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Liberia: Redefining Rape

IN 2006, LIBERIA UNVEILED AN Act to Amend the New Penal Code Chapter 14 Sections 14.70 and 14.71 which was approved by the National Assembly with a wave of new definition of rape.

UNDER THE NEW AMENDED LAW, Intentional penetration (however slight) of a penis into the vagina, anus, mouth, or any opening of another person, without that person's consent is considered rape.

ALSO CONSIDERED RAPE is the Intentional penetration (however slight) of another body part (such as a finger) or an object (such as a gun, stick, candle, or bottle) into the vagina or anus of another person, without that person's consent.

THE LAW STATES THAT sexual intercourse (including any of the actions described above) between a person who is over 18 years of age and a person who is not yet 18 years of age, even if the younger person agreed to the act or was not forced into it.

THE NEW LAW states that if a victim was detained at the time of the act or was asleep or otherwise unconscious at the time of the act it is also considered rape. "Due to a physical disability, the victim was not able to communicate to the perpetrator whether she consented at the time of the act. The victim was administered or forced to take a substance that could have caused her to be stupefied or overpowered at the time of the act."

HEREIN LIES a serious dilemma at the John F. Kennedy Medical Hospital in Monrovia where FrontPageAfrica gathered late Sunday night that a male dietician was apprehended and jailed by the Liberia National Police after reportedly attempting to rape an unconscious patient who is being treated at Liberia's premiere medical facility.

THE HOSPITAL sadly took nearly 72 hours before coming out with a rather lame statement to select media stating that the accused dietician had been turned over to the Liberia National Police and dismissed from his position.

THE STATEMENT FELL SHORT of explaining what actually took place in Room 303 B after the accused reportedly shut the door of the room the patient was in, and cut the lights off.

ACCORDING TO A COPY OF THE INCIDENCE report of the night in question obtained by FrontPageAfrica, the nurse on duty saw the dietician, Emmet Rogers wandering on the medical ward and asked him what why he was roaming around. The dietician, according to the report, told the nurse that he was performing his consus and pick up the remaining dishes. The nurse mentioned that she was preparing the patient's prescription medication and in the process heard screaming from the room 303 B.

THE ROOM REPORTEDLY had three patients, but one who was conscious was mysteriously removed from the room later. That patient, according to the incident report, shouted to the dietician: "You too evil; leave the people daughter."

THE NURSE ON duty reported hearing the patient screaming and wrote: "I then turn to the door and saw him watching me with the door half-way opened. Immediately I ran to the room to see what was happening and noticed that the light over Room 303 A and 303 B beds were off. He hurriedly put it on as soon as he heard my voice and pretended that he was feeding the patient with soft drink and I told him to leave the ward and stop bothering the patient because she does not like too much eating and takes time to eat. I also asked him whether he was related to her but he did not say a word. So I asked him to leave the ward. He attempted getting out while I returned back to my desk to proceed with my work. I went to the pharmacy to sign for the patient's IV meds while in the process, I heard the patient in Bed 303 D, fussing with Emmet, telling him, to "leave the people's daughter, and called for help also. I ran to the room with my co-worker Only to see him standing by the bed but this time, and I asked him what was he still doing there in the patient's room by the bed and he was speechless, and could and could not say a word. So I tried to figure out what was wrong. So I told him to leave without accusing him of anything and told him to stay away.

ON MONDAY, investigators sought to get the patient to talk but she reportedly told them she was feeling cold and not too well thus unable to explain what happened when the dietician shut the door and cut the lights off.

THE FATHER OF THE victim expressed surprise at the sudden muteness of the only witness who had told him 24 hours earlier that his daughter was raped by the dietician.

SAID THE FATHER: "When I went upstairs, I met the patient that was allegedly reported discharged in room 307 instead of room 303 where she was with my daughter. Why did they remove her from the ward? Is it because she was still talking what she saw? But my conscience is still not serving me right, for speaking to that patient, because I see an innocent life is about to be taken away soon. The patient called Mariama who only said what she saw, is suffering for it. Because just Yesterday I asked her in front of the doctors, and she told me my daughter was raped but today she is no longer able to speak."

THE ACCUSED reportedly made three attempts prior but was thwarted by the nurses on duty.

AUTHORITIES INCLUDING Solicitor General Betty Lamin Blamo, hospital administrators and the victim's father met Monday in a bid to find common ground on the matter. The father, whose name is being withheld to protect his daughter's privacy told FrontPageAfrica Monday that he did not trust the report given him Monday by the hospital. "Insult has been added to injury. So I expect the President to behave as a mother. Immediately after the brought the report I said I was not going to accept the report because it is a fairy tale."

FrontPageAfrica has also been informed that a doctor who was on duty on Friday night and was asked to check the girl to see whether she was raped; refused, telling nurses that it was not in his curriculum and he was only a consultant.

IN JANUARY 2006, Liberia inaugurated its first woman head of state who appointed an array of women to help her usher in a new era and an opportunity for women to take charge and fix a system that men who had been in charge for more than a century had messed up, a system that offered very little opportunities for women or protection for them from the terrors that came their way.

A SYSTEM WHERE sexual violence is right up there with armed robbery, among the monthly police crime listings in the capital Monrovia.

TODAY, majority of rape victims are children, according to treatment centre statistics and one report by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reporting in 2009, a 21-month-old survivor.

A SYSTEM in a which a lawless period during the civil war witnessed women and girls being subjected to gang rape and sexual slavery, forcing many to become pregnant. Extreme sex crimes - and impunity - have persisted throughout the country long after the guns of the civil war became silent.

WHAT SADDENS US is the fact that at JFK; where the entire administrative positions are occupied by women, an act of rape is being labelled as "attempted" when the nurse's own report point to actual rape - at least as defined by the new amended law signed in 2006.

LIBERIA IS AT A CROSSROADS. We may or may never again be fortunate to see a woman at the helm of the affairs of state.

THIS IS WHY it is important that the current crops of women starting with the presidency, the Ministry of Gender and the Solicitor General, all powerful positions of power, should not take things lightly in ensuring that the rights of women are protected not just on paper but in deeds.

THE JFK administrators owe an apology to Liberia and women in particular, for attempting to cover up what is obviously an act in poor taste by a staffer who has brought shame and disgrace to the premiere hospital in the nation and striking fear amongst Liberian women who will no doubt be thinking twice about seeking medical care at JFK, an institution that bears the name of a former American president but falling short in every aspect of the medical field amid low morale, poor facilities and devastating management lapses that deserve a serious look by the Liberian presidency.

SIMPLY PUT, change is needed at JFK and change is needed now. If President Sirleaf does not move to fix the messy and obviously disturbing situation that is ongoing, she will leave a rather ugly picture that could haunt her legacy long after she has left the stage.