Last Friday, July 26th marked the 172nd year since the Liberian Declaration of Independence was signed and that West African country celebrated its independence from the American Colonization Society.
Some Liberians here in the U.S. busied themselves with plans and preparations for the celebration in observance of their independence day last Friday, and through the weekend. But many Liberians in Liberia are facing destitution, due to lack of money and the lack of professional leadership. What the Liberian President, George Weah should make a priority is the criminalization of female genital mutilation (FGM), or as they refer to it, female circumcision. Some Liberians here in the Washington, D.C. area contended with warm temperature, and humidity at their 16th Street and Colorado Avenue Embassy grounds in Northwest Washington, garbed in colorful traditional attire.
It was difficult to miss the performance of the cultural dancers, most especially the masked and grass skirted performers. It reminded some Liberians of their childhood years in Liberia when the cultural and masked dancers went around from house to house performing. They were some of the most frightful sights for children at that age and during that time. One Liberian bystander said, “It terrified me when I watched the masked and grass skirted dancer, who started off as a short object on the ground, and suddenly it began to grow right before our eyes until it was a nine-foot giant. It danced as it kicked up dirt, spinning vigorously.” That scary dancing masked object was referred to as the “devil”. Every Liberian child was fearful of the so-called “devil”.
As a girl in Liberia embraces womanhood, she discovers that female circumcision, the “devil” and the Poro and Sande Bush Societies are all interconnected. The very “devil” children so dread actually belongs to the GreGre (Grebo) Bush, where little girls are taken to be circumcised (female genital mutilation).
Although some Liberian mothers only used the cultural “devil” to frighten their children into being obedient, they would never turn their girls over to the “devil” to have their genitals cut. However there are indeed some Liberian mothers who actually take their daughters to the Sande Bush to have them experience FGM.
So as Liberia proudly celebrated 172 years of being an independent Republic, one wonders if the hundreds of circumcisers (cutters) took a break from the Sande Bush of performing FGM last Friday and the weekend. The children are out of school during this time of the year; and that means it is high season for the Sande Society Bush. Did they close down the Sande Bush for a day to celebrate their independence last Friday? They probably did indeed break for the celebrations; they became intoxicated, and returned to their blades this week. After all, Friday was a national holiday in Liberia. But did the women miss a day of making their living? A circumciser can earn up to Five Hundred U.S. Dollars a day, depending on the number of girls she cuts.
Liberia is still one of three countries in Africa that have remained stubborn to ban the practice of female genital mutilation. Something that is little known about the practice of FGM in Liberia is that the people practicing it in that country tend to hide behind tradition and culture. The initial purpose very well might have been based on tradition and culture; however tradition and culture have been overtaken by personal sustainability and livelihood. Beside the circumcisers making their living by brutally cutting innocent little girls, the Liberian Legislature continues to uphold the legality of the practice of FGM in that country. Organizations such as Equality Now and Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation have been relentless in urging the leaders of that country to ban the practice of FGM, to no avail.
The former Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf made a last minute decision almost two years ago to sign an Executive Order to outlaw FGM. However that Executive Order was only effective for twelve months from the time of her signature. It was entirely to the discretion of her successor, George Weah to extend that Executive Order, and have his current Legislature and Senate fully pass it into law. Mr. Weah failed to extend that Executive Order, which expired more than a year ago. He would need his heavily populated Poro and Sande Society Legislature and Senate to pass the ban into law. Keep in mind, it was the same Legislature and Senate with whom Johnson-Sirleaf struggled, and was not successful in getting the FGM bill passed during her administration. Mr. Weah, what are you doing about this atrocious practice in your country? As long as the Liberian Senate and Legislature are saturated with members of the Poro and Sande Societies, it will always be a struggle, regardless of who sits in the Presidential Mansion.
In addition to the economical purpose of the practice of FGM, there is also the dark, demonic ritualistic practice which the Sande and Poro Society Bushes carry out. There is a far deeper meaning to the shedding of blood by the girls and the rituals of what is done with the excised parts of the girls. This is why they do not want the girls to divulge their experiences to anyone when they leave the Sande Bush. There is a great deal of deeply rooted secrecy in the Sande Bush, which the Western World does not know, and those to whom it is known do not understand.
A statement issued by the Liberian Associations around the world to their President Weah, demanding the ban on the practice of FGM would have been far more impressive during the Independence Day celebrations. For some Liberians in the diaspora, it was difficult to wholeheartedly celebrate the 172nd year of the signing of their country’s Declaration of Independence. Why celebrate when little girls live in fear of being cut in the Sande Bush? Why are you celebrating when little girls are losing their trust in adults and their leaders because they live in a country without a law that protects them against FGM and other harmful cultural practices? Why celebrate when many Liberian girls in puberty cannot afford a simple thing like sanitary pads? Why are Liberians celebrating when girls are subjected to sexual assault, hunger, child marriage, child prostitution, female genital mutilation and a myriad of other harmful practices in that country? Why wasn’t Johnson-Sirleaf’s Executive Order extended and executed? Are there logical answers to these questions? Does President Weah have the answers to those questions?
This is an appeal to the Leadership of Liberia, including George Weah, that they must seriously consider placing a ban on the practice of FGM in that country. Liberians have a traditional phrase they express to each other on their day of independence. They say, “My 26 is on you”, which indicates that they want a gift from you for their 26th Day Independence. So as you recover from your days of independence celebration, please think long and hard and consider putting the safety of girls before the demonic practices in Liberia. Now, that is the 26th that is on you, George Weah and the rest of the Liberian Leadership.
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