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Sexual Violence and Justice in Liberia

Most victims of rape and domestic violence in Liberia struggle to get justice, for reasons ranging from social pressure to weak and corrupt law enforcement. With the UN's peacekeeping mission in the country winding down, the situation may get even worse.

OXFORD – Martha’s daughter was only 12 years old when a group of men raped her in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. The police arrested one of the attackers, but did not refer the case for prosecution – an outcome that, Martha believes, had a lot to do with her inability to pay the unauthorized “processing fee” that some police officers impose on rape victims and their families.

Martha’s story is far from unique. In fact, most victims of rape and domestic violence in Liberia struggle to get justice. And with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) winding down, the situation may be about to get even worse.

When UNMIL was initiated in 2003, Liberia had just emerged from a brutal 14-year civil war, during which physical and sexual violence against women was rampant. Over the last 13 years, the mission has played a key role in preserving peace, supporting reconstruction, and advancing critical social goals, including improving women’s access to justice. Support from UNMIL and other international partners enabled the Liberian government to establish several specialized criminal justice agencies, including the Women and Children Protection Section of the Liberian National Police (LNP) and a court dedicated to prosecuting sex crimes.

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