A Liberian criminal court judge nominee has told a committee hearing that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is not a cultural violation and only needs to be regulated.
Counselor Serena F. Garlawolu was speaking at the country’s Capitol Building before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Claims and Petition on May 24, 2017 ahead of her confirmation, local media reported.
“FGM is not a violation of anyone’s rights culturally, but I think there should be rules and regulations that should govern the process because if it is a culture that we want to maintain, then people should be able to reach a matured age of consent,” she said.
The civil rights lawyer was nominated by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in April to serve as a resident judge at the Criminal Court “E” after her confirmation by the hearing committee.
FGM is not a violation of anyone’s rights culturally, but I think there should be rules and regulations that should govern the process because if it is a culture that we want to maintain, then people should be able to reach a matured age of consent.
Female Genital Mutilation is not illegal in Liberia and widely practiced and accepted as part of the culture of the people. It is carried out as a form of initiation into the secret Sande society for girls and women between the ages of 5 to 40 and above.
Civil Society Organisations in the country have condemned the practice and continue to put pressure on the government to make it illegal.
“It is regrettable to note that under the leadership a female President, Liberia is yet to pass a law to end FGM,” Chief Executive Officer of Women Against Female Genital Mutilation (WAFGEM), Maima Robinson said earlier in the year.
“We as human rights activists are committed to building a solid and interactive bridge between government, civil society and traditional institutions to accelerate ending FGM in Liberia,” she added.
The World Health Organisation defines FGM as ‘altering or causing injury to the female genital organs for non medical reasons’.
It can include removal of the clitoris or labia; the narrowing of the vaginal opening; or piercing, scraping and burning of the genital area.
Most African countries have outlawed the practice except Liberia, Sierra leone, Mali, Cameroon and Sudan.