27 June 2019

Liberia: FGM Erased From Domestic Violence Law

-But Gender Ministry, AFELL want violators jailed for 25 years

The practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or women circumcision has been erased from the proposed Domestic Violence Law of 2014, and is therefore, not considered an act of domestic violence or abuse, rather traditionally and culturally to compromise with the country's heritage.

The omitted FGM practice, which is considered harmful and painful, is not included in the Domestic Law to be described as a serious crime against an individual and society that take on many forms, including physical and sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Representative J. Fonati Koffa, Joint Committee Chairman, told journalists that the FGM is particularly about women and is cultural, while the Domestic Violence is about the household.

On Wednesday, June 26, 2019, during the public hearing of the Domestic Violence law, many of the 13 lawmakers considered as "ambiguous the harassment component of the law," which include repeated telephone calls to or inducing another person to make telephone calls, using the internet or other electronic means, to make unwanted or malicious communication and repeatedly watching or loitering outside or near the building where a person resides, works, carries on business or studies.

The lawmakers also argued that the "emotional, verbal and psychological abuse" are ambiguous, which means, in the law, a pattern or one time occurrence of degrading or humiliating conduct towards a person, including any behavior that causes emotional damage and reduction of self-esteem, or that harms and disturbs full development, or that aims at degrading or controlling a persons' actions.

In separate remarks, River Gee County Superintendent Philip Q. Nyenuh and Grand Bassa County Superintendent Janjay Baikpeh, thanked the House Joint Committee, but urged them to approve the law in reasonable time.

Madam Frances Greaves, chairperson, National Civil Society Council of Liberia, said the Domestic Violence Bill should be passed to serve as a deterrent, "because many children have been threatened not to talk whenever they are being abused."

Lawmakers who participated in Wednesday's public hearing were Representatives Koffa, chairman on Judiciary; Julie F. Wiah, chairperson on Gender; Larry Younquoi, chairman on Good Governance; and Rosana Schaack, the chairperson of the Women's Legislative Caucus.

Others are Representatives Ellen Attoh Wreh, Dorwohn Gleekia, Gunpue L. Kargon, Joseph Matthews, Beyan Howard, Clarence Massaquoi, Byron Zahnwea, Ceebee C.D. Barshell, and Joseph Somwarbi.

Gender Minister Wilhelmina Saydee-Tarr has recommended an amendment in the draft law, which was proposed by the leadership of the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL.)

AFELL suggested that the offense of domestic violence is a felony of the first degree, where rape occurs and carries a mandatory jail time of a minimum of 25 years.

Meanwhile, Rep. Koffa has announced that the draft budget, following the public hearing, will be presented to the Joint Committee on Monday, July 1, and will be subsequently submitted to the House Plenary for approval.

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