The Forum Against Harmful Practices (FAHP) has commenced a 2-day training on capacity building for FAHP staff on a set of international, regional and domestic laws to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Sierra Leone.
The training was focused on the law and FGM, mainly: What is the law against FGM, and it looked at specific international and regional instruments as well as domestic legislations that prevent people from subjecting their women and girls to FGM practices.
Vice Chair for Fashion for Change, Nicky Spencer-Coker explained some of the international, regional and domestic laws and conventions that protect women and girls, which activists can use.
She cited the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Maputo Protocols, the Istanbul Convention, United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
Other international, regional and domestic laws and conventions include the Committee on the Rights of the Child Joint General Recommendation No.31 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women as well as the general comment No. 18 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the Harmful Practices.
Nicky Spencer-Coker said in Sierra Leone FGM should be considered as violence against women and girls and a serious human rights violation.
She highlighted FGM offences which include, Assault Occasioning either Actual or Grievous Bodily Harm under Section 47 or Section 20 of the Offences Against the Person’s Act of 1861, Wounding with Intent under Section 18 of the OAPA, Section 33 and 35 of the Child Rights Act of 2007.
Other offences highlighted include False Imprisonment, Kidnapping and Manslaughter/Murder, Potential Criminal Liability of all those who are involved in the process, those who organise or take part in the event at which FGM is performed could be liable for the offence under Section 33 and 35 of the Child Rights Act, 2007.
Nicky Spencer-Coker went further that, persons who plan events of which FGM will be a part, who arrange for FGM to be carried out, could be guilty of the offence of conspiracy.
According to Coker, those who encourage or instigate FGM could be guilty of the offence of incitement those who assist or procure the commission of the main offence through FGM could be guilty as an accessory (Aiders and Abettors).
She furthered that Section 41of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act (Cap 31) states that any person who has the custodial charge or care of any child is guilty of a criminal offence if they cause or procure such child to be assaulted or ill-treated, in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to her health (including injury to an organ of the body or any mental derangement), Section 2 of the Domestic Violence Act of 2007, such child Section 20 of the 1991 Constitution talks about inhumane and degrading treatment.
She also spoke about the dangers and threats associated to the practice of FGM in which CSOs and FAHP should not bow down to such a dangerous practice in Sierra Leone.
In her presentation the human rights lawyer, Yasmin Jusu Sheriff spoke on FAHP’s roles and responsibilities in holding government accountable for the protection of women and girls against harmful traditional practices including FGM.
She also spoke on building effective partnership for the promotion and protection of the history and culture of Sierra Leonean women and girls.
Lawyer Sheriff urged activists to document stories on FGM and those that empower women and girls.
She said CSOs should help change Bondo society for purely women and not for girls and urged them to repurpose women and girls rather than perpetuating violence against them.
Lawyer Sheriff furthered that FAHP should build a strong partnership which will involve the police whom she referred to as the first human rights defenders, women’s lawyers as well as working with the new set of MPs after the elections.
She also explained her history and how women helped to change the narratives in Kailahun district and called on FAHP to start thinking of engaging in tree planting which will in turn be used by women for bloodless Bondo.
Lawyers Sheriff also urged activists to use the existing national laws to protect women and girls and to end FGM in the country.
As part of work to end the practice of FGM in the country, a new redefined strategy has been adopted.
Representatives from different organisations made their inputs on how these new strategies can change the narratives in ending FGM.