By Ethel A. Tweh
Fighting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Liberia is an uphill battle, and it is heavily entrenched in the Liberian culture, dating back many centuries.
Strong taboos surrounding the practice and associated Sande secret societies make tackling the practice challenging.
Presently, more than half of Liberian women are living with the consequences of this harmful practice and many more are at risk.
These women and girls have little choice in this matter, with reports of forced mutilations being common.
Recently, an eleven-year-old girl was forcefully initiated on 15 September 2022 in Margibi County.
That incident sparked a serious uproar from civil society organizations and campaigners to end FGM in Liberia.
Mr. Tamba F.J.Johnson, the Chairperson of the Civil Society National Reference Group on the Spotlight Initiative, condemned the cutting of the 11-year-old girl in Margibi County and called for appropriate justice.
He made the call recently while addressing a press conference at a local hotel in Monrovia.
According to him, the little girl was recused on 3 October 2022 through the intervention of Rev. Tour and other activists and taken to the Benson Hospital for medical treatment.
He said as it stands, the child might suffer from Fistula due to uncontrollable bleeding after the practice, according to a medical report from the Benson Hospital.
He said in Todi, girls are not going to school because of FGM. He added that in Gbarpolu, Margibi, Grand Bassa, and Lofa Counties, among others, are practicing FGM on a daily basis right before the watchful eyes of a Feminist-in-Chief as president.
“Though traditionalists have indeed resolved to continue their ancestors’ practice, particularly FGM in Liberia, however, respect for the rights of women and girls must be considered and respected,” he said.
“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 added.
Mr. Johnson noted that the European Union and United Nations have spent over 22 million in Liberia under the Spotlight Initiative aimed at addressing issues of harmful practices.
He said these partners will not allow the women and girls to keep being mutilated and violated by practitioners.
Ma. Kebbeh Mulbah, a member of the Rural and Traditional Group has called on the traditional people to adhere to the call of the civil society organizations to stop all the harmful practices of underage girls in the country.
Madam Mulbah used the medium to warn those involved by disclosing that no girl underage should be taken to the Sande society for FGM.
The European Union Ambassador Mr. Laurent Delahousse pledged his continuous support to the Civil Society group in the call for justice against the 11-year-old girl and underage girls whose rights are being violated.
The EU boss stressed the importance of working tirelessly in convincing the traditional people to continue the good practices and stop the harmful ones.
The issue of FGM is a tradition in Africa of which Liberia supports,” Mr. Lewis B. Davis, a resident of Kebbah in Barnerville, said.
He said this has become a belief of the traditional people and to get away with a such belief is not an easy thing.
For her part, a resident of the Day Break Mouth Open Community in Barnerville, Quinnetta Clement, said that she supports the Civil Society group and the European Union in the call to put an end to Female Genital Mutilation.
According to her, it is unfair to the girls who are underage because every woman should have a say as to what happens to her body and an essential part of their body is being removed without their consent.
The Civil Society National Reference Group has reminded the Government of Liberia that it is a signatory to all human rights instruments that include CEDAW, Maputo Protocol, and Human Rights Protocol.
The group said Liberia as a founding member of the UN, cannot keep violating the rights of women, girls, and marginalized groups.
“We totally condemn the conscription of this 11-year-old girl and all other women and girls into FGM and call for justice,” the group insisted.
FGM can cause severe pain, bleeding, urinary problems, cysts, infections, infertility, complications in childbirth, and even death.
It exposes girls and women to life-threatening health complications, including hemorrhage, tetanus, sepsis, urine retention, sexual dysfunction, Vesico Vagina Fistula, and infertility.
It also causes negative psychological effects such as anxiety, depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.