Liberia- ICCPR- Harmful Practices and Violence Against Women- February 2018

The Advocates for Human Rights submitted a report on harmful practices and violence against women in Liberia for the 122nd session of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2018 (March 12-April 6th).  

The report details the failure of Liberia to uphold obligations under the ICCPR related to harmful traditional practices, and other forms of human rights violations against girls and women including rape and domestic violence. While recent legislative and executive efforts have aimed to restrict violence against girls and women, there is still no law that prohibits the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).   

FGM remains prevalent in Liberia, particularly impacting girls in rural areas and the countryside. Over 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone some form of FGM, and the practice disproportionately impacts girls under the age of 14. Girls and women frequently suffer from long-term, negative health outcomes or death due to the practice, and experience torture shortly before and during abduction for the practice of FGM. Other forms of violence against girls and women, domestic violence and rape, also frequently persist; 892 cases of sexual and gender-based violence were reported in the first half of 2017.

Police do not effectively prosecute crimes of domestic violence and rape, and high levels of governmental distrust make reporting FGM challenging. Targeted individuals are not protected by the police; human rights activists that speak out against FGM frequently face death threats and violence, often forcing them to leave the country. Additionally, reported cases of rape are not registered with the police, and even fewer are sent to court.

The report proposes a series of recommendations for the Government of Liberia including:

  • Reform laws that prevent the equality of women and girls, review conflicting laws or situations of dual legal systems where customary and religious laws may discriminate against women, and develop uniform laws relating to family and property law that have clear supremacy to conflicting customary laws.
  • Adopt a law criminalizing FGM and banning its use on minors regardless of parental consent and on adults regardless of their consent.
  • Adopt a law that criminalizes domestic violence and imposes penalties for similar level or more severe crimes, provides victims with emergency and long-term protection, and mandates training for police on dynamics of domestic violence, women’s human rights, and effective responses.
  • Support and provide free services to those at-risk and survivors of FGM, including legal aid, health care, psychological counseling, shelters and crisis centers, and helplines.
  • Provide mandatory training to police on women and girls’ human rights, the harms of FGM, best practices to promote victim safety, and violence against women.