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Forceful Initiations, FGM Must Stop -Liberian Women call on Traditional leaders

Liberian women are now calling on the traditional leaders to put an end to the forceful initiations rite of Female Genital Mutilation’s (FGM) in the country.
One of those calling for a stop to the forceful initiations of women and girls is the Executive Director of West Point Women Development Network, Nelly Cooper, who is calling on the government to take immediate actions in ending forceful initiations of women and girls into Sande society.
According to Madam Cooper, the issues of FGM should not be done against the will of a person but it should be done based on an agreement by the individual when she is at the age of 18 years and above; which is the global age of consent.
“There are several victims going through agony because they were forcefully initiated by traditional leaders in their towns and villages without their consent. As an advocate against FGM, we cannot sit and watch our women and girls going through such human rights violation and we can’t speak up to them,” Madam Cooper said.
She made the statement on last Thursday in a webinar organize by the African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET) and the Female Journalists Association of Liberia (FeJAL) under the theme: Impact of COVID-19 on Women Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights.
Madam Cooper explained that despite several efforts by her organization and other women’s group in advocating for the abolishment of FGM in Liberia, there are still many cases being reported and much action is not taking to protect the rights of these women and girls who are victims or would be victims.
“My organization is working with victims by ensuring that they have medical attention and providing counseling for them because no woman should go through health condition because of forceful initiation,” Madam Cooper explained.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Child Marriage and Gender Base Violence (SGBV) are all harmful practices in Liberia and several women and girls have been victimized despite efforts by Civil Society Organizations, women group and the government of Liberia including international partners working together to make sure that these harmful practices against women come to an end.
Despite all of the advocacies and efforts, the issue of FGM is still ongoing in Liberia and some victims are crying out loud for more efforts in finding solutions to their problems.
Recently, in continuation of programs held in observance and celebration of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence in Liberia, a mother of a 15-year old survival of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), told her story about how her daughter was taken to a Sande Bush.
Madam Deborah Parker, who said she was not at home, explained that on September 28, 2021 her daughter was forcefully taken from their Mount Barclay residence along with other girls in the community into a traditional society.
Madam Parker narrated that she returned home after her daughter was taken away, but according to her when she got home, it was neighbors who informed her that her daughter and the other girls were shoved into a car while having quarrel with each other.
According to Madam Parker, she would have preferred the people taking her daughter to the police for whatever crime she might have committed instead, they took her to a Sande Bush as a means of punishment.
When she took the matter to the police according to her, the police told her that they could not handle it instead transferred to the Ministry of Internal Affairs explaining, “I went to the Ministry of Internal Affairs but before then, I went to the radio station and sent SOS call to the international community and other women groups to help rescue my daughter from the hands of those people because she is going to school and she knows nothing about FGM.”
Madam Parker further explained that while at the Ministry of Internal Affairs on the matter, she met a lady called Ma Sue Boakai who is responsible for Sande in Liberia and she explained the situation but was requested by the head of Sande to charter a car to take them to Mount Barclay, the society venue.
Madam Parker said, so she granted Ma Sue’s request and they both went to a village named Paul Kpaded Town where the girls had been taken and the Zoes started an argument with Ma Sue saying that she (Ma Sue) had stopped them from opening their Bush because of bush school owned by Ma Sue.
She after Ma Sue persuaded her colleagues to allow her see the girls that the Zoes took but unfortunately, they all had already been initiated and Ma Sue asked Hawa, one of those that took the girls away, nothing was said instead; they only apologized for their action.
Madam Parker said she used the radio after two days after making public the incident that befell her daughter but the very public got annoyed with her and went to an extend of threatening her for exposing their activities in the media.
According to her she was constantly called by the Sande school operators to send food and other things while her daughter was away; which she saw as a high level of exploitation.
She lauded the Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL) and Just A Girl Initiative who stepped in to have her daughter finally released; calling on the international community to find a means in aiding FGM survivors in Liberia.
Also in Bong County, five girls were capture and taken into the sande society out of their will for what the traditionalist (Zoes) considered misconduct.
The girls were adopted by the local traditionalists (zoes) without the consent of the parents on allegations that the girls caused public disturbances and were seen abusing in the neighborhood.
Prior to their unfortunate situation, one of the girls who is 18 years old (identity protected) a now 10th-grade student was due to sit an entrance exam at the new school she’s expected to enrolled for the 2022 academic year while the other 17 years old daughter a student of the Mother Patern College of Health Sciences has missed more than 2 weeks in school.
Since the adoption of the girls on September 29, life has been devastating for the mothers as the result of the extra financial demands by the Sande authorities requesting food, medication, materials, and money for the upkeep of those girls in the bush.
As a result , the parents have been calling for the release of their children from the sande society and the prosecution of those traditionalists but up to date, there is no action taken to release the girls.
Another scenario of forceful ignitions was of recent, the Senior Resident Pastor of the Saint Assembly Ministries International in Gbartala, Bong County, was arrested alone with some members and forcefully taken into a Zoe bush for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ; Alpha R. Tarway, one of the pastors of the ministries stated.

Tarway further narrated that breastfeeding mothers along with their babies were also capture after they have gone Bong County with other members to purposely secure the release of those members held captive by the country devil upon hearing that their Senior Pastor’s was arrested.

Tarway further narrated that breastfeeding mothers along with their babies were also capture after they have gone Bong County with other members to purposely secure the release of those members held captive by the country devil and seek help from the police but police claimed that the issue was beyond their control.

For his part, the Head of the National Chiefs and Elders Council of Liberia, Chief Zanzan Karwor said there are efforts being made by the traditional council to stop forceful initiations of FGM.

In an interview with one of the local stations, he explained “The council is concern about the complains of our girls not being in classes during the school time because of the Sande activities, but we are working on ensuring that our girls stay in schools.”

The Domestic Violence Act (amending Chapter 16, offence Against the Family, of the Penal Code to add a subchapter on Domestic Violence) initially, before its passage in its draft stage would have amended the criminal law to make Female Genital Mutilation on a girl under the age of 18 or a woman 18 years or over without her consent punishable for violators and including rehabilitation for survivors and fines.
Locally, the domestic violence law which was introduced in 2016 in its initial form sought to put an end to the practice of FGM, but this aspect of the law faced serious defeat, dashing the hopes of rights advocates.#SRHRmediadialogue# Gloria

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