UN Women Country Representative to Liberia, Ms. Comfort Lamptey is calling for the introduction of new legislation to prohibit Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the country, citing ongoing violations of this practice that continue to afflict the nation.
Despite the nationwide ban imposed by Chief Zanzan Karwor, Chairperson of the National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia (NACCEL), during the commemoration of International Day of Zero Tolerance against FGM in Sonkay Town, Montserrado County on February 6, 2023, persistent FGM violations continue to plague Liberia.
During a recent event in Monrovia when UN Women organized a two-day gender-sensitive reporting training on FGM for journalists, Ms. Lamptey stressed the urgency of enacting legislation to curb the practice across the country.
She acknowledged that there is still much work to be done to eradicate this practice permanently and emphasized the need for legal measures, education, and empowerment efforts.
Ms. Lamptey expressed optimism regarding the bill introduced by Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor and sponsored by Deputy Speaker, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa, hoping that the bill titled the ‘2022 Act Prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation,’ will be passed into law to enforce the ban on FGM in the country.
However, the bill was sent to the House of Representatives in 2022, and lawmakers were expected to engage with constituents in the counties during their July 2022 recess, with a requirement to report to the committee by January 2023.
Despite ongoing efforts, Liberia remains one of the few African countries without legislation criminalizing FGM, despite having signed and ratified numerous human rights instruments that denounce the practice as a violation of human rights, including the Maputo Protocol.
Notably, Article 4 of the Maputo Protocol mandates state parties to adopt measures to prevent, punish, and eradicate all forms of violence against women, while Article 5 specifically addresses the elimination of harmful practices.
According to UNICEF reports, currently, 31.8% of Liberian women and girls are living with the consequences of FGM, and many more are at risk of Forced mutilations with little choice in this matter.
Despite previous efforts, traditional leaders continue to wield significant power and influence within their communities, often extending their influence to policymakers. As girls approach the age of 18, they may still face societal pressure to undergo FGM to maintain their community standing.
International organizations have undertaken substantial efforts to change attitudes, dispel misconceptions, and raise awareness about the harmful consequences and psychological effects of FGM.
These efforts led to the ban on February 6, 2023, but the practice has never been officially outlawed in Liberia, and violations of the ban persist, including instances of bush school graduation ceremonies in rural areas.
While awaiting the passage of the proposed law, Ms. Lamptey emphasized the crucial role of the media in advocating for FGM elimination.
She stressed the importance of the media in educating communities and facilitating objective and gender-sensitive reporting.
"Let's us celebrate everything that's beautiful about our culture, everything that we want to transmit to younger girls, but let us not take a harmful practice to them", she said.
She called for "education without mutilation" and expressed gratitude to various ministries and the media for their contributions to this cause, noting that senior practitioners could play a vital role in educating the community on this important issue.
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