The Liberian Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection announced last week that she wants FGM banned in her country. According to a story released by the Liberian Daily Observer, Minister Julia Duncan Cassell said her Ministry will soon submit an Act to the National Legislature of that country to criminalize female genital mutilation/cutting. Also included in the Act are traditional practices associated with domestic violence in Liberia.
This announcement comes just days after a United Nations report called on the Liberian government to abolish any cultural or traditional practices that violate human rights. Such practices, according to the report, include female genital mutilation, forced initiation into secret societies, witchcraft accusations, trials by ordeal and ritualistic killings.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said, “Liberia’s human rights obligations must take precedence over any local practices considered to be ‘cultural’ or ‘traditional’ where such practices are incompatible with human rights principles.”
Only a week ago, the Gambian Parliament passed their bill banning FGM in that West African country. Liberia is one of the West African countries that have continued the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting for more than a century. The practice of FGM is part of the traditional rite of passage to womanhood.
According to the Daily Observer, the Minister said that if the Act is passed into law, FGM will be criminalized, especially when it involves a girl or woman who does not consent to the practice being done to her. The Minister also said that her Ministry realizes that FGM and domestic violence have taken on many forms, and those acts are now considered serious social evils and crimes against innocent victims of society. It is hoped that violators of the law, if passed will not use the excuse that the girls consent to being cut or mutilated.
The Act which is currently before the Liberian Legislature is said to be supported by the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In her message to the U.N. General Assembly last September, the Liberian President made a commitment to banning gender violence, including FGM in her country. It is commendable to see that President Johnson Sirleaf is keeping her commitment in that regard.