Proposed Bill Against FGM ‘Very Weak’

first_imgJust days before President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s annual message, where she implored the Legislature to enact several proposed bills into law, such as the Domestic Violence Act, two Kenyan rights activists in Monrovia critiqued the section of the proposed bill concerning FGM, calling it “weak… vague, bleak and ambiguous and lacks grit to prosecute offenders.” “As a mother and a woman leader,” President Sirleaf said in her message yesterday, “the record is clear on my response to the issues of women and children, particularly in support of their economic participation, their participation in governance, and their protection from violence… “We must enact laws that protect our girls and women,” she continued. “I have thus submitted the Domestic Violence Act, which I trust you will soon enact into law.”However, the two women’s rights advocates, Grace Uwizeye and Florence Machio, described the proposed bill as “very weak” and clearly indicates that government is doing little to protect women, mostly the vulnerable, through the enactment of strong laws that would deter perpetrators.The two Kenyan women were on a brief visit to Liberia where they had the opportunity to review some laws that protect women’s rights. Machio is a renowned Kenyan journalist, while Uwizeye is a Lawyer by profession and currently serves as program officer of Equality Now, an international non-governmental organization. According to Uwizeye, what Liberia has drafted cannot protect women because there is no concrete penalty for perpetrators. “What is there that will deter perpetrators? We see nothing,” she said.Ambiguously, the draft is proposing that government renders services to perpetrators in the form of counselling, though nothing is mentioned about the victims in terms of compensation or treatment – something that is being described as a disgrace. Journalist Machio could not agree more on the weakness of the proposed bill. Both women spoke at a one-day media consolidation forum on FGM (female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision) held recently in Monrovia.Twenty eight of the 54 African states practice FGM, although 24 of those involved have adopted anti-FGM laws.While other states have enacted harsher laws to prosecute perpetrators of FGM, Liberia’s proposed bill is “vague, bleak and ambiguous and lacks grit to prosecute offenders,” the Kenyan activists said. Worse, they said, is that the proposed bill recommends the same penalties used for lesser forms of domestic violence such as beatings for FGM perpetrators.They named The Gambia, Nigeria, Kenya and Burkina Faso as countries that “have done good jobs in drafting laws that protect women against FGM, though the acts might be going on secretly.”The practice of FGM has serious health, economic, social and developmental consequences for the victims and society.The Gambia Law, passed early this year, stipulates that a person who engages in female circumcision could face up to three years in prison or a fine of US$1,250 and could face life imprisonment if the act results in death. The Nigerian anti-FGM law, passed in May 2015, also bans FGM, with offenders imprisoned for four years or fined not more than US$1,000 or both. This is also similar in Burkina Faso and Kenya.The weakness of the Liberian proposed bill is exposed by the leniency of the penalties stipulated. Perpetrators and those who aid in the process are punished by a fine, which lies within the purview of the judge, who also has the power to order counselling sessions for perpetrators.The proposed bill states: “When a defendant has been convicted of domestic violence, the court may require that the defendant attend a domestic violence counseling or rehabilitation; impose a fine pursuant to section 50.9, of which 25 percent shall go to the Domestic Violence Victim Fund or other compensation as provided in the Penal Law.”“What is in this bill to scare perpetrators from the act in an effort to protect women? This in my mind is a joke,” Mrs. Machio said, adding that the country needs a stronger bill.President Sirleaf’s promises to protect Liberian women from harmful acts such as FGM seem not to be coming to fruition under such a bill when enacted.Many had expected Madam Sirleaf, as Africa’s first elected female president, to lead the charge in this regard.She committed government to several international conventions and protocols aimed at protecting women and children. Some of these instruments include the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Maputo Declaration.All of these call for the elimination of discrimination, rights to dignity, life and integrity, though the Maputo protocol is the first human rights instrument that explicitly mentions FGM as a harmful practice. “If all of these were signed by the president to protect women, then why is the implementation of these (protocols) going so slowly?” one female participant asked during the meeting.“The president needs to leave a legacy for women in this country and one of these would be putting an end to violence against us, but I’m worried that this is not happening,” the participant said.The President recently reiterated her pledge to ending FGM in Liberia when she addressed a global meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment last year in New York. She promised to ensure the Domestic Violence Bill (DVB) is passed into law, banning FGM before her tenure ends, while also promising to collaborate with Lawmakers to enact the proposed DVB. It was endorsed by Cabinet and approved by the President in 2015 and is currently before the lawmakers for enactment.The content of the bill is a cause for concern as it doesn’t in anyway foresee the actualization of the president’s promise at that global event.FGM involves removal of the female genitalia with consequences such as death and health implications, including chronic infection, severe pain during urination and menstruation.More women are currently living with the consequences of FGM, with Somalia, 98 percent; Liberia, 58 percent, being among the worst.The proposed DVB is an initiative of the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Protection. After spending months at the Legislature, it was recently sent back to the Ministry for what seems to be lapses in the process.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Take Charge and Lead, Mr. President; Or, Allow Others to Take Charge and Lead…

first_imgSince the announcement by the Minister of Information alluding to the disappearance of billions of Liberian dollar banknotes and the subsequent announcement of the invitation extended to US Federal Reserve to assist in the investigation, virtually little or nothing has been heard of the outcomes of the investigation.This newspaper in its October 17, 2018 editorial called on the Americans involved with the investigation to release their preliminary findings to give the public a clear picture of what has so far been uncovered. The investigation into the missing billions as well as that involving the said infusion of 25m US dollars commenced since over a month ago. The public, as a result, has been left to speculate which has given rise to conjectures of a conspiracy of theft involving top officials including possibly President Weah himself.Like his predecessor, President Sirleaf, President George Weah did declare an unflinching war against corruption, declaring now was the time for public officials to work in the interest of the Liberian people. But, from all appearances, President Weah, just like his predecessor, was playing to the galley, making promises which they had no intention of keeping.The first real test to President Weah’s resolve came with the submission of a report which he had commissioned on the allegations of bribery of former officials involved in negotiations of the ExxonMobil concession agreement. Since his “Special Presidential Committee” submitted its report recommending restitution of the monies paid to those officials by ExxonMobil, President Weah has since failed to act on the recommendations.Similarly has his reaction been to the missing billions and the US$25 million infusion money. Rather than providing coherent explanations on the missing billions and the US$25 million infusion, officials, it appears, have been hard at work trying to exact a pound of flesh from journalist Philipbert Browne, who initially broke the story of the missing money.Interestingly, the Minister of Information Eugene Nagbe did confirm the story that money went missing just as the Minister of Finance did also but in a series of twists and turns flip-flopping, denying in one breath that any money got missing and yet in another breath, admitting that money did go missing. But as if that debacle was not enough, another was to soon rear its head and that involved the Managing Director of the National Housing Authority, Duannah Siryon.Mr. Siryon’s voice could be clearly heard on a tape recording discussing the solicitation of bribery from a Burkinabé businessman. Several government officials are said to be linked to the bribery deal. And of course all the unsavory details of the deal have been released and posted on social media. Needless to mention, this deal has also claimed the attention of the public and there has been no shortage of suggestions from the public linking our beloved President Weah to this latest scam.This newspaper strongly urges President Weah to step back for a moment and reflect on what has brought us as a nation to where we are today. Officials of his government are behaving as if there is no tomorrow or that there are no lessons learnt from our past as a nation and people that brought to an inglorious end to a 100-yr old oligarchy, a fascist military dictatorship and a bloody civilian cum fascist military dictatorship.The freedoms or whatever little of it being enjoyed by Liberians today was attained through the blood, sweat, tears and suffering of the people with a high cost in lives. The Liberian people as such will never surrender their hard earned rights and freedom to the likes of Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee who, by his actions and utterances, is clearly doing more harm than good to the image of the George Weah led government and to the public interest.In all this, President Weah must be told or be made to hear the truth. The Liberian people elected him not only because they love him so dearly but because he gave them a lot of reasons to hope and believe that he can fix the problems of the country. It cannot be done by coercing public servants and officials to swear or declare allegiance to the CDC as is currently being done in government institutions.President Weah’s officials appear not to realize that, even if the entire country were to fill in CDC party membership forms and became members of the CDC, the problems of the country would not just disappear. This newspaper recalls the history of the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) and how it attempted to foist itself on the Liberian people through outright coercion, thuggery and naked oppression.This newspaper recalls the notorious NDPL Task Force marauding around Monrovia and beating up people. This newspaper also recalls the notorious Charles Taylor, NPFL thugs and their chants “anybody that say they don’t like Ghankay, we will treat you like a dog!” The Liberian people nevertheless endured and they are here. But where are they now who once threatened to treat people like dogs? Gone as though they were never ever here!President Weah should take a cue from this. History will judge him very harshly and treat him very unkindly should he continue along this trajectory. His officials are clearly misleading him on so many scores and he has to be able to recognize that. He must take charge and lead and not be led instead. Let him visit Bentol and Gbalatuah and see once luxurious palaces now being vigorously reclaimed by nature.Better still, let President Weah visit Tuzon and Arthington and see the homes of Presidents Doe and Taylor (respectively) and reflect. Like them, his slew of ongoing construction projects could befall a similar fate somewhere down the road and he, too, could be visited by the same troubles our leaders always inflict on themselves by virtue of their power, arrogance and unbridled greed.But President Weah can avoid such a fate. He must take charge, lead by example and let others follow. Should he however fail to take charge and lead, others will likely take charge and lead him to an unknown and undesired fate.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more