With a day to Liberia’s 2017 election, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and UN Women express deep concerns over reports of violence against women in these elections and urges all to take actions to ensure that everyone, especially women and girls are free to exercise their political right.
Social media has been the main conduit of these attacks in addition to at least one verifiable incident of physical attack against a female candidate, recent findings by three civil society partners–Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia, New Narratives and the Liberia Women National Political Forum reveal.
According to the reports, a male candidate in Electoral District #13 Montserrado County, contrary to the Revised Code of Conduct for Political Parties 2011, watched as his supporters ransacked the offices of a female candidate in the district. In Grand Gedeh District 2, there is also the case of a female candidate whose supporters are being threatened along tribal lines.
The Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection and UN Women stress that considering Liberia’s conflict history and the progress that has been achieved in building a peaceful and inclusive society it is important that all actors including candidates, their supporters, justice and security, traditional and religious leaders and ordinary citizens are reminded to take personal responsibility for maintaining law and order during these elections.
Another area of grave concern is the apparent violation of Chapter 18.7 of the Penal Code of Liberia which forbids the dissemination of obscene material, when last week it emerged that nude images purported to be those of a female candidate were released to the public through social media by unscrupulous individuals.
The Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection and UN Women view such acts as disrespectful and denigrating to women and have the potential of discouraging women from participating in politics.
It is our opinion that as we draw closer to polling day, if action is not taken by responsible state institutions, this could be a recipe for chaos. We call on relevant state institutions including the Liberia National Police and the National Elections Commission to investigate these incidents and allegations and take necessary action(s) to remedy the situation.
One case of violence against women in politics is one case too many!
It is important to recall the role played by women in the quest for peace and as part of the dividend, they must be given the chance and space to participate in political processes freely.
We affirm that we stand for the protection of the rights of all women in Liberia including those contesting for elected offices.
Sieane Abdu-Baki Marie Goreth Nizigama
Acting Minister, MGCSP Country Representative, UN Women