-Chair On Gender Discloses
By R. Joyclyn Wea
The Chair of House of Representatives’ committee on Gender, Children, and Social Protection Julie Fatormah Wiah has disclosed that the long standing controversial Domestic Violence Bill is at the verge of being passed.
According to her, the bill will appear before the plenary of the House of Representatives within the period of two weeks for consideration by that august body.
Representative Wiah made the disclosure at the launch of the spotlight initiative by the government of Liberia in collaboration with the European Union and the United Nations to eliminate violence against women and girls in Liberia held in Tienii, Dewor District, Grand Cape Mount County.
Madam Wiah said they will not rest until the Domestic Violence Bill is passed as it seeks to prevent sexual gender-based violence, FGM and other harmful traditional practices against women and girls that have over years denied women and girls equal access and opportunities to better living.
It is close to five years since the bill; title “An Act to Amend Title 26, Chapter 16 of the Penal Law. LCLR Offenses against the Family to Add Subchapter A. “Domestic Violence,” was introduced to the National Legislature, but its passage has remained a controversial debate with some lawmakers shying away from the Act for either fear of reprisal from traditional leaders.
The bill seeks to address many vital issues affecting domestic and gender-based violence, but the most contentious issue stalling its passage is believed to be the legislation of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as illegal and offenders punishable by law.
Among vital issues the Act seeks to address are Domestic (physical abuse, emotional verbal and psychological abuse, economic abuse) dowry-related violence, offenses against the family, female genital mutilation, sexual abuse, and harassment.
“I hope that the legislature will pass this Bill because this is something that we have struggled over at the level of the senate. Maybe we will pass an Executive Order in the long run,” Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor.
Madam Taylor also want the House of Representatives include the portion of the bill that has to do with the abortion of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) into the bill for passage which is a major component of these harmful practices against women and girls in Liberia and across the world.
She believes this will serve as boost for the country and enhance strive to put an end to SGBV and other practices against women and girls in Liberia.
It can be recalled that the House of Representatives passed a version of the bill that completely removed the issue of FGM which was different from the original bill.”
The Liberian Senate conducted two public hearings where the issue of FGM was discussed with the traditional women and zoes.
Following these hearings, a consensus was reached to tackle the issue of FGM, because almost all of the senators were not comfortable with an Act that would interfere with the Country cultural traditions.
The passage of the bill was marked with several protest from different women groupings as means of drawing attention of lawmakers on the importance of passing said bill.
Though the problem with the passage of the bill has been the abortion of FGM, it is not the only issue within the bill, there are issues of persistent non-support, unwanted pregnancy, early marriage; that must be look at in totality.