FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mary Ciugu, (254) 20 271-9832/913
July 11, 2011
LIBERIAN JURY DELIVERS “GUILTY” VERDICT ON RUTH BERRY PEAL’S CASE
On 8 July 2011, the case of Ruth Berry Peal, who was forcedly genitally mutilated, rested after one month of hearings. The jury retired to deliberate on the arguments presented by the state prosecutor and the defense lawyers and returned with a verdict of “Guilty”. The judge announced that he will deliver the sentence in five days but before adjourning made references to the Liberian Constitution and article 4(1) of the African Protocol on the Rights of Women which provides for “Every woman shall be entitled to respect for her life and the integrity and security of her person. All forms of exploitation, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.”
Equality Now and its Liberian partners, the Women of Liberia Peace Network (WOLPNET) and Women NGOs Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), welcome the Jury’s declaration and are eager to learn about the final judgment. Una Kumba Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of WOLPNET said, “women look up to the Judiciary for justice and Liberia is obliged under article 8(a) of the Protocol on the Rights of Women to ensure “…. effective access by women to judicial and legal services, including legal aid …..”; and so we are very pleased about the support the government provided Ruth Peal in exercising her right to seek justice”.
On behalf of Ruth Berry Peal who was forcefully mutilated by two members of the Gola ethnic group, and to complement efforts of local partners to secure justice for her, Equality Now launched an international campaign calling for justice for Ruth and for Liberia to criminalize female genital mutilation (FGM) as is its obligation under Article 5 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, ratified in December 2007 (click here to view the campaign). Faiza Mohamed, Equality Now Nairobi Office Director, stated, “The swiftness in which the Government acted to ensure Ruth has access to justice is exemplary; however it needs to demonstrate leadership in eliminating the practice, including enacting legislation to protect girls and women from this human rights violation.”
Upon persistent advocacy from local organizations and Equality Now to ensure that Ruth Berry Peal obtained justice, her case was moved to a neutral location away from the influence of the Gola community that upholds the harmful traditional practice of FGM. The case started in Monrovia last month and concluded on 8 July 2011. The two accused women were both found guilty and await their fate in a judgment that is expected to be delivered this week.
Liberia has a very high prevalence rate of FGM. A staggering 58 percent of women and girls have been subjected to FGM, as they are initiated into the Sande society. Equality Now and its partners continue to urge the government of Liberia to take expeditious action to protect girls and women from female genital mutilation, and, to this end, call on the Liberian government to stop issuing permits to the FGM practitioners, to initiate the process towards enactment of a law criminalizing FGM and to invest in public education against the practice.
For more information on this campaign visit www.equalitynow.org