Youth Alliance for Better Future located in Jacob town, Paynesville has urged the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, and the Ministry of Justice to institute tough punishment against perpetrators of Female Genital Mutilation or FMG practice in Liberia.
The civil society group in a news conference held Tuesday, February 9, 2021 at a local forum, MamadeeDiakite Intellectual Forum in Jacob town, recalled that in July 2019, the government through the national legislature backtracked on efforts to criminalize Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) practice in the country, and deleted sections from the proposed Domestic Violence Bill (2014) that had sought to outlaw the practice.
“We call on the GOL to ensure that a permanent and comprehensive anti-FGM law which imposes heavy penalties on perpetrators is passed and enforced, we also urge the government to support educational outreach to relevant communities and local chiefs on the harms of FGM”, it said.
Reading a press statement, Assistant Secretary General of the Youth Alliance for Better Future SattaNyei narrated that on the 19th January 2018, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed Executive Order 92, temporarily banning the practice of FGM in Liberia for one year.
She said although the ban was a step in the right direction, but noted that it only covered girls below 18 and imposed lenient penalties on perpetrators. Miss Nyei added that the temporary ban came to an end on January 19, 2019, leaving Liberian girls and women expose to the risk of FGM once again.
She called on President George M. Weah, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, along with members of the 54th Legislature to ensure that women and girls in Liberia are permanently protected from FGM practice.
She said putting in place a law that prohibits the practice would ensure that women and girls in Liberia are protected and that Liberia adheres to its regional and international human rights commitments, noting that the government should also support educational outreach to relevant communities and educate local chiefs about the harms of FGM, noting women’s rights and health matters must be treated as a national priority.
According to her, more than half of Liberian women are living with the consequences of this harmful practice and many more are at risk, saying those women and girls have little choice in this matter, with reports of forced mutilations.
“Liberia remains one of the three West African countries that do not have a law criminalizing FGM despite having signed and ratified regional and international human rights instruments condemning the practice as a human rights violation, including the Maputo Protocol”, she added.
Satta said the temporary ban on FGM was not as effective as initially anticipated during its one year of existence as a law. This was mainly due to lack of knowledge on the existence of the ban and lack of a coordinated multi-sectorial implementation by state agencies, saying that even with the existence of the Executive Order, the number of Sande bushes in Liberia has increased with the practice now extended to 11 counties from the previous 10.
According to her, besides the temporary ban, there has never been any solid attempt at making FGM illegal in Liberia. In fact, the few cases that have gone through the justice system have been covered under Section 242 of the Penal Code which speaks to malicious and unlawful injuries towards another person by cutting off or otherwise depriving him or her of any of the members of his body, finding a person guilty of a felony, which she said is punishable by up to five years in prison says Nyei.
At the same time she mentioned a case involving Ruth Peal who continues to endure the long term health implications of FGM, In July 2011, members of the politically influential Sande secret society who had kidnapped and forcibly subjected Ruth to FGM were sentenced to three years imprisonment; however, they appealed the judgment and were released on bail.
she also mention in March 2017, where a 16-year-old Zaye Doe died in TappitaNimba county in the Sande bush during forced mutilation, saying traditional leaders (Zoes) subjected Zaye and 25 more girls to FGM despite the government ban on Sande Secret Society operations, including FGM.
“This forced mutilation that led to the death of ZayeDoein 2017 demonstrate the urgency with which the Government of Liberia must act to end this harmful practice, the statement concluded. By Lewis S. Teh