Domestic Case Law

Williams v. Republic of Liberia Supreme Court of Liberia (2014)

Femicide, Statutory rape or defilement

The appellants were charged with the murder of a 13-year-old girl. The Supreme Court was asked to consider whether the prosecutor proved the case beyond reasonable doubt. The victim was found hanging by rope in the appellants’ bathroom and died the same day in the hospital. The appellants brought the victim to the hospital prior to her death. Evidence showed that she had bruises on the left and right side of her neck, and she had sexual intercourse prior to her death. The grand jury indicted the appellants in the circuit Court. The Judge granted the appellants’ motion for bail. In the trial, the appellants produced multiple witnesses to testify that they were in the same house when the incident occurred. The prosecutors had two autopsy reports proving that the victim’s death was caused by sexual abuse or homicide. The Circuit Judge convicted the appellants for murder and sentenced them to death by hanging. The appellants filed a petition for the writ of certiorari for a crime not proved beyond reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court held that in the case of murder, the prosecutors are required to overcome the presumption of innocence. Here, the government failed to establish each element of the crime of murder, specifically, the government failed to prove that each of the appellants choked the victim to death, failed to prove that each of the appellants hanged her body in the bathroom in their house, and failed to prove the missing belt, which was used to tie the victim belonged to the appellants. The Supreme Court also explained that the government failed to produce the DNA specimens from the victim to test after taking the appellants’ DNA for testing, and could not produce any evidence that linked the hanging to the appellants. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment for the lower court to reconsider.

Korkoya v. Korkoya Supreme Court of Liberia (1994)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage

The Domestic Relations Law provides that the grounds for divorce are (1) inhuman treatment by the defendant-spouse that causes danger to the plaintiff-spouse’s physical and mental well-being, (2) desertion of the plaintiff-spouse by the defendant-spouse for a period of one or more years, (3) the defendant-spouse commits adultery, or (4) incompatibility of temper that results in danger to the plaintiff-spouse. The appellant husband filed for divorce for incompatibility of temperament. In the complaint, the husband alleged that his wife was quarrelsome and pugnacious, which the wife denied. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff moved for a new trial. A final judgment was rendered confirming the original verdict. The appellant appealed to the Supreme Court and contended that a new trial should be awarded. The Supreme Court recited some of the testimony from the trial. In the trial, the defendant testified that the appellant had an intimate relationship with a third person and did not leave any food for the family. The Supreme Court stated that if the complaining spouse who filed for divorce was not responsible for the “incompatibility,” the trial court should grant the divorce. However, if the incompatibility arose from the misconduct of the complaining spouse, the trial court had the discretion to deny the divorce. The Supreme Court found the complaint by the appellant defective and affirmed the lower court’s decision.

Barclay v. Digen Supreme Court of Liberia (2011)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

The appellant filed a complaint to divorce her husband and an action of summary proceedings to recover her property from the appellee. The appellee-husband claimed he was entitled to a property acquired during the marriage because a married woman cannot acquire property in her own name solely for herself. The Court held that, under the 1986 Constitution, (a) there is no legal significance of a woman choosing to use her husband’s surname; it does not affect the right of a woman to own property while married; (b) a woman can purchase property in her maiden name during marriage; (c) unless freely consented to, property which is owned solely by a husband’s wife cannot be controlled by her spouse. The Court ruled that the appellant proved her title to the property by a preponderance of evidence. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the verdict and directed the lower court to enter judgment to evict the appellee.

Toopah v. Republic of Liberia Supreme Court of Liberia (1974)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Femicide

The defendant appealed a homicide conviction for the shooting of his wife, arguing that the killing resulted from his discovery of her adultery and could, therefore, only amount to manslaughter. In a charge of homicide, the law requires a showing of malice (i.e., a murder committed with premeditation). Implied malice (i.e., murder committed in the “heat of passion;” without premeditation) is nullified by sufficient provocation. The court found that his contention of provocation was unsupported and that his testimony was contradicted by witnesses’ testimony, which indicated that he routinely beat his wife and threatened her life. On the day of the shooting, he took the rifle home without permission and he called his wife to return home prior to shooting her. No evidence showed that his wife was committing adultery. Thus, the Court upheld the conviction, refusing to consider provocation as a mitigating circumstance and finding that the murder was premeditated because the evidence proved express malice.

Tequah v. Paye Supreme Court of Liberia (2014)

Sexual violence and rape

The three appellants were accused and convicted of armed robbery and gang rape. The trial court found that the appellants raped the victim at gun point. The Supreme Court of Liberia upheld that under circumstances of violence or threats of violence to have sexual intercourse with a person, there is a presumption that the person being violated or threatened did not consent. In such circumstances, the burden of proving affirmative consent from the victim is on the accused.

Gardea v. R. Supreme Court of Liberia (2014)

Sexual violence and rape

The Appellant was convicted of raping his step-daughter on three occasions and sentenced to life imprisonment. He appealed the decision on the basis of lack of evidence. The prosecution’s case relied on evidence provided by the victim (deceased at the time of the trial), her nine-year-old sister, and a medical professional who examined the victim at the hospital immediately after she was raped. The defence argued that evidence provided by the victim immediately before her death was hearsay. The court held that, while under Liberian law hearsay cannot form the basis of a criminal conviction, “a dying declaration” (i.e., when a victim provides evidence concerning her or his attacker whilst at impending death in extremis) can be admitted as evidence and is not hearsay. The court also pointed out that, despite her young age, the victim’s sister’s evidence, which was admitted, was not hearsay because she was a direct witness to the attack and was subject to comprehensive cross examination. Finally, the court rejected the defence’s claims that the medical professional who inspected the victim in the hospital was not an expert witness because of her credentials that included a medical degree and over ten years of experience treating children victims of sexual violence. The conviction was upheld.

Clark v. Clinton-Johnson Supreme Court of Liberia (2015)

Sexual violence and rape

The Act Creating Criminal Court E, Section 25.3(a), requires magistrates to forward a case alleging a sexual offense to the circuit court within 72 hours of arrest without first investigating the charge. However, the Constitution of Liberia, Article 21(f), requires courts in general criminal matters to conduct an investigation, known as a preliminary examination, within 48 hours to determine whether a prima facia case exists, thereby prohibiting preventively detaining the accused. The petitioner was arrested for rape, and the magistrate forwarded the case to the circuit court without first conducting a preliminary examination. The Supreme Court of Liberia held that forwarding such a case to the circuit court under the Act does not violate the Constitution, notwithstanding the additional time and its potential characterization as preventive detention, because magistrate courts are not equipped to protect witnesses from public exposure and the psychological harm resulting from directly facing the defendant. The objective of promoting witness protection having outweighed the additional time required by forwarding such cases to the circuit court, the Constitution is not violated, and Section 25.3(a) stands.

Rogers v. Republic of Liberia Supreme Court of Liberia (2009)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s judgment that appellant, Allen Rogers, was guilty of rape. The 11-year-old complainant alleged that the appellant kidnapped her and a boy for two months, raping her daily during this time period. She testified that the appellant threatened to kill her if she talked about the rape. In his defense, the appellant testified that the week before the alleged kidnapping occurred, he knelt down to pray and heard the voice of someone he called Evee. Evee told him “your two children have come.” He then met the complainant and the other child. He took them to the town advisor, who said that the appellant could keep them at his house. The appellant was found guilty of statutory rape and given the maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The court reversed the conviction because the appellant did not receive adequate representation. His representation was inadequate because the public defender assigned to his case failed to call corroborating witnesses and counsel “knew, or ought to have known that the lone testimony of the appellant was not sufficient to establish his innocence. Thus, his failure to have ensured that other witness[es] appear to testify for the appellant was a serious dereliction of duty.” In Liberia, “the uncorroborated testimony of the accused person is not sufficient to rebut proof of guilt.” Therefore the court reversed the appellant's conviction and remanded the case for a new trial.

Counsellor, et al. v. Republic of Liberia Supreme Court of Liberia (2008)

Harmful traditional practices, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment that appellants, Living Counsellor, Wisdom Counsellor, and Righteous Counsellor, were guilty of rape. Their four female victims ranged from ages 7 to 12. The victims were introduced into the Kingdom Assembly Church of Africa, or the “Never Die Church,” so named because it promised followers eternal life on earth. It also promoted free sexual relations among its members. The victims testified that they were beaten and raped by members of the church. The court stated that “the evidence adduced during the trial show that rape is institutionalized in the Never Die Church. The testimonies given by the prosecution witnesses also points to a situation where the victims were living in a condition of servitude almost identical to slavery.” The appellants argued that “they did not rape the girls but that they only share love with their sisters because they have no earthly mother or father but only Wonderful Counsellor.” They argued that their conviction should be overturned because they were also charged with gang rape, but the trial judge failed to instruct the jury on that charge. Still, their conviction was upheld because they were convicted of rape nonetheless.

Cole, et al. v. Dixon Supreme Court of Liberia (1938)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

This case established that a wife’s dower is not an asset of her husband’s estate. After Mr. Dixon died intestate, his widow claimed that she held title to real property that had been conveyed to her as a deed of gift from her husband. The executor, appointed by the county, argued that the property was an asset of the estate because the right of dower accrues only after the death of the husband. The court disagreed, holding that “[the] inchoate right of dower is so vested in the wife as against the husband immediately on the marriage that no conveyance or act of the husband can deprive her of it,” including any creditors’ claims against the husband.

Williams v. Wynn Supreme Court of Liberia (1914)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

This case established a precedent for property rights of a widow when her husband dies intestate. On appeal, the Supreme Court excluded from probate ten acres of land to which Ms. Williams claimed title. Ms. Williams’ husband died intestate and the executor of his estate, appointed by the Probate Court, included all real and personal property from the marriage in determining the assets of the estate. Ms. Williams claimed that she held title to ten acres of property that her husband had purchased through a third party, with title vesting in the wife. The executor argued, and the trial court held, that all property acquired through the husband could be made liable for his debts. The trial court relied upon the Constitution of Liberia, which states “The property of which a woman may be possessed at the time of her marriage and also that of which she may afterwards become possessed, otherwise than by her husband shall not be held responsible for his debts.” The court reasoned that this clause implies that property acquired through her husband could be held liable for his debts. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that if a husband acquires property in the name of a third party, who becomes the medium through which title vests in the wife, the wife has an absolute right in that property and is not liable for the claims of the husband’s creditors. The court failed to apply this holding to personal property of the marriage, however, stating that instead personal property procured and owned by the deceased for the common use of the household is an asset of the estate.

Dlyon v. Lambert, et al. Supreme Court of Liberia (1884)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

This early case established the precedent that a married woman may own and convey property independent of her husband. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision denying ownership of a half-acre of land. Ms. Dlyon bought the property from a sheriff’s auction after it was repossessed for the payment of the owner’s debts. The Lamberts argued both that the previous possessor of the land never gained title of the property because he failed to obtain a fee simple deed so could not be used to pay his debts, and that even if he did have title, a married woman could not purchase land. On the first point, the court held that while the previous possessor did not have perfect title to the land, it could still be reached by creditors. On the second point, the court unambiguously declared that Ms. Dlyon had the right to purchase the property: “Under the Constitution, a femme couverte [married woman] may convey property she is possessed of otherwise than through her husband and this fact admits the inference that she may also bargain and buy property independent of her husband.”

Massaquoi v. Republic of Liberia Supreme Court of Liberia (2014)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment that appellant was guilty of rape and reduced his sentence from life imprisonment to 50 years imprisonment. The victim, an 11-year-old girl, stated that the appellant, 38, forced her into his room and had nonconsensual sexual intercourse with her. The court affirmed the lower court’s admission in evidence of the testimony of the victim’s mother, who testified that she saw blood on the victim’s skirt and questioned the victim about the incident. The court held that the testimony qualified as an exception to the hearsay rule because statements are generally admissible “to determine the trustworthiness and reliability of statements made by child victims of abuse.” In addition, the court affirmed the lower court’s admission in evidence of the expert testimony of a physician’s assistant. The court held that even though the physician’s assistant did not have a medical degree, he qualified as an expert because of his experience with and knowledge of victims of sexual violence. The court noted that social workers trained in these areas would qualify as expert witnesses.

Fallah v. Republic of Liberia Supreme Court of Liberia (2011)

International law, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment that appellant, Musa Solomon Fallah, was guilty of rape and upheld his sentence of life imprisonment. The appellant had been convicted previously, but the Supreme Court vacated that conviction in 2007 and ordered a de novo trial on the grounds that the appellant lacked adequate representation. The complainant, a nine-year-old girl, alleged that the appellant gagged and raped her. On appeal, the appellant contended that the testimony of the victim should be excluded from evidence because the testimony was conducted in camera. The victim testified in a closed room that allowed cross-examination by the defendant and visual access for jurors. The court held that the victim’s testimony was admissible, stating that if “a potential child victim witness would suffer ‘serious emotional distress’ and might just not be able to communicate within a reasonable fear free environment if put on the stand in the presence of the accused abuser to introduce courtroom testimony” then an in camera witness presentation is appropriate. The appellant's constitutional right to confront his accuser was preserved because he was afforded opportunity to listen to testimony and cross-examine the witness. In addition, the court referenced U.S. law on in camera testimony, citing U.S. Supreme Court cases to support its decision. The court stated: “It is the rule of general application in our jurisdiction that unless expressly contrary by the laws in vogue, common law and usages of the courts of England and of the United States, other authoritative treaties, principles and rules set forth in case law and in Blackstone and Kent Commentaries, when applicable, are deemed as Liberian Laws.” Finally, the Court held that medical testimony establishing rape, the testimony of the complainant, the appellant's admission that the complainant spent the nights in question with him, and unchallenged testimony claiming that the appellant had offered the complainant's family money in exchange for keeping the rape a secret were more than a sufficient "mountain of evidence" to sustain the conviction. It is not necessary, the Court stated, for the prosecution to produce an eye witness, "direct proof", or evidence eliminating every single possible alternative in order to meet their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Nimely v. Paye, et al. Supreme Court of Liberia (2011)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s judgment that appellant was guilty of rape. The complainant alleged that the appellant had sex with her when she was 13 years old and he was 18 years old. She alleged that the appellant invited her to his room, gagged her, and had sexual intercourse with her. Her brother’s wife forced open the door after the complainant failed to answer her phone call. The complainant's brother then called the police. The appellant admitted to police that he and the complainant had sex. The court found the appellant guilty of rape because the elements of Liberian statutory rape law are (1) sexual intercourse, (2) the perpetrator is at least 18 years of age, and (3) the victim is less than 18 years of age. However, the court reversed his conviction because the trial court relied on inaccurate information in determining the appellant’s age. The appellant testified that he was 17 years old at the time of the rape. Documents such as a passport or birth certificate were unavailable. The court held that in the absence of any rebuttal evidence by the prosecution, the court must accept that the appellant was 17 years old and therefore a juvenile when he had sex with the complainant. Under Liberian law, a juvenile cannot commit a crime, but is instead considered a juvenile delinquent. If a case involves a juvenile delinquent who is over 16 years of age and is accused of conduct that would constitute a felony carrying a sentence of life imprisonment or death if committed by an adult of at least 18 years of age, then the circuit court must consider the best interests of the Republic and the juvenile to determine whether to exercise its jurisdiction over the matter and preside over the case or choose to refer it to the juvenile court. However, the circuit court did not make this determination. Rather, it proceeded with the trial as though the the appellant was an adult and sentenced him to life imprisonment as an adult. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed his conviction and remanded him to the custody of his parents until the age of 21.


Gender & Development Act (Amending Title 12) (2001)

Gender discrimination

§38 of the Act establishes a Ministry of Gender and Development in the executive branch of the government and sets forth the goal of the Ministry to improve gender equality and increase women’s equal participation in economy, society, politics, and culture. (§ 38.3). The Act provides the structure and organization of the Ministry, the procedure to appoint the Ministers and other staff members, and requires the government to provide an adequate budget for the Ministry. (§§ 38.4-38.10).

Defense Act of 2008 (2008)

Gender discrimination

The Act establishes the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), which consists of army, coast guard, and air force. The Act lays out the organization of the AFL and the responsibilities of different staff. The Act provides that the AFL must reflect the ethnic, gender, and religious diversity of the country (§ 7.1). §8.7 provides that the AFL shall provide equal opportunities to people regardless of gender difference.

Constitution of Liberia (1986)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

Article 11 guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms to all persons regardless of sex, ethnicity, race, political opinion, or national origin. Article 18 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. Article 23 provides that the property obtained by a person during marriage because of his or her own labor shall not be used to satisfy the obligations of his or her spouse, nor shall the property be controlled by a spouse. It states further that the legislature is compelled enact laws to provide equal protection to the surviving spouses and children in both statutory and customary marriages.

Penal Law (Title 26) (1978)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, LGBTIQ, Sexual violence and rape, Stalking, Statutory rape or defilement

Chapter 16 sets forth criminal offenses for conduct against the family. §16.3 provides that an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy is a felony, unless it is conducted by a licensed physician upon his belief that the pregnancy causes danger to the mother or the child would be born with a grave defect. §16.1-16.2 prohibits bigamy, polygamy, incest, or deviate sexual intercourse with a family member and designates these acts as felonies. Separately, the Law prohibits harassment, which is defined as a written threat, an offensive telephone call, or repeated telephone calls with no legitimate communication purpose with the intent to frighten or harass the recipient. Chapter 14 Subchapter D outlines crimes involving sexual violence against persons committed on or after January 17, 2006. The age for statutory rape is 18 years. Gang rape constitutes first-degree felony. The Law defines lack of “consent” as including violence or the threat of violence against the victim or another person, the victim’s unconsciousness, a physical disability that prevents the victim from being able to to communicate his or her consent, or intentionally forcing the victim’s consent. The following acts constitute first-degree rape: rape of an underage victim, gang rape, rape that results in permanent disability to the victim, and use of a deadly weapon. The maximum punishment for first-degree rape is life imprisonment, and the maximum punishment for second-degree rape is 10 years imprisonment. Chapter 14 Subchapter D also covers sexual violence crimes committed before January 17, 2006. For those earlier offenses, the following constitute rape: a male has sexual intercourse with a female that is not his wife by force or by impairing her power to control her conduct; or a male has sexual intercourse with a female less than 16 years old. First-degree rape includes the following: the defendant causes serious bodily injury to the victim, the defendant has sexual intercourse with a female under 16 years of age, or the defendant has sexual intercourse with a female who has not previously consented. The change of language regarding crimes committed after 2006 indicates several important gender-related developments. First, the new language explicitly allows for the prosecution of men and women as perpetrators of rape. Second, it allows for the prosecution of rapes of male victims. Third, it no longer exempts “marital rape” from prosecution. Finally, it raises the age of statutory rape from 16 to 18 years. However, the Law also criminalizes homosexuality, making “voluntary sodomy” a misdemeanor (chapter 14.74).

Domestic Relations Law (1973)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

The Domestic Relations Law of 1973 governs various aspects of marriage, divorce, and custody of children—while also providing protections for women’s property rights in marriage. The statute sets forth the requirements for a valid marriage, procedures to obtain a marriage license, duties and liabilities in marriage, guardianship and adoption of children, and the procedures to obtain a divorce. Chapter 2 outlines the requirements for a valid marriage. §2.2 provides that when men reach 21 years old and women reach 18 years old, they are per se capable of entering into marriage. §2.2 prohibits marriage of those under 16 years old. §3.4 provides that a woman retains the property she owns at the time of her marriage or receives during the marriage. §3.5 provides that a woman has the right to sue her husband for the injury caused by him during the marriage. Contrary to the law in most countries, §4.1 mandates that both parents have equal custody rights when they live in the same household, but that the husband becomes the sole custodian of the children upon their separation. §5.3 provides, however, that the wife is responsible to support the children when the husband is dead or cannot be found. §6.1 provides that bigamous and incestuous relationships are void marriages. §8.1 outlines the grounds for divorce, including inhuman treatment that causes danger to the plaintiff-spouse’s physical and mental well-being, the defendant-spouse’s desertion of the plaintiff-spouse for a period of one or more years, the defendant-spouse’s adultery, or incompatibility of temper that results in danger to a spouse. With respect to divorce, the Supreme Court of Liberia has affirmed that a court has discretion to deny a divorce if the plaintiff is responsible for the incompatibility (see, e.g., Korkoya). §13.2 provides that injury caused to the wife in the domestic relationship may subject the husband to civil compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Social and Economic Development Policy Act (2006)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Employment discrimination, Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

This Act provides policies that address the improvement of the quality of life of individuals and the reduction of the growth rate of the population. (§§ 1-3). §7 sets forth that the Ministry of Gender Development and women’s organizations shall implement gender policy to achieve gender equity, specifically, to increase women’s participation in the work force and in political institutions, to protect women’s property rights in statutory law and customary practices, and to prevent various forms of violence against women, including female genital mutilation, early marriage, teenage pregnancy. §5 sets forth that the family planning facilities shall actively involve the participation of women in deciding family size. §10 states that marriage of young girls before 18 years old, and marriage of boys before 21 years old should be discouraged.

An Act to Amend the New Penal Code Chapter 14 Section 14.17 and 14.71 and to address Gang Rape (2006)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The Act to Amend the New Penal Code Chapter 14 Section 14.17 and 14.71 (the “Law”) and to address Gang Rape provides the definition for rape, gang rape and the concept of consent. Under Section 1(a)(i) and (ii), a person (male or female) commits rape if they intentionally penetrate the vagina, anus, mouth or any other opening of another person’s body with their penis or a foreign object or any other part of their body without the victim’s consent. Under Section 1(b), rape is committed where the victim is less than 18 years old, provided the perpetrator is above the age of 18 years. Under Section 2, the Law provides that the crime of gang rape has been committed if (i) a person purposefully promotes or facilitates rape (ii) a person agrees with one or more other person(s) to engage in or cause rape as defined in Section 1 above. Additionally, consent is defined as agreeing to sexual intercourse by choice where that person has a) freedom of choice and b) the capacity to make that choice. The Law also provides a number of circumstances where there is a presumption of a lack of consent. These fall into three categories: 1) where violence is used or threatened against the victim; 2) where the victim was unable to communicate to the accused at the time of the act (e.g. because of disability or unconsciousness); 3) where the perpetrator impersonated a person known to the victim in order to induce the victim to consent.

HIV Control of the Disease and Related Issues (Amending Title 33) (2010)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The Act regulates sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, provides information for treatment of HIV, and provides punishment for violations. §18.3 of the Act provides that the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Youth and Sports shall provide education on the prevention and control of HIV. §18.4-18.5 provide that educating the public regarding HIV and AIDS is part of the national response, and the government shall train all relevant personnel. While §18.7 provides that all employees shall receive the HIV training regarding the prevention and control of HIV and AIDS. Several portions of the act speak to the rights of women and girls specifically. §18.9(a) of the Act notes that when providing HIV and AIDS service to women and girls differences in sex and gender should be considered. §18.9(b) directs the government agencies, when implementing the strategies, policies and programs to address the following issues: protection of the equality of women in private and public life, to address their rights to refuse sex and to access reproductive services independently, to address men’s equal responsibilities in sexual and reproductive health, to increase educational, economic, and employment opportunities to women, to reduce inequalities in laws regarding marital issues, and to protect women’s rights in religious contexts. §18.9(c) covers pregnant women with HIV and grants them the right to marry. The government shall provide them with consultation and information regarding future pregnancy decisions and the protection of future children from HIV. Section 18.9(d) requires the government to implement national education and training to health care providers to reduce HIV infection caused by sexual assault, protect the confidentiality of the HIV test result, report the sexual violence, and assist the investigation of such violence, and to develop and implement education and training for security personnel and prosecuting authorities in conducting investigations and prosecutions about the sexual violence. §18.27 provides that willful transmission of HIV by an infected person who knows his or her HIV test constitutes first degree felony. §18.28 prohibits discrimination on the basis of HIV status.

Sexual Crimes Court, New Chapter 25 Establishing Criminal Court “E” – Title 17 – Liberian Code of Laws Revised

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The statute establishes a Sexual Offense Court, Criminal Court “E” that has original jurisdiction over all sexual offense cases. §25.2 provides that the crimes adjudicated in this court include: rape, gang rape, aggravated involuntary sodomy, involuntary and voluntary sodomy, corruption of minors, sexual abuse of wards and sexual assault, and other crimes listed under the “Sexual Offenses” described under Subchapter D of Chapter 14 and 16 of the Penal Law, as well as human trafficking that involves sexual offenses. The law provides procedures to try sexual offense cases. §25.3 provides that cases involving rape shall be tried in camera, and the judge has the authority to seal the names and addresses of the rape victims. §25.7 provides that the cases are to be tried by jury, and §25.8 provides that the final decisions of the Sexual Offenses cases shall be appealed to the Supreme Court of Liberia. §25.10 provides that the President shall nominate a clerk to keep dockets and records of all the cases and provide a monthly summary of the cases to the Supreme Court of Liberia. Additionally, the Law grants these courts the ability to provide interim relief to protect victims. In this respect, the Law specifically refers to the ability of the court to ensure that child victims are placed in protective custody.

Trafficking in Persons Act (2005)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

This act defines human trafficking and provides punishment for and methods of preventing human trafficking. §1.100-§1.102 of the act define human trafficking as including recruitment, transportation, and retention of a person by force or coercion for the purpose of slavery, forced labor, keeping a person in a state of servitude, prostitution, other commercial sexual exploitation, and removal of human organs. §3 provides that a person that commits trafficking must pay restitution to the victim. §7 provides that the Court shall sentence a person convicted of human trafficking to prison for at least one year, and that the offender can be sentenced to prison for longer periods under different situations. §8 provides that the fact that the victim was old enough to consent to sex shall not serve as a defense to the human trafficking offense. While §9 provides that the victim is immune from the prostitution or other criminal offenses caused by human trafficking. Art. II, §1 provides that the President shall implement a National Plan to prevent human trafficking and shall appoint members to a task force on implementation, which shall be led by the Minister of Labor. The Law also provides that a victim has a right to restitution including damages to compensate for costs of medical treatment, rehabilitation, transportation costs, lost income, legal fees, and general compensation for distress and pain as well as any other loss suffered. Compensation is paid by the defendant directly to the victim upon conviction. The right to restitution is not affected by the victim returning to his or her home country or by the victim not being present in Liberia. Section 9 provides immunity to any immigration offence that may have been committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Additionally, under Section 8, the Law confirms that consent to sex is not a valid defence to trafficking when violence is used to commit the crime. The Law also imposes corporate liability on international transport companies that fail to verify that passengers in company vehicles which enter other countries have the requisite travel documentation. A company may be fined for failing to comply. Additionally, a company that knowingly facilitates trafficking is liable for the cost of accommodating and providing meals to the victim and any dependent.

Offenses Against the Family, Chapter 16: Penal Law - Title 26 - Liberian Code of Laws Revised (1978)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

Under Section 16.1 of the Penal Law, bigamy, and polygamy are illegal unless a legal defense is provided. Such defenses include a defendant’s belief that his or her former spouse is dead. Under Section 16.3, abortion beyond the 24th week of pregnancy is illegal. An abortion is legal if it occurs only after a licensed physician determines there is a substantial risk that continuing the pregnancy would gravely impair the mother’s physical and/or mental health. An abortion may also be justified if the child would be born with grave physical or mental defects or if the pregnancy was the result of illegal intercourse such as rape. Additionally, the abortion must be sanctioned by two physicians who have certified in writing the reasons why the abortion is necessary. The Penal Law also prohibits a woman from carrying out an abortion herself by any means once beyond the 24th week of pregnancy.

Equal Rights of the Customary Marriage Law of 1998 (1998)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Dowry-related violence, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

This law defines “customary marriage” as the marriage between a man and a woman performed according to the tribal tradition of their locality and provides that a wife’s rights and duties within a customary marriage are the same as a wife’s rights and duties in a statutory marriage (a statutory marriage is a civil marriage license under the Domestic Relations Law). §2.1 provides that all customary marriages are legal, and the duties and liabilities of the statutory wife shall be accorded to all customary wives. §2.2 provides that the husband shall not recover the dowry from the wife or her parents; while §2.3 provides that a customary wife receives one-third of her husband’s property upon marriage. §2.6 provides that a customary wife has exclusive right to the properties she receives before or during the marriage, but she needs the husband’s consent to conduct business in her own name. §2.6 also states, however, that if the husband attempts to control his wife’s property he will have committed theft of property and he will be subject to a fine for such theft. §2.9 establishes that the minimum age for a tribal woman to enter into a customary marriage is 16, while §2.10 provides that the parents shall not choose the husband for their daughter against her will. Various sections provide for the rights of women on the event of her husband’s death: §3.2 states that a widow in a customary marriage is entitled to one-third of her deceased husband’s property; §3.3 provides that the widow has the freedom to enter into a new marriage upon the death of her husband; §3.5 provides that the widow has the right to petition to the probate court to administer the property of the decedent; §3.4 prohibits the husband’s family from compelling a widow to marry her deceased husband’s relative; and §3.7 establishes that the living spouse retain the right to custody of the minor children.


Evaluation: Strengthening of Prosecution of SGBV Offences through support to the Sexual and Gender Based Violence Crimes Unit (SGBV CU) in Liberia (2010)

Gender-based violence in general, Sexual violence and rape

UNFPA Report presenting the findings, analysis and recommendations from the Evaluation of the SGBV Crimes Unit, which has as its purpose to prosecute perpetrators of gender and sexual based violence, particularly rape, in Liberia (November 2010).