AFELL New Boss Decries ‘Children Selling In the Streets’

AFELL New Boss, Atty. Philomena T. Williams

The new President of the Association Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL), Atty. Philomena T. Williams has sharply decried what she calls ‘maltreatment of children or child street-vending’ in Liberia.

Delivering her inaugural address recently, Atty. Williams said when the children are sent to do ‘street-vending’ to support the family rather than being in school, it means they are denied the right to education and they are put at risk of being rape under the guise of perpetrators patronizing their sales.

According to Atty. Williams, doing this makes it easier for them to be abducted for ritualistic purposes; and ruin their future or shorten their lives. She said “Therefore, we as parents or guardians are violators of domestic and international laws on child rights.”

“AFELL says if government officials, Lawyers, Doctors or Engineers’ children are in school from 8:00am to 2:00pm, and after school hours at home studying, exploring new ideas, and or playing, then no other child should be street-vending at any time during the day. It is blatantly wrong,” she said.

Article VI, Section 4 (c) of the Children’s Law states that “No person or society shall subject a child to work either as a means of satisfying obligations on the part of the parent regardless of whether or not the work is harmful, hazardous or indecent.

However, the new AFELL President said “We call on government to ensure full implementation of the 2011 Children’s Law of Liberia consistent with the Convention on the rights of the child. Let’s join forces to get our children out of the streets.”

Under the 2011 Children’s Law of Liberia, Article 4 Section 1, 1.3 (g) under the Caption Parental duties  and Rights  “Every parent shall have an equal duty with a co-parent to respect the child’s dignity and refrain from administering domestic discipline that violates such dignity or adversely affects the psycho-social or physical well-being of any child living in the household; the Law, further states under Article VII, section 7, 7.1  “No person shall subject a child to torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. “Cruel, degrading or inhumane punishment and discipline prohibited”.

She lamented that what is even more disheartening and of serious concern is that schools have been reported as hostile grounds for sexual exploitation of children.

“Regrettably, sex in exchange for grades has been reported to AFELL, that some teachers request money and/or sex from female students for passing grades. AFELL shall engage and train school authorities on preventing abuse, identifying and reporting abuse, and evidence-gathering for prosecution.  What is even more disturbing is that homes that should be a safe sanctuary are used as a harbor of sexual and domestic violence,” Atty. Philomena Williams said in her inaugural speech.

She further added “Disappointingly, schools that are educational institutions for our children are environments of unwelcome behavior for teachers engaged in sexual harassment and abuse. Sadly, our children are being exposed to drugs. Tragically, rape has become an affliction, the cause of death among tender age children. Regrettably, pastors, law enforcement officers, community leaders, with obligation to safeguard and protect the people, are perpetrators of rape. These abuses remain prevalent. AFELL will not relent to promote zero tolerance of any form of abuse, ensure adherence to the rule of law, and effectively prosecute, where applicable.”

The AFELL boss added that it is sad to note that another group of children are those accused of coming in conflict with the laws; saying “We believe that the establishment of the Juvenile court, though significant, is a part of a holistic process. The Juvenile Justice system remains incomplete when our children are being placed in surrounding jail cells with hardened adult criminals; and sadly, juvenile delinquents complain that detention conditions are increasingly horrible.”

AFELL calls on the legislature, judiciary, and the executive branches of the government to provide for the juvenile the appropriate facilities that are of international standards.

Meanwhile, President Williams has assured that moving forward; her administration will commit itself to regenerating the hard work of their founders and past administrations to ensure that AFELL’s vision to see women enjoy equality and children are protected under the laws is achieved.

She believes that institutionalizing AFELL’s Legal Aid Clinic in the counties will yield positive results and impact their mission, as well as guarantee increased support to the justice system.

The inaugural program was graced by US Ambassador Michael McCarthy and Swedish Ambassador Urban Sjostrom, Kwabena O. Appiah, Ghana Ambassador and Dr. Uchenna Emelonye, Country Representative of OHCHR among others who called on the new leadership to promote access to justice, gender equality, adherence to the rule of law and prevent   women and children against SGBV and pledged their unflinching supports to the organization in achieving its plans. The Chief Justice of the Republic of Liberia, Cllr. Francis Saye Korkpor also expressed his desire in working with the new leadership.

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