Representatives Pass Domestic Violence Bill; FGM Ban Excluded

MONROVIA, Montserrado – The House of Representatives has finally passed the Domestic Violence Bill. The bill was passed on Thursday, July 21, 2016 in plenary without a provision banning female genital mutilation, also referred to as F.G.M.

The passage of the bill followed appeals from supporters of the bill including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and women’s rights advocates.

Sirleaf had previously told the United Nations General Assembly that she would ensure that the bill passed before the end of her tenure. She committed herself to goal number five of the new Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September by the United Nations General Assembly, promising to ensure that the practice of F.G.M. is banned and to work to increase women’s political participation before her term ends.

At the recent National Women Conference, the Liberian leader threatened to use her executive power to make the Domestic Violence Act a law if the legislature did not pass it.

“I would prefer not to use executive order, but I can use it if you don’t pass it,” Sirleaf said.

A draft of the bill was submitted to the president in 2014 by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and stakeholder groups working on women’s issues in the country. It was onward submitted to the legislature in September 2015 by the president following a cabinet review in June.

However, prior to the bill’s passage, members of the legislature in April began debating the bill with some saying that a provision in the bill seeking the elimination of F.G.M. was not necessary. Instead, the lawmakers were suggesting that F.G.M. be practiced on women at the age of consent.

This suggested amendment to the bill was hugely criticized by supporters of the bill.

The program of the Women in Peace Building Network or WIPNET, Tambah Johnson said the suggestion was a clear attempt to kill the intent of the drafters of the bill.

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali are the three remaining countries still legally allowing F.G.M. in West Africa.

Featured photo courtesy of Brittany Danisch

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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