Female Genital Mutilation or FGM remains widely practiced in Liberia and most parts of Africa, a traditional practice that sees teenage girls subjected to severe physical pains thru cutting of their genitals to ease sexual strong sexual desire.
Liberia’s Gender and Development Minister Julia Duncan Cassell disclosed that about 200 million women and girls alive in 30 countries, particularly in Africa have undergone FGM
She made the disclosure on Wednesday, 17 August during public hearing on a bill against Gender Based Violence conducted in the chambers of the Liberian Senate before the Senate’s Committee on Health and Gender.
Minister Cassell said in most of these countries, majority of the girls enduring such affliction are under age five. “In Africa, 18 out of the 29 countries that practice Female Genital Mutilation have enacted laws to ban the practice,” the Minister said.
She noted that Liberia, being a member of the African Union and the United Nations, has been hailed for championing the rights of women and gender equality. “We’ve produced the first elected female President in Africa, who is the current chairperson of ECOWAS. With these wonderful accolades placed upon our country, should it be difficult that Liberia joins the 119 countries who have passed laws on domestic violence in addition to 125 who have laws in sexual harassment and 52 on marital rape,” she added.
The draft domestic violence bill was developed through an inclusive process and issues preferred are cardinal to the country, if Liberians must have a nation free of violence, especially domestic violence within the family.
Reflecting furthere, the Gender boss noted the AU Charter on Human and People’s Rights calls on all state parties to eliminate early discrimination against women and ensure protection of the rights of women as stipulated in international characters and convents.
According to her, the Africa Platform for Action, the Dakar Declaration of 1994 and the Beijing Platform for Action of 1995 are all instruments that call on member states of the United Nations to take concrete steps and give greater attention to human rights of women in order to eliminate all forms of discrimination and gender based violence against women.
Article 2 (b) calls on state to enact and effectively implement appropriate legislations of regulatory measures, including those prohibiting and curbing all forms of discrimination, particularly harmful practices that endanger the health and general well-being of women.
“This domestic violence bill is the right step toward that direction. I therefore call on all of us to ensure that Liberia joins the rest of the world that has taken actions to curb Gender Based Violence and discrimination in all forms”, Minister Cassell added.
At the same time, the Gender Minister has alarmed over the upsurge of rape in the country. Minister Cassell said the rape is serious thing that needs to be looked at by everyone, for it leaves a negative impact on victims of the action.
Speaking Wednesday, on ELBC Super Morning Show, she said it’s about time for parents, guardians and traditional leaders to stand in the vanguard by speaking out strongly against those individuals in the habit of raping women and children, even down to three months babies to desist.
Minister Cassell noted that women and children, who are victims of the negative act, eventually become traumatized in society, and feel that they are no more useful in contributing to the growth of their country.
She said anyone who will keep the mantle of making way to get hold of perpetrators and take them to the police without any compromise, will receive a handsome reward from the Gender, Children and Social Protection Ministry.
She challenged the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Justice to strongly join the fight against rape in Liberia at the village, district and county levels, adding that doing so will help to reduce rape drastically.
Minister Cassell added that when perpetrators are found guilty and fine themselves in jail, they will get to know that the public is totally against such a negative behavior and would not even condone such matter.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor & Zee Roberts-Editing by Jonathan Browne