The Women Solidarity Incorporated (WOSI) in partnership with the National Working Group against Female Genital Mutilation (NAWOGA-FGM), has called on President George Weah and Chief Zanzan Kawor to ensure that there is a restraining mechanism to disallow traditional practitioners to forcibly subject women and girls to the “harmful” practice of FGM.
Mariam G. Deah, executive officer of WOSI and co-chairperson of NAWOGA-FGM, at a news conference On Wednesday, January 23, 2019, in Monrovia, emphasized the need for a specific legal framework to be enacted against FGM in the country.
Mrs. Deah further called on President Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, along with members of the 54th Legislature, to ensure a permanent protection of women and girls against the practice of FGM, in adherence to the many regional and international human rights instruments that Liberia subscribes to, by legislating a law prohibiting the practice in the soonest possible time.
“We call on the head of the National Traditional Council Chief Zanzan Kawor and his able lieutenants to ensure that there is a restraining mechanism put in place, disallowing traditional practitioners to forcibly subject women and girls to the practice of FMG as a permanent solution to the situation is sought,” Mrs. Deah said.
According to her, the human rights of women and girls, like all others, cannot be compromised under this popular regime of President Weah.
“Our concern is focused on the expiration of the one year’s duration of the Executive Order as of January 18, 2019 which, in effect, decriminalizes the act of FGM once again,” she said.
Mrs. Deah said the Executive Order was not effective as anticipated over its one year of existence as a law mainly due to the lack of knowledge on the existence of the ban and the lack of coordinated multi-sectoral implementation of the ban by state agencies.
She said even with the existence of the Executive Order, there has been an increase in the number of Sande bushes, with the practice extending to 11 counties from the previous 10, with the newest being Grand Gedeh County.
Mrs. Deah said Grand Bassa, Nimba, and Grand Cape Mount counties continue to top FGM practice in the country.
It can be recalled that on January 18, 2018, former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf issued Executive Order #92, among others, banning the practice of FGM for girls under age 18, which was considered by many as a step forward in ending FGM.
FGM is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all external female genitalia, a practice observed throughout Liberia.
She noted that despite these challenges, at least one noticeable achievement was made. The National Traditional Council of Chiefs and Elders, along with the Liberia National Police, in September 2018 rescued over 100 girls, who had been forcibly recruited and were at the brink of being subjected to FGM in Nimba County, and arrested six practitioners.
Mrs. Deah said they recognized the effort of all civil society actors, the press, relevant government ministries and agencies, and regional and international partners whose selfless work on ending FGM contributed to the issuance of the Executive Order.
“We want to also call on regional and international communities to not let Liberia down in this campaign against FGM as we encourage their support in all forms and at all levels of the advocacy,” she said.
Mrs. Deah added that Liberia has also signed and ratified several regional and international human rights instruments, including the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which all call upon the state to ensure that women and girls are protected from all forms of violence and discrimination, including the FMG.