September 26, 2016 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
As some members of the public, including civil society organisations, continue to call on government to ban female genital mutilation (FGM), Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affair, Rugiatu Neneh Turay, has strongly condemned the alleged forceful initiation of a 28-year-old lady in Kenema, east of the country.
Allegations are that the victim was locked inside a house for four days after her forceful initiation by one Elsie Kondolomoh without food or treatment. The police in Kenema confirmed the rescue of the victim, who is currently in hospital
The alleged initiator was arrested by the police but report says she has been released on bail after leaders of the Bondo secret society (Soweis) stormed the police station protesting her arrest.
However, Madam Turay noted that female genital cutting sometimes result to many health-related and life-threatening complications, adding, “it also has other physical and psychological effect that do great harm to the wellbeing of women and children who have gone through it.”
According to her, stakeholders need collaborative effort to stop the violation of women and children’s rights in the country, as the practice has long-term consequences, including complications during childbirth and increased risk of HIV and other infections.
Madam Turay called on relevant stakeholders, including Members of Parliament, Paramount Chiefs, religious and traditional leaders, youths to discuss the way forward for the reduction or ultimate elimination of FGM in the country.
She said the increasing spate of female genital cutting in the country was portraying Sierra Leone in a bad light and that despite frequent lobbying and sensitisation on the issue, people still condone forceful initiation of young girls in the country.
She revealed that Pillar 8 of the government’s ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ document frowns at underage initiation or rites of passage for girls, which was a commitment to international obligations, including the Maputo Protocol, already signed by the government.
Prior to her appointment as deputy minister, Madam Turay was a local heroine and FGM activist in Sierra Leone, who called for an end to abusive cultural practices.