LIBERIA: FIND Demands Strong Action Against Zoes On FGM Practice, Says Its crime Against Humanity

The Executive Director of the Foundation for International Dignity (FIND) has described the practice of female genital mutilation as a “crime against humanity”, with a call on the Liberian Government to take tougher actions against those perpetuating the practice.
“This act is inhumane and unacceptable,” Mr. Roosevelt A. K. Woods told a press conference over the weekend at his Gbarnga Office in central Liberia, while briefing the media on the prevailing human rights situation in the country. “It amounts to crimes against humanity,” he added.

The renowned human rights activists called on the government of Liberia to take tougher actions against traditional Zoes who are engaged in the unlawful practice of FGM especially in rural Liberia.

Woods said Liberia is part of the global community that respects human rights and dignity, and cannot keep practicing acts that undermine human rights and dignity.

The human right activist revealed that eight out of ten women and girls risk been circumcised in rural communities if immediate action is not taken by the government and its international partners mitigate and contain the abuse of women and girls in Liberia.  

Woods further said that FGM practices is causing serious health problems to young women and girls, adding that most of the victims who reported the incidents at his office complained of continuous bleeding, infection and loss of sexual feelings, something he said is worrisome for a society who had recently experienced the Ebola crises that claims thousands of lives in the Country and the sub-region.

He said despite the government’s regulation that no Liberian should be forced into any secret society or related activities, Zoes and other traditional leaders were bent on carrying out FGM against the will of their victims with impunity.

“FGM is evil and should not be given any room in the society”, the activist emphasized.

FIND has been creating awareness on the negative effects of FGM rural Liberia, where the practice is prevalent.

He is calling on government to arrest and prosecutes those practicing the act to show its seriousness in stopping what he called “evil” act and that “Zoe bushes” where FGM is practiced should be shutdown.” He also called for protection for whistleblowers about the act and that victims should be protected and compensated by government.

He then called on the international community and the government of Liberia to demonstrate commitment to eliminating FGM by providing protection for whistle blowers who in most cases lives are threatened by traditional people.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is a traditional procedure involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs intended to ensure a girl status, marriageability, chastity and family honor.

The traditional women usually referred to as “Zoes” would lay the girls down, sit on their chest and tie their hands and faces so that they would not see the instrument being used, according to victims accounts.

In Liberia, two out of three teenage girls and sometimes younger are pulled out of school and taken into the bush for several weeks or months where FGM/C are performed.

During the process, the clitorises of the girls are usually cut off using a razor or knife. Consequences of FGM/C include damage to adjacent organs, sterility, recurring urinary tract infections, birth complications, the formation of dermoid cysts and even death.

FGM/C is a violation of girls’ and women’s human rights and condemned by many international treaties and conventions.

In August 2009, the United Nations Committee overseeing the Convention on the Elimination of ALL Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) criticized Liberia’s Ministry  of Internal Affairs for issuing permits to practitioners of “female genital mutilation” and said it was “an explicit form of support” for the practice and undermines any efforts eliminate it.

“Despite international pressure, and a female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Liberian Government hasn’t taken a public position against female genital circumcision or to provide protection to human rights activists,” Woods lamented.

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