The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said Monday it is appalled by the rape of a three year-old girl in Gbapolu County by a high school student, who is reportedly under-18.
“UNICEF reminds everyone that the identity of the survivors of rape and/or sexual abuse must be protected and every effort should be made to preserve their anonymity and full recovery from this horrendous act.”
In a statement issued Monday in Monrovia, UNICEF called for “a swift investigation and trial in line with measures in place for handling children in contact with the law, both as victims and perpetrators.”
The UN agency said it is particularly concerned about how children, especially girls, are the majority of victim/survivors of Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) in Liberia.
It noted that in 2019, at least 70 per cent of reported cases of rape through the GBV IMS were girls between the ages of 12 – 17 years old.
Moreover, this recent incident shows how children as young as 3 years old are victims to this “gruesome act and increasingly more adolescent boys are arrested as suspects.”
“Unfortunately, Liberia has already experienced increased vulnerabilities of children and women as victims of SGBV during the Ebola pandemic (2014-2015) where during this period, there were increase reports of sexual violence against women and children, especially girls; increased number of adolescents girls becoming pregnant and eventually dropping out of school.
“Thus UNICEF and partners are concerned how the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the preventive measures are having an adverse impact on women and children.”
It added that “The efforts of the Government of Liberia, under the leadership of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and partners to end Sexual and Gender Based Violence against girls and women are welcomed and the communities and their leaders should support mitigation measures to avoid any future stigma for survivors and their families.”
“UNICEF and partners will continue to support the Government and the civil society to address violence against girls and men in Liberia and to ensure their safety both within the confines of their homes as well as in public places,” the statement assured.
It continued: “UNICEF urges the members of the communities, religious leaders and decision- makers to support the efforts to end Sexual and Gender-Based Violence against girls and women by putting an end to the culture of silence as a first step for making a change.”
UNICEF said together with other UN agencies, (UN Women, UNDP, UNFPA, UN OHCHR and UNHCR) are delivering as one in addressing violence against women and girls through the Spotlight Initiative in Liberia, supporting the Government of Liberia and funded by the European Union.
Further the Government of Sweden continues to support UNICEF in child protection, including on SGBV.
“UNICEF in Liberia works closely with key government ministries (MOGCSP, MOJ, MOH and MOYS) and CSOs in Liberia to ensure child victims/survivors receive child centered and gender sensitive multi-disciplinary services to ensure their long term recovery.
UNICEF is also working closely with community based groups (including child welfare committees, GBV observatories and the Liberian Children Forum) to “raise awareness on SGBV and address gender inequitable norms and values that are detrimental to children, girls and boys.”