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“the case of Ruth Berry Peal, who was forcedly genitally mutilated…”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                     

Contact: Mary Ciugu, (254) 20 271-9832/913

July 11, 2011                                                

equalitynownairobi@equalitynow.org

 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

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. This is such a complex matter, I have no idea or a defined answer as to how best to deal with it. However, I think the involvement of the judicial system goes a long way to show that hurtful traditional and cultural practices like FGM will no longer be tolerated in the name of tradition. If it means people will think twice before they subject girls and boys to this, then, yes, it is one way of dealing with it. Education is another and of course, dialogue with traditional leaders and communities about the dangers and negative effects of FGM on women. You don’t want to get to the age where you are sexually aware but realise and then learn that you can’t have fun because some nut cut off the best part of your treasured weapon 🙂

  2. Enacting and enforcing laws against female genital mutilation sounds good, but won’t solve the problem. Laws, even if generally enforced, do not wield the necessary power to stop people from doing what they think is good. — Think drug abuse and trafficking. — Mothers don’t arrange for their daughters to be cut to hurt and damage them, they do what they think is best for their children. What needs to change, to stop FGM, is that parents need to be convinced that the bad consequences outweigh the good. The local culture has to change; Changing a nation’s codified rules is an expression of a nation’s intended culture, but not of actual local culture. What Tostan does seems to be an effective and good way to improve the lives of people and end FGM.

  3. @NVit – Scanned Tostan’s website. Thanks for the reference. I think persuading cicumcisers to put down their knives is definitely one of the strategies that should be adopted. I am aware that GAMCOTRAP also engaged in similar work in The Gambia but I don’t know if they collaborated with Tostan…thanks for sharing your thoughts

    @Belinda – Its definitely a complex matter! I agree with you on the need for a multi-pronged approach to ending FGM. Do you consider male circumcision in the same light as FGM? Asking ‘cos of your reference to boys…

  4. If I understand the article correctly it is the cutters (women) that will face justice? I think it is important to remember that FGM is a community-led/enforced practice. So while the women will face justice what will happen to the men that also encourage and promote the practice? There is much more work to be done around bringing people to justice yes…but even more work to be done around changing social attitudes, minds and belief systems…

  5. Ending FGM I agree will only be productive through a multi-pronged approach. Yes laws and policies are good, however we all know very well that laws and policies do not trickle down to the everyday man or woman in the communities where FGM takes place.

    Community education and action might be the most successful, a bottom up approach where the community is educated on the dangers of FGM, and then the community ie the people demand the state to put an end to it. This must be done bearing in mind that livelihoods are at stake; hence the women engaged in these practices must be given new skills to gain alternative means of earning an income must be done in tandem with all the mitigation plans, a complete strategy.

    Lets keep the discussion going and I hope Nana Darkua you can pass it on to some of the practitioners in field.

  6. Blood-chilling. There is no “mothers thinking they are doing right for their daughters” justification for this really horrible practice. I don’t even understand how governments can give licenses for practitioners.

    Can the law address this issue? Yes. Public awareness and the law and eventually folks will realize that they can live with women having the full measure of their sexual potential.

    I don’t think I’ve advanced any new thoughts here, just expressing my revulsion. Good for the jury.

  7. Thanks for putting this up Nana. Its such an important issue on many fronts and to often relegated to the bottom of a long list of political and health issues in Africa. Its not enough to just prosecute cutters, true, but what it is, is a good solid start. A multi-faceted approach is needed that includes retraining cutters, yes. But cutters do not just do it for financial gain, they often believe they are performing a role in some higher moral calling. And thus they are enforcers as well as figures that promote the practice. In some ways they are the first target, and perhaps the easiest to prosecute. However, as with most things on this earth, FGM is a practice that, for all sorts of reasons, is performed to conform to an archeic partiarchal ideal. Not to say many women do not vehemently support it, but it is ultimately done to promote women as good, clean and marriagable. I genuinely believe that if men found it abhorent the practice would die more rapidly. We need to educate our men, and definately ensure that the next generation of boys finds it disgusting. I do believe in female empowerment and that every woman should take up the fight. As much as it sticks in my vaguely feminist throat to say, men hold the key to this argument. This issue is too important to rest on the as yet unproven female empowerment agenda in Africa. People are suffering.

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