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The Gender-Based Violence Often Overlooked Featured

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The Gender-Based Violence Often Overlooked

By Akiah P. Glay, Ph.D.          

Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is manifested in many forms. Too often, however, attention is placed on addressing GBV in its physical and psychological form with economic violence given considerably less attention. Economic violence is often considered within the scope of emotional or psychological violence. But recently, scholars have begun to define economic violence as a unique form of violence. The European Institute for Gender Equity termed it as a unique and mandatory form of control behavior that the abuser uses in an intimate relationship other than physical, sexual and psychological abuse. According to marital dependency theory and interdependence theory, women who are forced into economic dependence are at risk of being stuck in a relationship.

Women’s economic concerns are regarded as one of the main reasons why they have difficulty leaving a violent relationship. In fact, economic violence reduces trust and women who are unmarried but are living with a male partner may be less likely to also leave an abused relationship. The best way to eradicate economic violence from Liberia is social inclusion—women and men including people living with disability should be represented equally in all sphere of the society. It has been 18 years since the end of the civil conflict, but the economy is still plagued with problems such as unemployment, and the very large subsistence agriculture sector still produces very little, while employment for the females and people living with disability is diminutive. This could be attributed to one of the many causes of abject poverty in Liberia.

Economic Gender-Based Violence can seriously impede the victims economic, physical and psychological health. It threatens the economic security and independence of the victim, limits their capacity to leave abusive relationships and make independent decision and potentially leads to adverse mental health effects. It has a negative consequence on the victim’s safety. Both males and females could be victims of such abuse but most precisely, women are the most victimize. World Health Organization (WHO) indicates  1 in 3 (30%) women Worldwide have suffered some form of violence in their life time. Women often fall   prey to violence, physical, emotional or physiological. Though organizations, both national and international have been trying to eradicate this, it seems it is not ending anytime soon. In 2007, the United Nations supported the Liberia Government to implement the  2006, National Action Plan for the Prevention and Management of Gender-Based Violence in Liberia, which planned to minimize GBV by 2011 by giving  quality care to survivors using a multi-sectoral and inter-agency approach. It categorized GBV interventions into five thematic areas: psychological, including economic empowerment of women and girls, health, legal/justice, protection/security, and coordination. The implementation was done in two phases- the first phase being implemented from 1 June 2008 to 31 May 2010. The second phase from 1 June 2010 – 31st May 2012. With all these efforts, women and girls remain the unemployed group in Liberia.   The Liberian government and all citizens of Liberia need to double up, do more to support activities that foster behavior change by challenging negative gender stereotypes, social norms and attitudes towards particular gender, and also develop mechanism that will minimize GBV and promote social inclusion of all gender including people living with disability.

Gender-Based violence especially violence committed against women and girls is increasing becoming rampant in Liberia. young women and girls are constantly falling prey to violence. In the daily newspapers, there are always storylines about rape, sexual and physical abuse of some sort. In September 2020, , Liberia through its President, His Excellence George Mannah Weah declared Rape a National Emergency issue and committed to give  $2 million to address the issue. He planned to introduced the first set of new measures to address the increase in violence against women which would have included designating a specific prosecutor to handle rape cases and setting up a national sex offender registry. He also commented to creating a national security task force to handle sexual and gender-based violence. Instead of $2 million, in the 2020/2021 FY budget, U.S. 1 million was allocated for the fight against Rape and U.S. 513,707, was used as reflected in the 2022FY budget. In 2021 sp. Budget U.S. 200,000 was allocated and used to combat rape in Liberia but more is yet to be done on women and girls education and empowerment.

 Ironically, people tend to hold on to specific doctrines that promotes the male gender. In a recent community forum held by the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), a question was posed to participants about the cause or causes of GBV. We were amazed to hear responses such as “women are lazy; they always want to eat man’s money. They want to dress and look good without knowing where the money is coming from. So, if I spend my money on you, you are mine.”  Jerome S. Zinnah from Gbarpolu County said “my wife can never know my salary because my responsibility is to feed her and the children, I don’t want her to be frisky on me.”  Another gentleman Siaka Beyan said “I would love to be honest and share what I have with my wife, but if I do, my friends will mock me and call me stupid. They will even say the woman has bewitched me.” A lady stood up, madame Fata Mawolo and said “as for me, my husband has refused to empower me with a business because, he thinks when I am selling and making money, I will find another man. because of jealousy, he has refused to give me market money.” These are all forms of controlled behavior which leads to GBV. Controlled behavior is when a person expects, compel, or requires another person to cater to their own needs even at their expense. Controlling people often prey on vulnerable people. It is not always as obvious as punches and bruises, but can also look like restrictions on movement, coercion into sex even though you do want it and also cutting off your autonomy so you become financially dependent.

In Liberia, the current population is 5,180,203 based on United Nations projections, July 1, 2021, retrieved from 2.52 % of the population are females and 2.54% are males, which indicates that the margin between the two gender is thin. The Liberia Labor Force Survey retrieved from the International Labor Organization (ILO) 2010 Report indicates that 148.000 males to 47.000 females have paid jobs. 1.1 million citizens of Liberia are self-employed and female make up a large percent of this amount. More to that, literacy rate is 65.6 % males to 49.2% females according to the LFS, 2010. Though, there might be some improvement, the challenges still remain.

Women access to sources of independent living in Liberia is very limited. Entrenched cultural barrier that placed them in the role of a housewife has also contributed immensely to their dependence as they do most of the unpaid job. Women spend a disproportionate amount of their time doing an unpaid job such as selling, producing crops, taking care of the household. It is important to note that poverty among women has its root in the category society has placed them. Poverty and socioeconomic inequality are both causes and consequences of economic abuse. Poorer women are more likely to be dependent on their male partners then working class women, and such dependency can be used as a tactic to control women, which may lead to abuse.  

Though, Liberia has done well through the passing of various bills such as the “Affirmative Action Bill” and the Equal Representation and Participation Act of 2016 to ensure women are equally represented in the both houses and at the local government level, still much is needed. Women representation in governance is still the lowest amongst its West African counterparts with 12% of women in Legislature and 6% holding local government position.

To have a socially inclusive society, the government must support more females in acquiring skills to enable them the opportunity in their life time. While the Affirmative Action Bill and the Equal Representation and Participation Act of 2016, may be relevant to social inclusion, building the skills and expertise of a female who has never had a paid job is essential to the proper implementation of these policies. Also, there is a need to Promote the economic, social and political empowerment of women and girls. This includes supporting economic empowerment and livelihoods programs, social protection and safety nets that support women and girls and the leadership and meaningful participation of women and girls at all levels of decision-making, this could be the best way to eradicate Economic Gender-Based Violence.

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