Mr. Roosevelt A.K. Woods, Executive Director of the Foundation for International Dignity
Mr. Roosevelt A.K. Woods, Executive Director of the Foundation for International Dignity

One of Liberia’s renowned human rights activists has called on the government of Liberia to take tougher actions against traditional Zoes and leaders who are engaged in the unlawful practice Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in in the country.

Mr. Roosevelt A.K. Woods, Executive Director of the Foundation for International Dignity (FIND), said Liberia is part of the global community that respects human rights and dignity, and cannot afford to keep practicing acts that are deemed inhumane, which the world is fighting against.

Woods said despite government’s pronouncement on the prohibition on the practice, local traditional Zoes are still engaged in FGM activvities in most parts of rural Liberia. “This act is inhumane and unacceptable,” Woods said. “It amounts to crimes against humanity.”

Woods’ claims were made recently at his Gbarnga’s Office in central Liberia during a press briefing on the prevailing human rights situation in the country. He said despite the government’s regulation that no Liberian should be forced into any secret society or related activities, Zoes and other traditional leaders were bent on carrying out FGM against the will of their victims with impunity.

The human right activist revealed that eight out of ten women and girls risk been circumcised in rural communities if immediate action is not taken by the government and its international partners mitigate and contain the abuse of women and girls in Liberia.

Woods further said that FGM practices is causing serious health problems to young women and girls, adding that most of the victims who reported the incidents at his office complained of continuous bleeding, infection and loss of sexual feelings, something he said is worrisome for a society who had recently experienced the Ebola crises that claims thousands of lives in the Country and the sub-region.

“FGM is evil and should not be given any room in the society”, the FGM activist emphasized during his press briefing.

Despite the dangers involved, FIND has been creating awareness on the negative effects of FGM rural Liberia, where the practice is prevalent.

He called on government to arrest and prosecutes those practicing the act to show its seriousness in stopping the “evil” act. “Places or ‘bushes’ where FGM is practiced should be shutdown,” Woods recommended, adding, “Whistleblowers about the act and victims should be protected and compensated as well.”

He then called on the international community and the government of Liberia to demonstrate commitment to eliminating FGM by providing protection for whistle blowers who in most cases lives are threatened by traditional people.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is a traditional procedure involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs intended to ensure a girl status, marriageability, chastity and family honor.

In Liberia, two out of three teenage girls and sometimes younger are pulled out of school and taken into the bush for several weeks or months where FGM/C are performed.

The traditional women usually referred to as “Zoes” would lay the girls down, sit on their chest and tie their hands and faces so that they would not see the instrument being used, according to victims accounts.

During the process, the clitorises of the girls are usually cut off using a razor or knife. Consequences of FGM/C include damage to adjacent organs, sterility, recurring urinary tract infections, birth complications, the formation of dermoid cysts and even death.

FGM/C is a violation of girls’ and women’s human rights and condemned by many international treaties and conventions.

In August 2009, the United Nations Committee overseeing the Convention on the Elimination of ALL Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) criticized Liberia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs for issuing permits to practitioners of “female genital mutilation” and said it was “an explicit form of support” for the practice and undermines any efforts eliminate it.

“Despite international pressure, and a female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Liberian Government hasn’t taken a public position against female genital circumcision or to provide protection to human rights activists,” Woods lamented.