The United Kingdom’s branch of Save the Children, a non-governmental organization (NGO), has released a report outlining the widespread sexual exploitation of Liberian girls, who are often forced to have sex in order to have access to basic necessities. Children are often responsible for earning money for their families in the West African country that has been devastated by 15 years of civil war. According to the report, men in positions ranging from peacekeeping soldiers to teachers and from police officers to NGO workers often promise money, favors, food, or material objects to girls in return for sex.
The report summarizes discussions with over 300 Liberians in four different camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and in four areas lately resettled by former IDPs. All of those surveyed asserted that this form of exploitation affects at least half of all girls in their area. According to Save the Children UK, “The girls reportedly ranged in age from eight to 18 years, with girls of 12 years and upwards identified as being regularly involved in ‘selling sex.'” While the abuse does not go unnoticed, communities and families often feel powerless to address it, according to the report.
Jasmine Whitbread, the chief executive of Save the Children UK, stated, “This cannot continue. It must be tackled. Men who use positions of power to take advantage of vulnerable children must be reported and fired. More must be done to support children and their families to make a living without turning to this kind of desperation.”