Nelly, a Liberian woman, poses in a Red Cross training center in Monrovia, Liberia. Nelly was gang raped by soldiers during the civil war. Rape was a hallmark of the conflict, with some estimates claiming that between 60% and 90% of the women here were raped.
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Girls’ notebooks at a school for abused children in Monrovia, Liberia. Current Liberian antirape measures are some of the toughest in the region
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The hands of a girl who was raped at 14 years old, Duport Road Clinic, Monrovia, Liberia.
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Elizabeth Kekula is a nurse at the small Duport Road Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia. She treats rape cases and says unfortunately they see many children. The strong stigma attached to rape in Liberia also stops many families from reporting cases. They fear their daughter will be ostracized and unable to find a husband. Men are usually breadwinners, and life for an unmarried woman can be bleak. Girls often blame themselves for dressing provocatively and inviting rapes. Many families take money from the accused rather than press charges. Cash has a powerful appeal in a society where more than 60% of inhabitants live on less than a dollar a day.
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A door at the empty Ducor Hotel. Liberia is slowly being rebuilt but some legacies will take a while to disappear. While rape was endemic during Liberia’s long civil war, ten years since the end of the violence children now make up the bulk of the victims. Nine out of every 10 rape victims treated by Doctors Without Borders in that country in 2011 were under 18 years old. Almost half of those were under the age of 12.
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A girl who was gang-raped at 18 when fetching water, Duport Road Clinic, Monrovia, Liberia. She has a son from that rape. “Violence became a way of life” during the war, explained Madhumita Sarkar, adviser at the joint U.N.-government sexual and gender-based violence program in Liberia.
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Dolls used at Duport Road Clinic to help children describe what was done to them. One of the worse legacies of the war was a sense of impunity for rape that the postwar judicial system has done little to dispel. Many rapists believe that their actions will have no consequences.
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A wall of the abandoned Ducor Hotel in Monrovia, Liberia, with the city in the background. Liberia is still recovering from its 14-year civil war that ended in 2003 with the exile of President Charles Taylor, who in 2012 was convicted of war crimes in Sierra Leone by the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
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The hands of a girl who was raped as a teenager, Duport Road Clinic, Monrovia, Liberia. Even before the civil conflict that scarred the West African nation of over 3.5 million people, society was profoundly unequal. Women were considered the property of men and violence was tolerated as a man’s right.
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An underage girl who was raped stands in Duport Road Clinic, Monrovia, Liberia. Felicia Coleman, chief prosecutor of the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Unit in the Liberian Ministry of Justice, is one of many who say things are improving but it will take a long time before rape is stopped. “After the war, it continues,” she said. “You have to rehabilitate and detraumatize people.” Both victims and perpetrators.
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A sign at a small NGO that works on gender issues in one of Monrovia’s slums. Legal mechanisms have not been enough to conquer the problem. The judicial system is plagued by poor resources, ineptitude and rampant corruption. Police officers don’t know how to collect evidence from a rape scene, for instance.
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A social worker prepares signs against gender violence to hang around the house and neighborhood. One of them says: “You can do it!”
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A school for abused girls in Monrovia, Liberia. Many of the few dozens here are underage and have been raped. “When we cannot use the successful prosecution as a means of deterrence, then people continue to do it,” said chief prosecutor Coleman. Her unit is one of several initiatives set up by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — who became the first female elected head of state in Africa in 2005 — to stop rape.
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The profile of a girl who was raped at 14 years old, Duport Road Clinic, Monrovia, Liberia.
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A Red Cross worker gives a weekly talk about gender empowerment to neighborhood women in one of Monrovia’s slums.
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Women listen to the Red Cross trainer during the workshop.
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Men peak in through the window of Red Cross training center in one of Monrovia’s slums. A gender empowerment workshop is under way.
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The profile of a girl who was raped as a teenager, Duport Road Clinic, Monrovia, Liberia. The high level of abuse of children marks a troubling change in the nature of the violence, experts said. During the war men systematically raped women who were unknown to them. Now most of the perpetrators — 85% according to Doctors Without Borders — know the victim first hand.