BY: Shallon S. Gonlor

Amid the observance of the 16Days of Activism, investigators at the Women and Children Protection Section (WACPS) of the Liberia National Police (LNP) in Nimba County have formally charged a traditional herbalist, Varney Dopoe with statutory rape.

Charged and forwarded to the Sexual Offenses Court of 8th Judicial Circuit in Sanniquellie, Varney Dopoe, 34, was picked up and forwarded to the court  after he was accused to have sexually abused a 16-year-old girl in Zorgowee Town, Nimba County District #3.

Police on Monday forwarded defendant Dopoe, 34, to the Sexual Offenses Court of the 8th Judicial Circuit where he was duly charged with the alleged commission of the crime of statutory rape in violation Section 14.70 of the Revised Penal Code and later reprimanded at the Sanniquellie Central Prison pending prosecution.

The police said defendant Varney Dopoe was arrested and charged based on an allegation levied against him for raping a 16-year-old girl he claimed to be his girlfriend.

According to the police, its investigation established that the 34-year-old herbalist had interaction with the victim on that fateful date and time when the allegation of rape was reported while the victim persistently complained of being raped by defendant.However, defendant Varney Dopoe has since denied having sexual intercourse with the 16-year-old victim.

In March of this year, a 41-year-old man identified as Alex Tokpah was arrested and forwarded to the Sexual Offenses Court of the 8th Judicial Circuit in Sanniquellie, Nimba County for allegedly raping  11&15-year-old girls in Bahn City.

Reports reveal that, Suspect Tokpah, a traditional herbalist committed the alleged act while trying to carry out some traditional herbs in order justify public claims against those victims who have early been accused of witchcraft practices.

Concomitantly- Tappita City, Lower Nimba County’s detachment of the Liberia National Police is investigating a 55-year-old Stipendiary Magistrate of Zuolay Magisterial Court, Wuo Queglay for allegedly rapping a 12-year-old girl in Zuolay Town, Nimba County.

Reports say Magistrate Queglay allegedly committed the act on early Friday, October 27, 2023.

It was revealed by medical reports that the survivor was tempered with. Due to complications from the unorthodox act, she is currently undergoing medical attention at a local hospital in the county.

Zuolay Town, the locality where the situation occurred is situated in Tappita Electoral District#6, Lower Nimba County.

The Ministry of Gender, Children & Social Protection (MoGC&SP), recently confirmed that it has recorded over 2,109 GBV cases beginning January 1st,  to August 30, 2023 from across Liberia. 

Of those cases, Montserrado (1223), Nimba (315), Lofa (237), and Grand Cape Mount County 1(83) reporting the highest number of cases this year. Gender Minister Sayde-Tarr, during last weekend news conference acknowledged that 68.5% or 1,446 cases account for rape, gang rape and sodomy affecting 68% of survivors under the age of 18 years.

As violence against women remains a burning issue across the globe, Liberia joins the world for the observance of the 16 Days of Activism, that is intrinsically intended to heighten GBV campaign. The campaign kickstarted on Saturday, November 25, 2023. It is a global campaign rooted in the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute, advocating for an end to Gender-Based Violence. 

Since Rape was declared a National Emergency, there’s seems to be a rise in the number of cases reported across the country, as there have been additional budgetary allotment to tackle Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) cases.

WomenVoices Newspaper has gathered that, currently about Twenty puls pre-trial detainees at the Sanniquellie Central Prison from 2021 to 2023, charged and indicted for sexual related offenses.

An independent investigation conducted so far  have it that, the Sexual Offenses Court similarly recorded about twenty plus pre-trial detainees at the Sanniquellie Central Prison facility who allegedly committed sexual related crimes ranging from Rape, Statutory Rape, Gang Rape, Involuntary Sodomy among others upon the 2023 August Term formal opening.

It furthers that, at the close of the 2023 August Term,  the number of pre-trial detainees dropped to nineteen based on nolle prosequi, admission to bail, dismissal, acquittal, conviction among others in line with the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia.

Violence against women and children is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination that result in sexual and domestic violence against women and children in Liberia.

Sexual and domestic violence is frequent, and courts in Liberia are ill-equipped to handle these cases and can’t respond when these women and children desperately need protection.

 The World Health Organization (WHO) stands against violence against children and women, especially intimate partner violence and sexual violence is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights.

The March 9, 2021 an estimates published by the WHO indicate that globally about 30% of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

Notebly, violence can negatively affect women’s physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health, and may increase the risk of acquiring HIV in some settings.

In Liberia, over a quarter of women aged15-49 years who have been in a relationship have been subjected to physical or sexual violence by their intimate partner.