Harsher Penalties for Sexual Assault in Liberia
Tuesday, August 21, 2007 5:36 PM

Since December 29, 2005, Liberia has administered increased penalties for sexual assault. Under the new law, a conviction could lead to the offender spending life in prison.  In gang and statutory rape cases, the accused may not post bail. These tightened restrictions resulted from the government's response to the use of sexual assault as a tool of terror during Liberia’s fourteen-year civil war. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s president and Africa's only elected female president, publicly announced  that she was almost sexually assaulted during the civil war, which has begun to dispel some of the stigma surrounging this issue in Liberia.


Children constitute a significant percentage of sexual assault victims seeking medical care. Medecins sans Frontieres runs the capital’s hospital which houses the main clinic for sexual assault. Since the end of the war, the clinic has treated 658 victims. Of those victims, more than half of the sexual assault victims were under twelve and eighty-five percent were under eighteen. Despite the progress, only five people are serving sentences due to sexual assault convictions in Liberia.


Compiled from: “Women Begin Using Law to Lock Away Rapists in Liberia,” Rukmini Callimachi, reprinted in Boston Globe, 14 August 2007.