Just 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)
160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The district’s fee study projects that 1,250 homes will be built in the next five years, adding 725 students to the 3,400-student district. The state has set $2.63 per square foot as the standard residential developer fee for financing school construction, but districts can charge more if they meet certain conditions. The Southern Kern district in Kern County is among six Antelope Valley districts now charging higher LevelII fees. In the L.A. County portion of the Antelope Valley, the developer fee is split among the Antelope Valley Union High School District and the individual elementary school districts. The money pays for portable classrooms and restrooms, consultants, infrastructure and architects whose plans are used when portables are moved or are brought into the district. ROSAMOND – Projecting that 1,250 homes will be built in the next five years, the Southern Kern Unified School District has raised by more than 22percent developer fees that help pay for portable classrooms and other school facilities. Levied to help accommodate students who move into new housing tracts, the developer fees were raised to $4.15 per square foot of floor space, up from $3.39. That amounts to $8,300 for an average-size new house of 2,000 square feet. The board unanimously approved the increase in developer fees at Wednesday’s meeting. No developers attended. “They just take it as a matter of doing business,” said Charlene Melchers, the district’s chief business officer.
Former Newcastle full-back Olivier Bernard has come to the defence of Alan Pardew, telling talkSPORT the under-fire boss doesn’t deserve the criticism currently being thrown at him by supporters.An angry Toon Army were vocal with calls for the boss’ axe during the side’s dreadful 4-0 defeat at Southampton on Saturday.Newcastle have failed to record a win so far this season and currently sit rock bottom of the Premier League with just two points.However, Bernard – a key member of Bobby Robson’s successful Magpies side in the early 2000’s – believes a series of key player exits and early injuries have not been kind to Pardew.Asked if the criticism of the manager is fair, the ex-defender told Drivetime: “No, definitely not.“I wouldn’t judge Pardew before he has his best starting XI available to him, but the question is whether he is the man capable of galvanising the team to start winning games?“Newcastle are a club that should be pushing for Europe and seeing them at the bottom of the table is wrong.“But when you lose players like Siem de Jong, who should be their new captain really because he’s their most mature player now, it’s a big blow for the team.“There’s nothing Pardew can do about that and together with the departure of Yohan Cabaye in January, when your main playmaker leaves you know it’s going to be difficult.”The arrival of Ajax captain De Jong this summer was a major coup for the club, who were hit hard by the departure of star man Cabaye to PSG in January.However, the Dutch forward only played three games in a black and white shirt before being sidelined, while Hatem Ben Arfa and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, both major members of the Magpies squad, left on transfer deadline day.And after a summer of change, with a total of nine arrivals and eight departures at St James’ Park, Bernard has called for Pardew to have more control over the club’s transfers.He added: “I don’t think Alan Pardew has any real power over the sale of his players and that’s a problem.“With Ben Arfa and Mbiwa joining Cabaye in leaving, all of Newcastle’s best players have gone.“They’ve maybe made too many changes over the summer, the new players need time to adapt to the English game and that’s where the problem lies.“They only replaced players who left, they didn’t bring in any additional support, and until they address that and strengthen the squad they will continue to struggle.”