13 September 2012

Liberia: In Sande Bush - Woman Bleeds to Death

Liberia's traditional school (Sande and Poro) authorities have vowed to continue with the practice despite the negative campaign from a few local and international groups for abolition.

Their commitment comes in the wake of report on the Voice of America (VOA) African service program Wednesday, suggesting that a 20-years old woman died in a sande bush after being circumcised in Nimba County.

The girl, (named with-held), according to the report, passed away at a local clinic where she was rushed from the bush as a result of profuse bleeding after the circumcision exercise.

In spite of that, authorities of those traditional schools (Sande and Poro) told the VOA that the practice was an inheritance from their ancestors long before Liberia's birth intended to prepare young women for home management and marriage, as well as to help women to give birth to more children.

Commenting on the issue, Varbah Gayflor, then Gender and Development Minister, said though the practice was age-old, it must be respected because it is the tradition and culture of the people.

She informed the VOA that out of the 10-counties practicing the culture in Liberia, abolition has taken place in 7, but failed to name them. However, a campaigner has disclosed that a conference involving authorities of the traditional societies would be convened to discuss the issues.

Sarah Williams said the situation has claimed government's concern, but did not say when and where such meeting would take place in the country. Every year, over 10,000 young women (girls) either by voluntarism or coercion enter the sande society.

When a team from the United Nations visited Liberia this year, they were informed by Montserrado County Superintendent Grace Kpaan that traditional sande and poro societies create insecurity and it were recipe for conflict.

Kpaan also demonized the societies as "evil". Her action was followed by condemnations from all quarters of the Liberian society, including some public officials and Monrovia-based Traditional Council of Liberia. Despite the numerous condemnations, Superintendent grace Kpaan remained defiant and unapologetic.

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