The U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah Malac, has challenged young Liberian women and girls to “say no to sexual harassment and intimidation” from their male counterparts.
Ambassador Malac said young women and girls should not be silent and allow people to take advantage of them because they are females, noting that reports of cases of gender-based violence are on the increase in the country.
The American Ambassador made the statement Wednesday at the launch of the Safe Cities for Women Campaign sponsored by ActionAid Liberia in collaboration with Women’s Forums from five universities and the Mano River Union Youth Parliament (Liberia Chapter).
She said the campaign to tackle sexual abuse and violence against women has come a long way in Liberia and that the gains made so far are commendable.
Malac, however, noted that as evidenced by the constant stream of police reports, sexual violence and assault on young Liberian girls has been on the increase.
She maintained that Liberians should stand together to fight sexual abuse and gender-based violence until women and girls are free from this scourge, noting that she supports the safe cities for women campaign which seeks to provide safe campuses and urban environments to enable women achieve their full potential.
Ambassador Malac pointed out that Liberia is not alone in having to deal with the problem of gender-based violence, noting that it remains a pervasive problem in other African countries as well as the rest of the world.
She indicated that the Liberian Government has done better in recent years through creating greater awareness, more diligently prosecuting criminals who commit sex crimes and working over the long-term to change behaviors that encourage perpetrators of these crimes.
She said despite the Government’s efforts against these crimes, perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence continue to walk free in rural parts of the country because of inadequate police presence, insufficient judicial capacity and in some cases intervention by traditional chiefs and elders who often push families to settle cases outside the formal justice system.
The American diplomat emphasized that “it is wrong for Liberians to settle the issues of sexual abuse and cases of violence against women out of court”, stressing that this needs to be stopped because those who sexually abuse women and girls deserve formal punishment by the Government.