Dr. John Mulbah, one of Liberia's gynecologists, says working with community dwellers and the leadership of the country will ensure a speedy passage of the female genital mutilation (FGM) bill, "since the practice has increased medical complications of women that have been initiated."
According to research, FGM is the partial or total removal of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It has been described as an extreme form of violence against women and girls.
Dr. Mulbah made the statement on Wednesday, February 13, 2019, at a one-day event organized by the Liberia Feminist Forum Working Session held at the Lutheran conference hall in Sinkor.
He said the practice was a complete violation of women's rights and creates more harm than good.
"FGM has many health consequences such as death and lifelong heath effects, including chronic infection, severe pain during urination, menstruation, sexual intercourse and childbirth, associated with psychological trauma. Sadly, most of those who are carrying out FGM are not trained health practitioners and are not familiar with a woman's body," he said.
Dr. Mulbah said health practitioners have been pushing for a law to eliminate the practice of FGM in the country; but a medical segment could be added wherein specialized health practitioners will be allowed to carry-out the practice.
"We need to be supported by communities and people in power, because of the political will that is needed to end FGM; that complete change at a community level will end FGM practice in Liberia; that those involved in the act do not necessarily know the part of a woman's body to cut, because they don't know the anatomy of the woman, so sometimes they end up affecting the blood vessels resulting to bleeding," he said.
Mulbah promised to be a part of anything that involves the protection of women's health, because he feels that passing the bill to eliminate FGM practice in the country has long been overdue.
Cllr. Abla Williams, a member of the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) and Liberia Feminist Forum (LFF), said it is preferable for women and girls to consent to the act, instead of parents compelling children to undergo the practice.
Cllr. Williams said Liberia remains signatories to several international and regional laws which seek to abolish the FGM practice, "but up-to-date some of the traditional women have continued to initiate young girls.
The forum also aims to review some terminologies in the proposed bill, due to disconnection between Executive Order #92 issued by former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the draft bill held under the theme, "Legal Analysis of Proposed Domestic Violence and Anti FGM Bill."
Tonieh Tarlery-Wiles, one of the commissioners at the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), said several FGM cases have been reported to the commission, and they are working with the complainants and the accused.
"Parents should not compel their girls to be mutilated and tortured, because we have to uphold the international protocols; and do not hide behind cultural harmful practices," Madam Wiles said.
Facia Harris, a member of LFF, said it is time President George Weah re-issue Executive Order #92, banning the practice of FGM for girls under 18 years.
On January 18, 2018, former President Sirleaf issued Executive Order #92, which expired on January 18, 2019.
The head of the National Traditional Council of Chiefs and Elders Chief Zanzan Kawor recently threatened civil society actors and the government. He said the passage of the FGM bill will result into serious action during the next elections.