16 January 2013

Liberia: Ritual Practices Banned

The government has announced the banning of the Sande Society, threatening the prosecution of those conscripting young girls into the practice of the traditional rituals otherwise known as female genital mutilation.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, responsible for traditional activities in the country, has revoked the licenses of all those involved in ritual practices.

The decision stemmed from reports that practitioners of the Sande Bush have been forcing people and intimidating them to join the society against their will.

The old age practice serves as a livelihood for elderly women who practice the act, violating the rights of those who do not subscribe to the acts.

In some instances those who do not give in to the ritual have often confine themselves behind closed doors whenever the "Country Devil" was in town.

In Lofa County, several Muslims have often complained of violation of their rights after being required to go indoors whenever the passing of the country devil coincides with their prayer time.

Addressing a news conference yesterday, Internal Affairs Minister Blamo Nelson observed that certain individuals were in the habit of subjecting others to certain cultural practice and rituals without their consent.

Consequently, he decreed that "All certificates and licenses issued to traditional healers, herbalists or witchdoctors prior to this announcement are not longer valid" until those holding those documents return them to the Ministry of Internal Affairs for validation.

"A person who uses any form of force or intimidation to compel another person to yield to or to be initiated into any tribal ritual or traditional practice is taking risk and could be arrested, charged and prosecuted," he cautioned.

The minister said "No one is compelled, subject, or ...any other person into any cultural practice or ritual without the consent of the person who is being inducted or initiated."

The Internal Affairs Minister told reporters that the initiation or induction of any person into a cultural practice or a traditional ritual is also prohibited without the approval and supervision of individuals by the National Traditional Council of Liberia and a licenses duly issued under his signature.

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