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Liberia Traditional Leaders Declare Ban On Female Genital Mutilation

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By OND Staff

Liberia’s National Council of Chiefs and Elders has issued ban on the harmful practice of female genital mutilation across the West African nation of 4.5 million people.

The zoes who are the custodian and practitioners of the FGM practice are laying down tools and choosing to limit the culture to initiate girls but not mutilate them.

“By the power vested in me by all the Paramount Chiefs of the 15 political divisions in Liberia, female genital mutilation is banned in Liberia,” Zanzan Karwor the Chief of traditional chiefs said Thursday at celebration of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in Songay Town .

UN Women has supported the establishment of heritage centers to serve as a place for alternative livelihood for the zoes who are abandoning the practice.

“The traditional leaders have paved the way by giving us the first step in the journey to ending FGM in Liberia,” Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor said.

“We hope that this laudable effort by the traditional leaders also acts a fillip for Liberian parliament to finally pass an anti-FGM law. We pledge our support in turn to work towards a robust legislation against FGM in Liberia and ultimately towards zero cases of FGM in the country.”

FGM in Liberia and Africa

FGM is a harmful traditional practice involving the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It can cause immense physical and psychological damage and is internationally recognized as a grave violation of women and girls’ human rights.

According to figures released by UNICEF in February 2020, at least 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM in 31 countries worldwide. This figure only includes states where there is available data from large-scale representative surveys, incorporating 27 countries from the African continent, together with Iraq, Yemen, the Maldives, and Indonesia; though we have evidence of FGM taking place in at least 92 countries worldwide.

Around 31.8% of women and girls in Liberia have undergone FGM.

Liberia is one of only four countries in Africa that have yet to specifically criminalize FGM, alongside Somalia, Mali, and Sierra Leone.

Without legal bans that expressly criminalize and punish FGM, and prohibit it for both women and minors, the United Nations says it is not possible to provide “accountability frameworks and disciplinary sanctions” essential for prevention and eradication.

Liberia is a signatory to international and regional human rights treaties, such as CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol, which call on State Parties to protect women and girls from all forms of violation including FGM.

In 2018, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed Executive Order No 92 on Domestic Violence banning FGM for one year. This Order only prohibited performing FGM on girls under age 18.

In February 2022, the head of the Traditional Council of Liberia, Chief Zanzan Karwor announced a three-year suspension on FGM.

Liberia’s President George Weah has made a public declaration about his support for ending FGM. In his State of the Nation Address on January 31, President Weah spoke about buttressing efforts to end FGM by opening up new traditional centers and setting up alternate livelihood programs for Zoes and traditional leaders, who receive payment for performing FGM.

Part of the strategy is to find them alternative sources of income generation. The President thanked Chief Zanzan Karwor, the Chairperson of the National Council of Chiefs and Elders in Liberia his work on ending FGM.




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