…Social Welfare Minister
By Jariatu Bangura
Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Alhaji Moijue Kaikai, yesterday told members of the Social Services Committee in Parliament that eradicating Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) could be a recipe for social instability in the country.
Speaking during a hearing hosted by members of the Committee on efforts to domesticate the Maputo Protocol, Alhaji Kaikai said laws are made to maintain peace and tranquility as well as to protect citizens’ rights in the state, and that rules or regulations which contravene the rights of the majority or negatively affect the population could pose a potential danger to social stability.
He said Sierra Leone has adopted some clauses in the Maputo Protocol, although articles stipulating the eradication of FGM, “popularly known as Bondo society in Sierra Leone”, or punishing those involved in initiating young girls into the female secret society, was unpopular.
He said FGM is a culture and tradition that is very popular and has been in existence for several centuries. “For us as a government to punish the initiators (soweis) or totally eradicate FGM at once is unachievable,” he declared.
He said that prior to the Maputo Protocol, government had started negotiations with soweis to respect the rights of everybody, including girls below eighteen years, evidenced by numerous memoranda of understanding signed between the Soweis and the government, as well as other stakeholders, including some donor partners, on the rights of women and girls to opt against FGM.
He said Sierra Leone is doing her best to apply a win-win situation with those who participate in FGM as a livelihood endeavour, or others who derive pleasure in it, while at the same time protecting the rights of those who have phobia against the popular culture.
“It is a gradual process, we cannot just take the bull by the horns; let us apply a very peaceful negotiation and reconciliation methods before reaching our destination,” the minister said.
Despite government’s seeming reluctance to ban the practice, which is a sensitive politico-cultural topic in the country, the Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs minister told lawmakers that Sierra Leone is doing ‘excellently well in the domestication of the Maputo Protocol.’
Alhaji Kaikai told the Committee that while some countries are making conscious efforts to protect the rights of women, children, the disabled and other vulnerable groups in society, Sierra Leone is among few states that are ‘doing excellently well’ in domesticating the protocol.
Prior to the existence of the Maputo Protocol, the minister said, Sierra Leone had already promulgated certain laws and implemented policies that are similar to the Maputo Protocol, with respect to the protection of human rights.
He informed the lawmakers that the Child Rights Act, three Gender Acts, Sexual Offenses Act, Social Safety Net, the Disability Act, Education Act, etc, are being implemented by the Government of Sierra Leone, through the Ministry of Social Welfares, Gender and Children Affairs and other ministries, departments and agencies, in line with the Maputo protocol.
Furthermore, he said, government has established the Youth Commission, Disability Commission, while the Children’s Commission on the verge of being established.