, 17 indigenous non-commissioned officers under the lead of Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe launched a successful coup (Alao et al., 1999:18).

Doe turned out to be a very despotic ruler and beatings, torture, and assassinations were characteristic of the Doe regime.  A counter-coup in 1985 failed, but in 1989 war broke out when the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NFPL) – 100 men led by Americo-Liberian Charles Taylor – entered Liberia via Nimba county to take on the Doe government. Attacks and counter-attacks on ethnic groups led to civilians joining the fight, splits developed in the NFPL and splinter groups joined the fight, and a full-scale civil war developed (Alao et al., 1999:20-23).  The fighting, despite many attempts at peace treaties and democratic elections, continued until 2003.

 

 

Population: 4,128,572 (2011 estimate)
Location: West Africa

SV Statistics

  • During the war sexual violence (SV) was use against all women, regardless of age and sex.
  • Rape of women and of men is often used as a weapon of war, as a form of attack on the enemy, typifying the conquest and degradation of its women or men or captured male or female fighters. (Swiss S et al. Violence against women during the Liberian civil conflict. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998, 279:625–629.)
  • Post-war extreme poverty and high unemployment is causing ongoing SV, with girls/women and boys/men selling sex in return for money and/or food.

Tearfund’s community research (2010) showed that:

  • Teenagers as the most common targets of SV.
  • SV survivors in general are stigmatised and rejected, although some families and/or individuals are supportive.
  • There is strong dissatisfaction with the judiciary system, as perpetrators are not caught and/or punished and bribery is common.
  • The church is accused of seeing sex and SV as non-spiritual matters and therefore not the business of the church.
  • At the same time the research participants are convinced that the church can and should play a central role in addressing SV and its consequences.

Background to conflict

The recent past of Liberia is rife with armed conflict.  The country was involved in a civil war for 14 years, with a series of coups and counter-coups creating a volatile boiling pot where armed response was seen as an accepted way of responding to differences.

The roots of the civil war started in the early 19th century, when the United States of America identified Liberia as the region of Africa to which freed American slaves can emigrate and live in independence. Americo-Liberian discrimination began against the original indigenous people of Liberia, a situation deeply resented by the oppressed indigenous tribes (Adebajo, 2002:19).

Discrimination against and exploitation of the indigenous tribes is seen as one of the main reasons for the civil war, or at least for the coups that triggered the civil war. In 1980, amid a food crisis and serious international debt, 17 indigenous non-commissioned officers under the lead of Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe launched a successful coup (Alao et al., 1999:18).

Doe turned out to be a very despotic ruler and beatings, torture, and assassinations were characteristic of the Doe regime.  A counter-coup in 1985 failed, but in 1989 war broke out when the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NFPL) – 100 men led by Americo-Liberian Charles Taylor – entered Liberia via Nimba county to take on the Doe government. Attacks and counter-attacks on ethnic groups led to civilians joining the fight, splits developed in the NFPL and splinter groups joined the fight, and a full-scale civil war developed (Alao et al., 1999:20-23).  The fighting, despite many attempts at peace treaties and democratic elections, continued until 2003.

 

 

What is the church doing?

In December 2011, church leaders came together and committed to work to speak out against sexual violence.

In July 2012, church leaders met with survivors of sexual violence for training specific to the bible story of Tamar, which was led by the Ujaama Centre, KwaZulu Natal University.

In 2013, pilot programmes began in Nimba Country and Monrovia:

  • Training church leaders and nominated focal points (from within churches) in sexual gender based violence.
  • Training and mapping of referral pathways and services within communities for church and community members.
  • Plans for public marches and speaking out against sexual violence within the church and local community for the 16 days of activism.

 

  • Benetta’s Story

    As part of an Action Aid Liberia project to address violence and HIV, Benetta is helping to confront violations of women’s rights in Liberia, and the stigma such violations can bring. Hear […]

    Read more

Latest news

Translate