By Reuben Sei Waylaun
For the sake of better understanding and smooth landing of the passage of the proposed Domestic Violence Bill, a piece of legislation aiming to put an end to all sorts of domestic violence against women, girls, and boys, Lofa County electoral district two Representative Julie Fatormah Wiah wants more stakeholders’ consultations with Liberian traditional communities and their leaders.
Lofa District two Rep. Julie Fatormah Wiah
“The bill is good, but we need to carry on more consultations with our traditional leaders so that they can better understand where we all heading, and to also ensure that it has a smooth landing,” the Lofa County legislator told a team of journalists in an exclusive interview in Monrovia Wednesday.
Her comments came after a daylong stakeholders’ public hearing on the passage of the Domestic Violence Bill, which was attended by representatives of various organizations including the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the UN Women (UNW), the National Traditional Council of Liberia (NTCL), Ambassadors of Britain and Sweden, students, and members of the legislature’s adhoc parliament examining and deciphering the merits and demerits of the Bill before its passage into law.
A sticky point which has served as a major stumbling block to the passage of the much-publicized Domestic Violence Bill (DVB) has been the issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), an old aged traditional practice the Bill seeks to eradicate. Given its alleged negative effects on under-aged girls, many of them, reportedly forced into the ‘Sande Bush School’, the Domestic Violence Bill is seeking to put an end to harmful aspects of the historical bush school teaching, an inherited cultural norm practiced centuries in many African nations.
During the bush teaching of girls, it is believed that several good disciplines are instilled in them, including learning how to become good housewives, learning the culture of respecting older people, learning how to cook for parents, intense public discourse over the FGM often struck huge controversy among Liberians, leaving the population of the war-torn nation with two major divided opinions on whether or not the FMG should be abolished.
“This issue of domestic violence is something that started way back in this country. It came through different forms. I remember when I was a little girl in school; one doctor raised serious health concerns about the FGM practice. However, I want us to look at it holistically. We should not just look at it as women’s issue because men, too, are being affected by other forms of domestic violence in the society,” another woman said.
The comment also received immediate backing from a host of other participants during the hearing, as most of the conference’s attendees agreed that the matter (FGM) is sensitive and therefore should be handled with care and sober-mindedness, including Representative Julie F. Wiah.
“Most of the domestic problem issues that we have in our society today come from parental care. Most of our children that are in the streets today are not going through proper parental care. If you were to go to my part of Lofa that I come from, you would find out that girl children do not play in the outside at certain point of the night. This is a discipline that we want to see in our girl children. We have to look at the positive and negative sides of this Bill and be able to talk to our traditional people so that they, too, understand where we are heading. We need to go to our traditional women and chiefs and talk to them in ways that will demonstrate respect, and, at the same time, tell them the risks associated with the FGM,” Representative Wiah also suggested.
Representative Wiah also took time off to explain her current activities in her district, saying, “Right now we are involved with agriculture activities with our people in the district (Vahun). At some point in time, we will be having town hall meeting with women in the district to discuss empowerment programs but, for now, we are engaged with the planting of crops.”
Lawmaker Wiah also disclosed to the press existing challenges facing the district, revealing that: “At the moment the road is very bad. Our people are finding it difficult to take their produce to the market due to worsening road condition. This is one major challenge that we have in the district. However, we cannot stop going to our people because that’s what they elected us, and we are under obligation to visit them regularly and listen and address their plights.”