Proportion of literate adults: 48.3% (2017, estimated)
Major religions: Christian 85.6%, Muslim 12.2%
Urban population: 51.6% (2019)
Life expectancy (female / male): 64/62 years (2018)
Gender Inequality Index: Rank 155 of 162 (2018)
Number of births: 4.3 / woman (2019)
Infant mortality: 74.7 / 1000 live births (2018)
According to homosociety, the Liberian Constitution forbids discrimination in general, but there are no specific laws against discrimination based on sex or ethnicity, although both obviously exist. The position of women in Liberia varies according to region and ethnicity. Traditional laws are an important factor in inequality: women who are married under common law are treated like minors at that legal level. According to civil law, married women can inherit land and property from their husbands, while common law married women cannot inherit from their husbands.
The practice of female genital cutting (FGM / C) is widespread. Almost half of all girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 are circumcised as part of the traditional initiation into women’s secret associations.
The legal minimum age for marriage is now set at 18 for women and 21 for men. Marriages to underage girls are still very common in rural areas. 36% of girls are married or get married before their 18th birthday and 9% before their 15th birthday (UNICEF, 2013). Liberia’s civil law prohibits polygamy, but common law allows men to have multiple wives.
Women in Liberia suffered greatly during the civil war: it is estimated that two thirds of women were raped. Sexual violence was used as a weapon during the war, according to the report by the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Even after the war, rape is one of the most common crimes. The majority of perpetrators are not punished, even though a special department for sexual and gender-based violence was created in 2009.
In 2003, after more than 15 years of gruesome and bloody civil war in Liberia, a movement of Christian and Muslim women campaigned very actively for peace with protest marches, sit-ins and talks. They gathered in front of the Presidential Palace in Monrovia and silently protested in white T-shirts against the violence of the war. They managed to get President Charles Taylor and other warlords to the negotiating table. Led by Leymah Gbowee, they surrounded the negotiating men’s home in Accra, Ghana, in 2003 and threatened not to let them out until they reached a peace agreement. That was effectively the end of the war.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, former President of Liberia, sought a more balanced gender balance in government departments, the Supreme Court and local governments. The participation of women in public life is increasing. In politics, the proportion of women has fallen again under the current government. The number of female recruits in the police and the military has risen steadily since the end of the war.
For their commitment, Leymah Gbowee and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, together with Tawakul Karman, a human rights activist from Yemen.