5 February 2019

Liberia: A Plea for the Liberian Government to Permanently Ban FGM

Photo: UNFPA Ethiopia/Meron Negash
In Ethiopia, "uncut girls’ clubs" have been formed, in which girls help to educate their peers, encourage families to exchange their views on FGM, and speak up for girls’ rights in the community.
editorial

IN THE FINAL YEAR of her presidency, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took a giant step albeit temporary, in placing a ban on Female Genital Mutilation. The Executive Order No. 92 was however valid for only one year and became effectively invalid on January 22nd, 2019.

THIS MEANS SCORES of young Liberian women are once again exposed to this painful ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia widely practiced in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and within communities from countries in which FGM is common.

AS LIBERIA JOINS THE WORLD in celebrating the observance of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) this week, we launch a strong appeal to the George

Weah-led government to place a permanent ban on the practice in Liberia.

IRONICALLY, this year's theme, "Translate Political Decisions into Concrete Actions at the Grassroots to Reach the Goal of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation," hits home for the ruling party with a feel of grassroots edge.

LIBERIA IS ONE OF EIGHT countries that stands to benefit from a 500 million Euro grant aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women, especially FGM, child marriage and sexual violence. Liberia is poised to receive 23 million euros over four years.

THE ORIGINAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE Bill included a ban on FGM, but that was scratched out and it's not clear whether there will be a ban on FGM, despite a push from women's groups and civil society organizations.

THIS YEAR, the United Nations Population Fund is sharing stories of powerful young women who resisted being subjected to the painful ritual.

YOUNGSTERS LIKE Fourteen-year-old Latifatou Compaoré who learned the spirit of resistance from her mother who was subjected to FGM as a child in Burkina Faso. "She told me that one of the girls who had been cut the same day as her had experienced serious problems and died following a hemorrhage that no one had taken care of," Latty explained.

SHARLEEN CHERPO, a 17-year-old Kenyan girl, like Latifatou also resisted and managed to escape both FGM and child marriage - which are linked in some places, with one practice considered a precursor to the other. "My family wanted me to be cut and get married, but I refused," Sharleen said. She ran away from home and found support and safety at a nearby school. She is now an advocate for children's rights.

SOFIA HUSSEN, AN 18-year-old Ethiopian who experienced both FGM and child marriage, learned about the harms of both practices from a UNFPA-supported adolescent girls' group, and today she uses her own story to call for change. "I am a living example," she said of her work."

TODAY, AN estimated 200 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to the practice. Some 3.9 million girls were subjected to FGM in 2015 alone. And if FGM continues at current levels, 68 million girls will be cut between 2015 and 2030.

ALTHOUGH LIBERIA is a signatory to many international conventions which prohibit the practice of FGM, the practice continues in Liberia unabated.

IT IS IN THIS LIGHT that we make a clarion call to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to lead the charge in pressing the President to take a stand by not just renewing the ban but making it permanent.

THE FATE OF THOUSANDS of young women are in limbo unless President Weah acts to break the shackles of the painful FGM ritual.

More on This

What Is Female Genital Mutilation and Where Does It Happen?

FGM is practised in at least 30 countries, mostly in Africa but also in pockets of the Middle East and Asia Read more »

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