Several women’s groups under the banner Working Group against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in partnership with ActionAid have presented a petition statement to the National Legislature for the abolition of the practice of FGM in the country.
The Executive Director of Women Solidarity Incorporated, Madam Marian Deah, who presented the petition last Friday at the National Legislature in Monrovia, said the undersigned civil society organizations have joined together for the purpose of campaigning to abolish harmful traditional practices that adversely affect the human rights of women and girls.
She said their action prompted by the recognition that the constitution of Liberia provides the legal framework and the basis for the protection and promotion of human rights duly outlined in section III referencing Art 14. “No person shall be hindered in the enjoyment thereof except as may be required by law to protect public safety, order, health, or moral the fundamental rights and freedom of others.”
The women displayed placards that read, “My body, My Right; FGM must Be Abolished; and Our Bill, Our Interest and Hope.”
Madam Deah disclosed that efforts to ensure the successful passing of the bill included several engagements with traditional leaders and citizens in the 15 counties who have agreed to join the fight against the practice.
Madam Deah is of the conviction that the bill will be passed into law and that anyone caught in the act would be punished by the law.
Representative George Wesseh Blamo of Grand Kru County District number 1, who represented the Speaker of the House, announced that he fully supports the action taken by the women’s group to advocate for the abolishment of FGM in the country.
He said the petition was highly welcomed and promised to work with the women to have the bill passed into law to protect women and children from suffering the practice of FGM.
“Following researches I made to help me understand the risk that is associated with FGM which include serious health complications and the danger attached to it, “I promise to present this petition to the Speaker of the House of Representative, Alex Tyler, in plenary so that we can discuss it since we have the Domestic Violence Act, which is before us, and this is an amendment, which is very crucial to the wellbeing of our people,” said Mr. Wesseh.
At least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM in 30 countries, according to a new statistical report published ahead of the United Nations’ International Day of Zero Tolerance for the practice.
FGM /Cutting: A Global Concern notes that half of the girls and women, who have been cut, lived in three countries – Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia – and refers to smaller studies and anecdotal accounts that provide evidence that FGM is a global human rights issue affecting girls and women in every region of the world.
FGM refers to a number of procedures. Regardless of which form is practiced, FGM is a violation of children’s rights, the report said.
“FGM differs across regions and cultures, with some forms involving life-threatening health risks. In every case FGM violates the rights of girls and women. We must all accelerate efforts – governments, health professionals, community leaders, parents and families – to eliminate the practice,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta.
According to the data, girls 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut, with the highest prevalence of FGM among this age in The Gambia at 56 percent, Mauritania 54 percent and Indonesia, where around half of girls aged 11 and younger have undergone the practice.
Countries with the highest prevalence among girls and women aged 15 to 49 are Somalia 98 percent, Guinea 97 percent and Djibouti 93 percent.
In most of the countries the majority of girls were cut before reaching their fifth birthdays.
The global figure in the FGM statistical report includes nearly 70 million more girls and women than estimated in 2014.This is due to population growth in some countries and nationally representative data collected by the government of Indonesia. As more data on the extent of FGM become available the estimate of the total number of girls and women who have undergone the practice increases. As of 2016, 30 countries have nationally representative data on the practice.
“Determining the magnitude of female genital mutilation is essential to eliminating the practice. When governments collect and publish national statistics on FGM they are better placed to understand the extent of the issue and accelerate efforts to protect the rights of millions of girls and women,” said Rao Gupta.
Momentum to address the practice is growing as the FGM prevalence rates among girls aged 15 to 19 have declined, including by 41 percentages in Liberia, 31 in Burkina Faso, 30 in Kenya and 27 in Egypt over the last 30 years.
Since 2008, more than 15,000 communities and sub-districts in 20 countries have publicly declared that they are abandoning FGM, including more than 2,000 communities last year. Five countries have passed national legislation criminalizing the practice.
Data also indicate widespread disapproval of the practice as the majority of people in countries where FGM data exists think it should end. This includes nearly two-thirds of boys and men.
But the overall rate of progress is not enough to keep up with population growth. If current trends continue, the number of girls and women subjected to FMG will increase significantly over the next 15 years.
UNICEF, with UNFPA, co-leads the largest global program towards the elimination of FGM. It works at every level with governments, communities, religious leaders and a multitude of other partners to end the practice.
With the inclusion of a target on eliminating FGM by 2030 in the new Sustainable Development Goals, the international community’s commitment to end FGM is stronger than ever.