Despite a major anti-rape law implemented in Liberia early this year, a United Nations report found that progress has been slow in abolishing sexual and gender-based violence due to flaws in the judicial system. The Rape Amendment Act, implemented when Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf came into office January 2006, strengthened consent laws, redefined rape as a felony, and imposed a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for first-degree rape. A human rights report issued by the United Nations Missions in Liberia (UNMIL), however, found that only a fraction of cases are actually heard, some suspects are being released without facing trial, and many cases are inefficiently investigated.
According to the report, “rape suspects are regularly released on bail even when there is significant evidence indicating guilt” and as of July 2006, “only one accused had been convicted of an offense under the Act since it came into force six months ago.”
President Johnson-Sirleaf is now working with UNMIL and the Government of Liberia Rule of Law Task Force to ensure that the laws mandating fundamental rights for women and children are being upheld.