By: Perry B. Zordyu

Monrovia-April-8-TNR:Liberia’s Health Minister, Dr. Louise Kpoto has emphasized the harmful nature of Female Genital Mutilation and its wide-ranging consequences as well as avert health effects and emotional trauma.

Minister Kpoto underscored the need for intensive advocacy efforts to bring an end to the practice of FGM, highlighting engagements with traditional leaders and community dialogues aimed at raising awareness about the harmful effects associated with FGM.

Speaking during a day long panel discussion on FGM over the weekend, Minister Kpoto shared poignant accounts of the suffering endured by FGM survivors, including instances of abandonment by partners and emotional distress.

She urged the panelists to deliberate on key issues surrounding FGM that could be leveraged in advocacy efforts, calling for decisive steps such as a legislative ban on FGM in Liberia.

Also speaking, Deputy Gender Minister Laura Golakehemphasized the crucial need for partners and stakeholders to be proactive in combatting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Minister Golakeh highlighted the persistent nature of FGM as a deeply-rooted cultural tradition and a form of violence against women and girls, impacting nearly 200 million individuals worldwide.

The Deputy Minister of Gender underscored the immediate and enduring health risks associated with the practice, including infections, excruciating pain, severe complications, and even fatalities.

She noted that this practice is recognized internationally as a human rights violation and it reflects a deep-rooted gender equality and extreme form of discrimination against women and girls emphasizing that it is the men who make the law and women and girls are expected to abide by the law.

Minister Laura Golakeh furthered stressed that in Liberia it is reported that 31.8% of Liberian women and girls continue to live with the consequences of FGM, and many of them who have gone through the practice were forcefully initiated.

“There are a lot of instruments calling on state parties, organizations, and communities to take action to end this practice in different countries. To further make a call for the abolishment of FGM, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on December 20, 2012, calling on all state actors, civil society organizations, stakeholders, and partners to observe February 6 each year as International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. This resolution seeks to intensify global efforts to end FGM and raise awareness of the practice,” Minister Golakeh added.

She however noted that a policy suspending the practices was adopted by the National Council of Traditional Chiefs and Elders in June 2019 to February 2022 which Chief Zanzan Karwa banned the practice throughout Liberia during the observance of the International Female Genital Mutilation Day.

“To elevate the conversation on FGM as well as the executive order, there is a need to an actual law that will ban the practice,” Minister Golakeh stressed.

For her part, UN Women’s Country Representative, Comfort Lamptey said at international, regional, and local levels, there are instruments that have recognized FGM as a harmful traditional practice and demand legislative action to ban it.

Representative Lamptey pointed out that it’s estimated that twelve thousand girls are at risk of FGM around the world each day, while in Liberia, over 38 percent of females between 15 and above have undergone the harmful traditional practice.

According to her, the Maputu Protocol, in fact, mandates countries to adopt legislation to address FGM social and economic measures to ensure prevention, punishment, and eradication of harmful traditional practices, exclusively FGM.

The UN Women’s Country Representative maintained that there is no shortage of mandates either regionally or internationally to ban FGM as such the practice continues in Liberia.

“From the Human Rights Law to the African Chapter on Human and People’s Rights, the Convention on the Abolition of all Forms of Discrimination AgainstWomen and Girls, the Conventions on Right of a Child to the Maputu Protocol, all have acknowledged the immediate need for countries to ban FGM because it’s harmful. And Liberia is signatory to all of those treaties,” she noted.

Meanwhile, the UN Women’s Country Representative stated that there are plans for Liberia to have the law on FGM adding they are working closely with the Legislature to get a Bill to ban FGM.

Globally, more than 200 million girls and women have undergone FGM, a practice that involves the removal or injury of external female genital organs for non-medical reasons.  

It is a violation of human rights, causing irreversible physical and psychological harm to millions of girls and women across various communities. 

The World Health Organization (WHO), UN Women, along with the Ministry of Health and other key partners, on Thursday, April 4, 2024, held a panel discussion on the health implications of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to strengthen advocacy for its eradication.

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