September 29, 2016 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
A group calling themselves Youth Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Network Sierra Leone has called on the government to investigate the alleged forceful initiation of 28-year-old Kadija Balema Alieu into the Bondo secret society in Kenema, eastern Sierra Leone.
The Youth Network, which professed niche is the eradication of harmful traditional practices, child marriage, force marriage and teenage pregnancy, has demanded a speedy investigation into the incident.
In their position paper, they stated that they were concerned about the increase in human rights violations, especially against girls and women in the country.
They recalled that in August 2016, 19-years-old Fatmata Turay died in Makeni after she was allegedly forcefully initiated into the Bondo society, and that a similar incident occurred last week when Ms. Alieu, 28, was allegedly forcefully initiated in Kenema.
They continued that as young professionals, activists and abolitionists of Female Genital Mutilation and other harmful traditional practices, including early and forced marriage, they were of the conviction that the said acts run contrary to protecting and promoting the rights of girls and women.
“ In this regard, we are calling on government through the Human Rights Commission, Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, the Ministry of Youth Affairs, the National Youth Commission, the Sierra Leone Police Force and other stakeholders including the diplomatic community in Sierra Leone, UN Women, Amnesty International, the Women Forum, the Kenema District Descendant Association, the Paramount Chief of Nongowa Chiefdom in Kenema and all traditional authorities in that part of the country to investigate the case of Kadija Balema Alieu and bring action against the culprits,” the position paper states.
They noted that Sierra Leone is a signatory to many international human rights treaties, including the Maputo Protocol, and has enacted the Child Rights Act of 2007 plus the three Gender Acts, all of which seek to protect and promote the rights of children and women.
They continued that since the latest incident occurred in Kenema, they were very much concerned about the welfare of women and girls, especially in remote chiefdoms and villages where structures to prevent those harmful practices do not exist.
“As a network, we therefore call on all Sierra Leoneans, irrespective of educational background, political affiliation, region or origin, to collectively support the campaign to make our country free from harmful traditional practices. We cannot afford to continue to let young girls and women die and undergo extreme violence and suffering because of FGM,” they called.
They recommend that the government, in collaboration with its development partners, should develop a legislation prohibiting forceful initiation and provide serious penalty for defaulters
They also recommended that the state should look for alternatively livelihoods for female genital attendants and that the state and other partners should support nationwide sensitisation campaign against FGM and other harmful traditional practices.
They stated that civil society in Sierra Leone, as part of their core mandate to complement the efforts of government, should increase monitoring in remote communities of certain violations of provisions protecting girls and women.
They further called on the Inter-Religious Council and traditional authorities to come out with a clear position against those harmful practices and contribute toward educating people in their chiefdoms, mosques and churches.