By Alpha Bedoh Kamara
Head of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, Brima A. Sheriff, says (Female Genital Mutilation) FGM is a violation of the human rights of women and girls- “it cannot be separated from deep-seated and pervasive discrimination against women”.
Sheriff was addressing stakeholders on Monday at the Miatta Conference in Freetown on behalf of the during a program organized by Forum Against Harmful Practices.
The occasion was to commemorate the International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM with the theme ‘Awake to the realities of FGM, Act Now on the National Strategy for the reduction of FGM in Sierra Leone’.
Sheriff reiterated the position of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone on FGM has been reflected in almost all the State of Human Rights report. “We have a Zero tolerance to FGM and campaign for its eradication.
Sierra Leone has ratified the Maputo Protocol, which addresses a range of issues including FGM, violence against women, child and forced marriage, and women’s economic empowerment.
And amidst calls by activists and human rights organizations FGM continue to be center of the cultural identity of women in Sierra Leone.
Dr. Fuambai Sia Ahmadu in an article states ‘wither the question as to whether the debate should be about regulation and raising of the age of consent, rather than an outright ban of a cultural practice which many women regard as their right and freedom to choose.’
Responding to critics of her scathing attack on what she sees as Western hypocrisy and neo-colonialism, Dr. Ahmadu says this: “In Sierra Leone, we will have this open debate on the international protocols that the GoSL has signed on to concerning the bodies of the majority of women in the country without their knowledge or participation in any of these formal and back door deliberations.”
“Yes, I am obsessed with Bondo/Sande, if this means that I am passionate and relentless in protecting the honor and dignity of my mother, aunts, grandmother and the majority of silenced women and girls in Sierra Leone who are Bondo/Sande then I accept this label with great pride,” Dr. Fuambai noted.
Like Dr. Fuambai many Sierra Leoneans are critical about the campaigns regarding activists as destroying national culture and identity, claiming their only concern is using tradition as an excuse to get international funding.
Studies have suggested that the practice of female genital mutilation can result in infertility, pregnancy and childbirth complications, and psychological problems through inability to experience sexual pleasure.
These claims, heads of women society are challenging as unfounded and a determination by the international community to destroy a cultural institution that has played a major role in the country and existed for hundreds of years.