Liberia: Enact a law banning FGM as a matter of urgency

Ruth Berry Peal with her lawyer

March 12, 2013 Update: On 17 January 2013, Ruth Berry Peal's lawyer, Deddeh Wilson, informed Equality Now that she had filed a motion requesting the court to dismiss the defendant’s appeal of their jail sentence for failure to complete the appeal process. On 24 January 2013, the court dismissed the appeal case on grounds that 'the defendants did not file an approved bill of exceptions or did not secure the approval of the trial judge on the purported bill of exceptions.' On 26 February, the court issued a letter commanding the Sheriff of Montserrado to arrest the defendants.

Although Ruth has finally gotten justice for being forcibly mutilated, it has not been easy for her, as she continues to receive threats.  Mrs Speare, director of Women NGO Secretariat Liberia (WONGOSOL), stated that social and cultural circumstances in Liberia do not allow girls and women to oppose FGM or to escape, though girls sometimes resort to running away and hiding due to the lack of laws to protect them from the practice.  Ruth has been advised by the gender ministry to relocate to Monrovia but is reluctant to do so because her husband and children still live in Bomi, Liberia. Therefore, we are calling on the Liberian government to support and protect Ruth, as well as to build on indications made by the Minister for Internal Affairs in 2011 to enact and enforce a law banning FGM as a matter of urgency.


Equality Now has just issued an Action calling on the Government of Liberia to enact a law banning female genital mutilation (FGM) and to ensure the swift conclusion of Ruth Berry Peal’s case. In July 2011, the members of the politically influential Sande secret society who had kidnapped and forcibly subjected Ruth to FGM were sentenced to three years imprisonment; however, they appealed the judgment and were released on bail. The appeal has been pending at the Supreme Court with no hearing date set and the perpetrators remain free.

Despite Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s pledge to make women’s rights and health a national priority, recent steps by the government to suspend Sande activities and the government’s stated willingness to work on an anti-FGM law, reports of mutilations continue with a lack of government intervention. This lack of a unified stance by government officials undermines the efforts the government is making to end FGM.

Please call on Liberian authorities to ensure that Ruth Peal’s case is speedily concluded and that that the government’s suspension of Sande FGM activities is enforced. Furthermore, call on them to enact and enforce comprehensive legislation against FGM as well as supporting educational outreach to relevant communities and local chiefs on the harms of FGM.

H.E. Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

President

Hon Christiana H. Tah

Minister of Justice

Hon Julia Duncan Cassell

Minister for Gender and Development

Hon Blamo Nelson

MInister of Internal Affairs

To learn more about the campaign & for a list of full contact information for the government officials above, see:
http://www.equalitynow.org/take_action/fgm_action372