Martu Yardolo had just turned 17 when she says she was given a drug hidden in a drink and gang raped by three men. It was the night of her birthday. Yardolo was looking forward to celebrating with her friends. Instead but it ended in violence that has destroyed her world.
Commentary by Evelyn Kpadeh Seagbeh with New Narratives
Martu, whose real name is being withheld because of stigma, says she was betrayed by a male friend from her Mount Barclay community near Monrovia, who masterminded the rape with two friends. Since the rape – in 2021 – the perpetrators have been on the run.
Beaten and with internal injuries, Martu was treated at a local clinic. Her family was determined to hold the perpetrators to account and so reported the attack to local police. But ever since no arrest has been made. The family has tirelessly made follow-ups with the police and the community but to no avail.
Martu’s uncle is still white hot with rage. He says his niece’s rape and the relentless number of rapes in Liberia are a ‘silent war’ against Liberian children.
“Some men are just evil. How will a man who is in his right sense rape a two, five, or six year- old-child?” he asks, shaking with anger. (His name is being withheld to protect the family’s identity.) “For me, I want to agree with the chief of staff (of the Armed Forces of Liberia) that rapists be given capital punishment. That will put an end to men raping children and for me, it will be fine like that.”
Martu’s uncle is not alone. It’s nearly two years since President George Weah made his September 2020 declaration that rape was a national emergency after a spate of horrific cases made headlines in the country. The president unveiled a plan designed was to bring relief to Liberian girls and women, deter perpetrators, and fast-track the adjudication of cases.
He designated a specific prosecutor to handle rape cases, set up a national sex offender registry and a national task force to handle sexual and gender-based violence cases. He allocated $2 million to address rape and other forms of gender-based violence.
But as the second anniversary of his declaration approaches, little has changed for Liberia’s children.
The true number of women and children raped in Liberia is unavailable because most rapes go unreported. But girls under 15 bear the heaviest burden according to data collated by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. Of the cases reported to sexual violence clinics in Montserrado, the biggest county by population, seven out of every ten were perpetrated on girls under 18 years of age.