Gender Ministry Wants Female Circumcision Banned by Law

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Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister Julia Duncan Cassell has said her ministry will shortly submit an Act to the National Legislature to criminalize female circumcision or female genital mutilation (FGM), as well as ban other traditional practices associated with domestic violence in the country.

Minister Cassell said if the Act is passed into law, FGM will be criminalized, especially when it involves a person who did not consent to the practice.

According to Minister Cassell, the ministry has realized that FGM and domestic violence have taken on many forms and are being considered now as serious social evils and crimes against ‘innocent victims’ and society. She said remedies currently available to the survivors and or victims of domestic violence have proven “ineffective, and therefore, the practice [needs] to be banned and criminalized.”

The Gender Minister made the pronouncement on Monday, December 22 at the Capitol Building shortly after an hour-long meeting with the Joint Legislative Committee on Judiciary, Health and Gender Equity, Child Development and Social Services.

“My meeting with the lawmakers was to formally share with them some contents of the pending draft law, and to crave their indulgence when the final draft of the law is submitted in January 2016 for their immediate endorsement, upon their return from their agriculture break,” Min. Cassell said.

She said the meeting was intended to afford her the opportunity to explain to the members of the Joint Committee the pending bill and to crave their indulgence for its speedy passage, so that the President can add it in her upcoming 2016 State of the Nation Address.

She disclosed that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has already given her support to the passage of the draft law, which is currently before the National Legislature.

The Minister’s announcement comes just days after a UN report called on the Liberian government to abolish any cultural or traditional practices that violate human rights. Such practices, according to the report, include female genital mutilation, forced initiation into secret societies, witchcraft accusations, trials by ordeal and ritualistic killings.

“Liberia’s human rights obligations must take precedence over any local practices considered to be ‘cultural’ or ‘traditional’ where such practices are incompatible with human rights principles,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, during the release of the report in Liberia.

The act (draft law) is entitled: “An Act to Amend Title 26, Chapter 16 of the Penal Law, LCLR Offenses against the Family to add sub-chapter ‘A,’ Domestic Violence.”

According to Section 1d of the Act, FGM, also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the ritual removal of some or all of the external female genitalia or the clitoris without the consent of the person, who is mutilated, and is performed on the female genital, except for medical purpose.

Acting Chairman of House Judiciary Committee, Nimba County Representative Worlea Saywah Dunah, presided over the meeting held in the 1st floor conference room of the House of Representatives.

House Chairmen on Health and Gender Equity, Child Development and Social Services, Reps. Johnson Chea and Corpu Barclay, as well as the Senate Chairman on Health, Dr. Peter Coleman, were also in attendance.

Meanwhile, additional acts to be submitted to the Legislature by the Gender Ministry include “An Act to amend Chapter 7 Provisional Remedies, Civil Procedure Law, Title 1, Liberian code of Laws Revised to add Subchapter H – Orders relating to Domestic Violence” and “An Act to Provide for Equitable Participation and Representation of all persons in governance and political process.”

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