Rectifying Sexual Violence Still a Major Concern in Liberia
Despite a major anti-rape law implemented in Liberia early this year, a United Nations report found that progress has been slow in abolishing sexual and gender-based violence due to flaws in the judicial system. The Rape Amendment Act, implemented when Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf came into office January 2006, strengthened consent laws, redefined rape as a felony, and imposed a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for first-degree rape. A human rights report issued by the United Nations Missions in Liberia (UNMIL), however, found that only a fraction of cases are actually heard, some suspects are being released without facing trial, and many cases are inefficiently investigated.
According to the report, "rape suspects are regularly released on bail even when there is significant evidence indicating guilt" and as of July 2006, "only one accused had been convicted of an offense under the Act since it came into force six months ago."
President Johnson-Sirleaf is now working with UNMIL and the Government of Liberia Rule of Law Task Force to ensure that the laws mandating fundamental rights for women and children are being upheld.
Media Resources: UNMIL Human Rights and Protection Section Quarterly Report May-July 2006; Liberia Ministry of Foreign Affairs Act to Amend the New Penal Code; www.unmil.org; UN News 10/18/06
8/31/2015 Chicago Activists Continue Hunger Strike to Save Predominately Black Public High School - Chicago residents have entered the second week of their hunger strike protesting the closure of Dyett High School, in the predominately African-American Bronzeville neighborhood located on the South Side of Chicago.
Parents and community members are calling on the Chicago Board of Education to keep Dyett - the only open-enrollment, neighborhood school in its area - open and accept a community plan to revitalize the school with a focus on science and green technology. . . .
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .