By: Lisa Tenneh Diasay
MONROVIA – Four years have passed since the exposure of how primary school girls and other young women were sexually exploited and infected with HIV AIDS in their quest to attain education in the More Than Me School System, yet none of the victims has yet received justice.
More Than Me was a charity organization headed by American Activist, Katie Ann Meyler.
The exposure was made through a documentary titled “Unprotected” as a result of an investigation conducted by Pro Publica in 2018.
The 2018 Pro Publica documentary showed the Liberian government’s latitude to hold accountable a charity organization and those under its authority for the abuse of more than a dozen girls.
In response to exposure, women’s rights groups under the banner #weareunprotected took visible action to hold the government accountable for the prevalence of SGBV in Liberia.
Four years on nothing has happened and the women are disappointed. They have expressed disappointment at the government’s lackadaisical attitude toward the allegations leveled against More Than Me in the documentary. Most importantly, their concern about the lack of justice for the young survivors of the sexual exploitation carried out by Meyler’s fiancé on the young students.
In a strong statement issued October 18, 2022, to mark four years since the documentary was made public, the WeAreUnProtected Movement urged the government of Liberia to take practical steps to ensure justice for survivors of Sexual Gender-based violence as well as the More than Me case.
Among other things, the women called on the Weah-led administration to provide an update on the care given to the survivors of MTM and what has been done to improve the quality of those lives.
They also requested an end to impunity. The women called on government officials and all those who have proximity to power including Foreing Minister Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah to be held accountable for sexual allegations..
The women’s groups: “Officials accused of violence and abuse continue to sit in positions of power and wield their influence to deny women and girls justice. The justice system at Criminal Court E is dysfunctional that many of the cases involving sexual violence remains unresolved. Today, on the anniversary of the visible action taken years ago, we demand the following actions: Ensure that the sexual offender’s registry is set up. Ensure that the Ministry of Gender set up not only Domestic Violence Fund to support victims of abuse but also a fund to support timely access to justice. Invest in the Referral Pathway and provide a periodic public report on the implementation of the SGBV roadmap.”
According to the group’s statement, there is a need to amend the Rape Law to ensure that the judges appointed at Criminal Court ‘E’ are circulated to ensure the fast track of cases.
On the other hand, they further noted that to ensure the freedom to participate in democratic processes, there should be an end to acts of intimidation-whether the distribution of acts of sexual activity of women or violence (real or perceived), against a voter and as a political candidate.
Additionally, the women maintained that government must institute measures to protect girls in schools and ensure there are adequate background checks for those coming into contact with children.
They stated: “Impunity and unaccountability for the lives of women and girls continue. Women are forced to bear the heavy financial costs for the abuse they did not sign up for. The cycle of abuse and violence against women and girls continues. Impunity in any form must end. We demand Accountability in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence.
“It is clear that sexual violence has become more public and pervasive, not only as a criminal war against women and girls’ bodies but also a public health crisis that has had a limited response from the State in the last two decades. The government under President Weah said it would investigate, it has been four years since we haven’t gotten any further word from the government.
“The school local board public set up a committee to investigate the rape of almost a dozen girls at MTM in response. The committee reported what we had always been known; that there had been breach of duty of care, since no further action has been taken by the government to ensure the livelihood of these survivors are met and there’s accountability”.
#fixthesystem #4yearsjusticedelay #4yearsofresistance #4yearsofconsistentadvocacy
#weareunprotected #EndRape #womenrightsarehumanrights