The chairperson of the Independent National Human Rights Commission of Liberia (INHRC), Cllr. Justice Gladys K. Johnson, has called for the elimination of the deeply rooted ancient African practice of polygamy from Liberia.
Cllr. Johnson, who is also a retired Supreme Court Associate Justice, says polygamy is responsible for the unhappiness of most Liberian women.
“I have sat and listened to all of the speakers but none have spoken about the elimination of polygamy. Let’s say no to polygamy in Liberia. It is responsible for the unhappiness among Liberian women,” she said.
Her remarks were preceded by speeches by at least six other personalities, including the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (UNSG), Ambassador Farid Zarif, who delivered the UNSG’s International Women’s Day’s (IWD) Message; former Grand Bassa Superintendent Etweda S. Cooper, who delivered a statement from the women of Liberia; and National Port Authority (NPA) Managing Director David F. Williams, who delivered the Day’s oration. Others who spoke were Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, former Senate Pro Temp G. Milton Findley and Senator Nyonblee K. Lawrence, chairperson of the Bassa Legislative Caucus.
Although none of these speakers touched on the elimination of polygamy from Liberia, they, however, called for equal space to be provided for the women of Liberia to experience their full potential.
During her remarks, Cllr. Johnson went on to blame most of the country’s high illiteracy rate on a man having more than one wife and subsequently having far more children than he could adequately educate.
“It is very hard to feed one child lest I say five children. What more to send all of those 10 or more children to school to be fully educated? If those children are uneducated, they then become serious societal burdens. So, in order to avoid this, let’s eliminate polygamy,” she reasoned to loud applause from the audience of mostly women from different walks of life in the Liberian society.
The INHRC chair made the call on Tuesday, March 8, at national celebrations of the IWD, held in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
The IWD was celebrated under the global theme, “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality,” which calls on countries to make specific commitments at the national level to address the challenges that are holding back women and girls from reaching their full potential.
Meanwhile, nearly all of Africa supports polygamy except for Guinea, La Côte d’Ivoire, Malawi, Madagascar and Angola, which have laws criminalizing the practice. While polygamy is illegal in nations such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia, its practice is, however, not criminalized.
Eritrea is the only African country that allows polygamy, but only for Muslim men, and none other.