Civil Society, EU demand justice for girl, 11
By Ethel A Tweh
Civil Society National Reference Group on the Spotlight Initiative condemns conscription into FGM practice and cutting of an 11-year-old girl in Margibi County, calling for perpetrators to face appropriate justice.
Addressing a news conference on Wednesday, 26 October at a local hotel in Monrovia, the chairperson of the Group, Tamba F. J. Johnson said, their attention has been drawn to media report about the conscription of an 11-year-old girl on instruction of Chief Zoe Ma Famatta Musa of Margibi County on September 15, 2022.
According to him, the little girl risks suffering from Fistula due to uncontrollable bleeding after the practice based on medical report.
He said based on intervention of Rev. Tour and other activists, the victim was recused on October 3, 2022, and taken to hospital.
“Though it is true that traditionalists have resolved to continue their ancestors’ practice, particularly FGM in Liberia, however, respect for the rights of women and girls must be considered and respected. No person, irrespective of his/her traditional or civil status has the right to conscript, dehumanize, abuse or violate any woman or girl, in adherence to ancestors’ practice/FGM, simply because they came in contact in practical performance”, he noted.
According to him, in July 2020, the UN Human Rights Council adopted “resolution 44/16 on the elimination of female genital mutilation, to speed up efforts to reach zero tolerance for FGM by 2030, and to restate the global ban on the harmful practice, as it constitutes a serious violation of women’s rights”.
This call by the UN is in affirmation to Article 5 of the Maputo Protocol and Article 5b of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
European Union Ambassador to Liberia, Laurent Delahousse, said he supports the Civil Society Group’s call for justice for the 11-yr-old girl. Ambassador Delahousse stressed a to convince traditional people to focus on good practices of the Sende society and stop its harmful ones.
Ma Kebbeh Mulbah, a member of the rural and traditional group, called on traditional people to adhere to the call from civil society and stop all harmful practices affecting girls underage.
She said candidates should be 18 or above and give consent before initiation with emphasis on good practices such as teaching young girls to be good housewives and how to cater to the family.
On February 4, 2022, during observance of International Day of Zero Tolerance on FGM held in Gbarbga, Bong County, representatives of traditional chiefs and elders from all 11 practicing counties of FGM, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, National Working Group Against FGM, Civil Society Council of Liberia and other actors developed and signed a three-year ban, suspending the practice of FGM in Liberia.
The ban/suspension strictly prohibits the practice of FGM in the country, and violators caught are to be apprehended and penalized, but this is not happening, as noted by Civil Society Organizations.
In ensuring compliance, some CSOS, including He For She Crusaders Liberia, West Point Women for Health and Development Organizations and Community Healthcare Initiative on September 22, 2022, made a visit to Margibi county and met with Chief Zoe Ma Musa and others to get their consensus on halting the practice.
Despite reports of prevalence of FGM across the country, the leadership of National Council of Chiefs and Elders refuted the practice still exists, contrary to news of the latest incident that now risks experiencing fistula.
Mr. Johnson noted that the EUROPEAN Union and the United Nations have spent over US$22 million in Liberia under the Spotlight Initiative, aimed at addressing harmful traditional practices, so they will not allow women and girls to keep being mutilated and violated by practitioners.
Hence, the CS NRG reminds that Government of Liberia is a signatory to all human rights instruments, including CEDAW, Maputo Protocol, Human Rights Protocol, and that Liberia, as founding member of the UN, should not keep violating rights of women, girls and marginalized groups.
“We totally condemn the conscription of this 11-years-old girl and all other women and girls into FGM and call for justice”, the Civil Society National Reference Group reiterates. Editing by Jonathan Browne