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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Over 20 Teenage Girls Raped in 10 Months in River Cess County

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By: Gabriel Sawah

In River Cess County, the authorities have disclosed that more than twenty teenage girls have been raped over the last ten months as Sexual and Gender-Based abuses continue to increase.

Henry Jabbie, River Cess County Gender Coordinator described the act as “worrisome” and said that the girls being affected by gender-based valance are teenagers who are barely able to provide for themselves and their children.

“Over the last 10 months, there have been over 20 rape cases, the recent one is the one involving a 14-year-old girl in Zimmine Town, Central River Cess District. The perpetrator was arrested by the police and is currently in police custody; although the child is taking medication, the child is going through terrible pain” he said.

This paper has not independently verified this report.

Jabbie called for the support of the community and stakeholders in the fight against SGBV and blamed the situation on “massive early marriage and teenage pregnancy” which he believes are highly contributing to the growing wave of SGBV cases in the county.

Cases related to persistent non-support are also on the increase in River Cess County and are said to be a major contributing factor to the increase in zogo (disadvantaged youth) in the county.

“Men have children by women and deliberately refuse to support the children. This is contributing to children being wayward because the children will have to go in the street and fetch for themselves. After all, the single parents cannot afford for that child” Henry Jabbie explained.

However, the fight against rape is facing serious challenges ranging from the lack of logistics to the acute lack of logistics by both law enforcement and the Ministry of Gender Children Social Protection.

Many perpetrators according to a police officer source regularly escape crime scenes either by themselves or by family members who make way from them overnight to avoid prosecution, thereby impeding the fight against SGBV.

Meanwhile, women and young girls in River Cess County continue to fall victim to the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM); although not prevalent, cases that are been reported are compromised at the community level.

“FGM has been highly compromised here, too many cover-ups for FGM abuse,” Jabbie, Rivercess County Gender Coordinator said

Presently, 31.8% of Liberia women and girls are living with the consequences of FGM practice, according to Equality Now.

According to the 2019 Liberia Demography Health Survey, early childbearing among teenagers is more common in River Cess County (55%) than in other counties, especially Maryland (19%).

That survey also found that 60% of women aged 15-49 have had an experience of physical violence, highlighting the underreporting of rape and other forms of SGBV which often seem like family matters.

Additionally, the Ministry of Education 2023 report states that River Cess is among the counties with a significant rate of female dropout at senior high level.

Emmanuel Mandeh, the Head of the Women and Children Protection Section of the River Cess County Detachment is frustrated with compromising rape and SGBV cases in the county.

“If rape occurs with a juvenile, it damages her entire life and future. She may likely not give birth to a child or even get married, so you are not supposed to compromise rape cases”, Mandeh emphasized.

He explained that in a more recent case, a 21-year-old man- Zumo Jallah allegedly raped a 14-year-old girl in Yolor Town, Central River Cess District, and is currently at the Cestos Central Prison awaiting court trial.

Officer Emmanuel Mandeh is the only person assigned in the entire county with responsibility for women’s and children’s issues.

25-year-old Damonwa may not be underage, but she is a survivor of sexual offense after her spouse Mark Jabbie alias Sunnyboy beat her multiple times before having sexual intercourse with her.

She tells our reporter in Rock Cess, that Sunnyboy does this time with a number, and she has no way to get out of this persistent abuse due to her refusal to serve him in bed.

Rock Cess is a small town across the Cestos River, roughly 6 hours away from the Cestos River.

Said Damonwa: “This man has two women he is not taking care of me and my children, so I refused to sleep with him. He started beating me and forcibly having sex with me twice then he beat me over it again” she explained her ordeal.

Damonwa as she has been referred to, to protect her identity suffered health complications that included severe bleeding.

Our reporter confirmed this after seeing the medical report and discharge of the woman from the ST Francis Hospital in Cestos City after weeks of receiving medical care.

After a complaint, her alleged abuser Sunnyboy was taken to the police station, but the case was later dismissed without Damonwa getting justice as the police declined comment on the matter.

We reached out to women’s rights advocates such as Lucky Waiyondeh and Annie Morris who expressed frustration that most men who abuse women and girls are living with impunity while SGBV cases continue to increase in the county.

Women rights advocates want several actions taken by authorities and said they believe the manner and form in which police, court, and local authorities in River Cess County have handled SGBV cases is not enough to reduce the growing wave of sexual and domestic offenses against women and girls.

“I can see some men continue to abuse women and girls; I am against this I think we need tougher action. Women live in the home, while they must be treated like slaves?” Lucky Waiyondeh expressed her frustration.

She also thinks lack of economic empowerment also contributes to the growing wave of SGBV cases.

For Annie Morris, she believes “we need to remove the manhood of those men who raped our girl children because women all over the place while will you choose to damage another person child”

As the world concludes the celebration of the 16 days of Activisms against Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV), many questions remain unanswered among women and girls of Rivercess County as it relates to SGBV cases ranging from early marriage, rape, domestic violence, persistent non- support, and teenage pregnancy.

In Rivercess County, the persistent challenge of heightened sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) casts a somber shadow over the lives of women many of whom are already living in poor conditions.

In the face of little effort to address this pressing issue, many villages in the southeastern county find themselves entangled in a complex web of factors contributing to the prevalence of SGBV.

From observation, the vulnerability of women remains a critical concern, emphasizing the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to combat and alleviate the distressing impact of gender-based violence against rural women and girls.

As these women grapple with the harsh reality of their circumstances, it becomes increasingly evident that concerted and sustained efforts are imperative to create a safer environment and empower the women of Rivercess to break free from the chains of violence.

Civil Society Organizations and concerned women are wondering when the right answers that put an end to these abuses will arrive to offer women and girls relief.

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