The National Working Group Against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has frowned on the National Legislature for omitting the FGM component from the passed Domestic Violence Act, calling on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to intervene and ensure that it is revised. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as ‘female genital cutting,’ is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia.
In a statement issued in Monrovia, the group said on July 18 the Senate concurred with the Lower House to pass the Domestic Violence Act with the deletion of its FGM component.
The group said considering all of the commitments made under the leadership of President Sirleaf as an advocate for human and women rights in Liberia and to the international community about ending FGM in Liberia, there is a need for her to ensure that the component is part of the act. According to the group, the statement by former Minister of Health Senator Peter Coleman, who is quoted as saying that the issue of female genital mutilation is a tradition, should not be refined. The group said the argument is in total contradiction to Article 5b of the Liberia Constitution, which says the state “Preserves, protects and promotes positive Liberian culture, ensuring 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 Liberian society.”
It may be recalled that on September 27, 2015, at the United Nations Global Women Rights Assembly in the United States, President Sirleaf gave hope to Liberian women and their international counterparts when she said, “I shall endeavor to ensure that a Domestic Violence Law is passed, which will include the eradication of FGM in Liberia, before the end of my tenure.” The group said the passage of the Domestic Violence Act without the component of 16.21L, which addresses the issue of FGM, is a total disservice to Madam Sirleaf’s September 27 commitment. “We are fully aware that the three branches of government distinctly and independently function, but yet you have the mantle of authority to persuasively engage our lawmakers to rethink and reconsider the practice of FGM as a global issue rather than a national initiative, considering the psychological and health risks that affect women and girls,” they said. According to the statement, the argument on the part of the Legislators for the removal of the FGM portion of the DVA, which was crafted and submitted by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection along with some civil society actors, creates more doubts than answers. It is worth noting that Liberia is still among one of three African countries out of 28 FGM practicing countries that has not legislated any law to criminalize the practice of FGM. Though the practice of female genital mutilation is a ‘cultural descent,’ it violates the rights of women and put their health at risk, they said. “Liberia being a signatory to all of these instruments, the 51st National Legislator created the Ministry of Gender, now the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, with the mandate to ensure the implementation of all of those international instruments that protect and promote women and children rights.”
The statement further concurred with Article III of the Children Act of Liberia, Article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and Article 5 of the Maputo Protocol on People and Human Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, all of which prohibit the practice of female genital mutilation.