Religious Leaders Join Fight Against SGBV

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The prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and harmful traditional practices (HTPs) across Liberia have prompted Interfaith leaders to convene a strategic conference.

The conference, which attracted over 95 participants from the 15 counties, was aimed at getting a solid commitment from traditional and religious leaders in joining the fight against “the devilish practices of SGBV.”

The Executive Director of the Interfaith Leadership against SGBV, Rev.  Father Michael T. Sie, told the Liberia News Agency on Tuesday that the appalling situation of SGBV in Liberia requires “all hands on deck,” adding that the rate of SGBV has become a matter of utmost urgency.

Rev. Sie said the 2017 Gender Ministry report on Sexual Gender-Based Violence shows that 400 individuals were victims of these practices, a situation which, he said, if not controlled might hamper the destiny of young Liberians and other women in society.

He attributed such huge number of SGBV incidents to families or clans who use tradition or relationship to compromise SGBV cases.

According to him, traditional influences, ignorance and low awareness across the nation have always hindered the investigation of such abuses.

“This is everybody’s business because you do not know who is the next person to be raped or tampered with,” the Interfaith official asserted.

The conference highlighted the roles of religious leaders in combating SGBV, understanding of gender and its role in violence against women, and gender-based violence and actions that faith leaders can take to confront SGBV.

At the climax of the conference, participants emphasized the need for massive outreach at Mosques, Churches, Palava Hut conversations and Radio Talk Shows.

According to them, through these means, messages on SGBV can be spread to the citizens to crack down on the negative impacts of harmful traditional practices among the people.

In a conversation with participants, an executive member of the National Muslim Council of Liberia, Sheikh Imam Massaley Kieta, said those who engage in sexual and gender-based violence must be considered as enemies of the state, and expressed his desire to be an Ambassador against SGBV.

At the same time, Madam Musu Thompson, head of the National Tribal Governors Council, disclosed that it is time for them to take precaution as traditional people, adding that “if we were doing bad things to women and girls, like early marriage, we need to change now.”

“We are against violence against women and girls, even though we are traditional people, but we know the difference between good and bad,” she added.

Madam Thompson then appealed for government’s continuous support and the acceptance by citizens to take actions in order to secure the next generation.

UN Women along with the Swedish Embassy through the European Union funded the conference. – LINA