Liberia: Deputy Speaker Fonati Koffa Submits Bill for the Abolition of Female Genital Mutilation

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Monrovia – The Deputy Speaker of the House, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa, has put forth a bill intended to end the cutting of women (Female Genital Mutilation) – a practice the country has been struggling to end.

The Bill entitled “An Act Prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation of 2022″ has been forwarded by Plenary to the Committees on Internal Affairs, Gender Equity, and Judiciary for deliberation. These committees would subsequently make recommendations to Plenary. Each lawmaker would also receive a copy who is expected to engage their various constituencies on the importance of passing the law on the abolition of cutting.

Representatives Thomas Goshua, Isaac Roland, Ceebee C.D. Barshell, Richard Koon and Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis are co-sponsors of the Bill.

Cutting is life-threatening to women and remains deeply entrenched in some societies in Liberia where it is practiced in 10 of the 15 counties.

If passed, it would be a milestone achievement in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence, and the reproductive health of women.

In his communication to the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker Koffa stated that nearly three years ago, when the Legislature formed a bipartisan coalition to pass the Domestic Violence Bill, he promised the women and children of Liberia that he will champion a bill against cutting.

“Mr. Speaker, even with the recent reversal of the landmark constitutional ruling in the United States of Roe v. Wade, the majority of persons living in civilized democracies still believe that a woman’s right over her body is a private right and may not be interfered with by the State and or traditional institutions,” the Deputy  Speaker wrote.

“It is the responsibility of Liberian democracy to protect the new and the weak, and it is now time to tackle the painful debate of harmful traditional practices especially female genital mutilation, commonly known as “FGM.” 

The Deputy Speaker  added: “The data is abundant and clear, that FGM has enormous psycho-social, social, and political implications far beyond the painful procedure usually practiced by non-medical personnel.”

He argued that in the country, the evidence is overwhelming that the costs of the traditional practices outweigh the benefits, and invidious discrimination is meted out to one section of the society, and thereby, stressing the need to act with urgency.

Cllr. Koffa indicated that it is within the spirit of a right to privacy enshrined in the Constitution and the global recognition that harmful traditional practices must be abolished that we lay this piece of legislation before plenary for debate and hopeful passage so no longer will a Liberian woman or girl live through the trauma of the violation of her privacy or the mutilation of her body.

Meanwhile,  the House of Representatives is also reviewing a proposed amendment of Rules and Procedures written by the Deputy  Speaker.

The Grand Kru County District 2 Representative is requesting the cancellation “Aye and Nah” voting but rather it should be done by ‘showing of hands’ or ‘standing ‘

The Deputy Speaker said: “The amendment being offered with this letter allows for official recording of votes of the members on all bills, budget, concession agreements, and similar instruments.  Recording our votes for the permanent record will signal to Liberia and the world that we are prepared to be judged by the current and historic record of our position on our principal functions of lawmaking.”

He added: “This amendment will also allow vigorous monitoring by our constituents and will serve the rebranding and reform agenda to which we are committed.”

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