- Liberians rank gender-based violence (GBV) as the most important women’s-rights issue that the government and society must address.
- Citizens are evenly divided on how often GBV occurs in their community: Half (50%) say violence against women and girls is “somewhat” or “very” common, while just as many disagree.
- A majority (56%) of Liberians say it is “never” justified for a man to use physical force to discipline his wife. But more than four in 10 (44%) think it is “sometimes” or “always” justified.
- Almost two-thirds (63%) of Liberians consider it likely that victims of GBV will be criticised, harassed, or shamed by others in the community if they report these crimes to the authorities, including 30% who say this is “very likely.” o But a large majority (89%) believe that the police are likely to take cases of GBV seriously.
- About two-thirds (65%) of Liberians say domestic violence should be treated as a criminal matter, rather than as a private matter to be resolved within the family.
Liberian President George Weah declared rape a national emergency in 2020, after signing a Domestic Violence Act the previous year (Al Jazeera, 2020; FrontPage Africa, 2019). Despite these steps, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls persist, perpetuated by traditional social norms as well as social dislocations and a lack of accountability as a legacy of the country’s 14-year civil war (Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, 2021; Wilson, 2021).
Liberian women suffer various forms of gender-based violence (GBV), including sexual and domestic violence, early and forced marriage, wife inheritance, and female genital mutilation (Ministry of Gender and Development, 2009).
Liberia’s 2020 Demographic and Health Survey found that 60% of women aged 15-49 had experienced physical violence, including 33% who had experienced such violence in the 12 months before the survey. The survey also highlights the underreporting of rape and other forms of GBV, which are often seen as family matters. Only 42% of women aged 15-49 who had experienced physical or sexual violence had sought help (Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, 2021).
This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 (2021/2023) questionnaire to explore Africans’ experiences and perceptions of GBV.
In Liberia, citizens rank gender-based violence as the most important women’s-rights issue that the government and society must address. Half say GBV is a common occurrence in their communities, and a majority see GBV cases as a criminal rather than a family matter.
More than half say it is never justified for a man to use physical force to discipline his wife, and most trust the police to take cases of GBV seriously. But a majority of Liberians also believe that victims who report GBV cases to the authorities are likely to be criticised, harassed, or shamed by others in the community.