Women’s Group urges 54th Legislature
Liberia among four African countries yet to prohibit FGM following 12 years of female presidency
The National Working Group Against Female Genital Mutilation (NAWOGA-FGM) has called on members of the 54th Legislature to enact a law that will ban the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Liberia.
The head of the steering committee of NAWOGA-FGM, Maim D. Robinson, told reporters over the weekend that Liberia needs to respect the provisions of the international treaties and conventions to which it is a signatory.
“We are calling on lawmakers and President George Weah to understand our feelings by protecting the rights of many young women and girls that are often oppressed and subjected to inhumane treatments under the disguise of tradition by legislating a law that will criminalize only the part of traditional rituals that involves the practice of FGM,” Robinson said.
NAWOGA-FGM is a sub-civil society organization operating under the supervision of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL) whose primary focus is to ensure the elimination of all practices that are known to be harmful to women and girls.
Robinson said that while many FGM advocates believe that it is culturally rooted, they are yet to provide the medical essentials to retain it as a practice.
“We are convinced that this practice violates girls and women’s rights to health, security and physical integrity,” she noted, adding that FGM denies women and girls their rights to be free from torture and inhumane or degrading treatment, and the right to life as in the case of death as a result of the practice.
Article 5b of the Liberian Constitution states that, “The state shall preserve, protect and promote positive culture and ensure that traditional values which are compatible with public policy and national progress are adopted and developed as an integral part of the growing needs of the society.”
Article 11(c) states that, “All persons are equal before the law, and therefore entitled to equal protection of the law.”
“In light of these constitutional provisions, can we say that our women are treated equally as real human beings like their male counterparts when the practice of FGM is meant to control their sexuality, deny them of enjoying the real pleasure of a God-given desire, besides the volume of negative health effects it plunges the victims into?” she asked rhetorically.
Robinson said Liberia is a signatory to the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, including the Maputo Protocol on Human Rights, the Rights of Women in Africa, the convention of the Rights of a Child among many other conventions, and as such, her organization wants to ensure that those rights are fully enjoyed at all times.
The head of the NAWOGA-FGM steering committee said the members of the national working group are not against ‘good’ cultural values and norms, but are advocating for government to revisit certain cultural practices such as son-preference, battering, FGM, sassy wood, forced feeding among many others that tend to violate the rights and dignities of others and contribute nothing positive to the country’s heritage.
She said while Liberia is among four African countries that are yet to prohibit FGM, 28 other countries that once practiced the culture have abolished it because they believe it is unlawful and a human rights violation.
“As a conglomeration of civil society organizations, we appeal to President George Weah and members of the legislature to save the lives of many would be victims of FGM. Our women and girls deserve more than being treated as lesser humans. This call is not only from NAWOGA-FGM, but many other voiceless women out there as well,” Robinson said.
According to the UN Secretary General’s 2017 report, an estimated 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some forms of FGM, and girls at the age of 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut.
This practice, the report continued, “is mostly carried out on young girls sometimes between infancy and age 15. Due to the gruesomeness associated with the FGM procedures, victims experience severe bleeding and health complications, including cysts, infections, infertility as well as child birth complications and increased risk of newborn deaths.”