Violence against women during the Liberian civil conflict

JAMA. 1998 Feb 25;279(8):625-9. doi: 10.1001/jama.279.8.625.


Context: Civilians were often the casualties of fighting during the recent Liberian civil conflict. Liberian health care workers played a crucial role in documenting violence against women by soldiers and fighters during the war.

Objective: To document women's experiences of violence, including rape and sexual coercion, from a soldier or fighter during 5 years of the Liberian civil war from 1989 through 1994.

Design: Interview and survey.

Setting: High schools, markets, displaced persons camps, and urban communities in Monrovia, Liberia, in 1994.

Participants: A random sample of 205 women and girls between the ages of 15 and 70 years (88% participation rate).

Results: One hundred (49%) of 205 participants reported experiencing at least 1 act of physical or sexual violence by a soldier or fighter. Survey participants reported being beaten, tied up, or detained in a room under armed guard (17%); strip-searched 1 or more times (32%); and raped, subjected to attempted rape, or sexually coerced (15%). Women who were accused of belonging to a particular ethnic group or fighting faction or who were forced to cook for a soldier or fighter were at increased risk for physical and sexual violence. Of the 106 women and girls accused of belonging to an ethnic group or faction, 65 (61%) reported that they were beaten, locked up, strip-searched, or subjected to attempted rape, compared with 27 (27%) of the 99 women who were not accused (P< or =.02, .07, .001, and .06, respectively). Women and girls who were forced to cook for a soldier or fighter were more likely to report experiencing rape, attempted rape, or sexual coercion than those who were not forced to cook (55% vs 10%; P< or =.001, .06, and .001, respectively). Young women (those younger than 25 years) were more likely than women 25 years or older to report experiencing attempted rape and sexual coercion (18% vs 4%, P=.02 and .04, respectively).

Conclusions: This collaborative research allowed Liberian women to document wartime violence against women in their own communities and to develop a unique program to address violence against women in Liberia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Human Rights
  • Humans
  • Liberia
  • Middle Aged
  • Rape / statistics & numerical data*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Warfare*