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Call on Sierra Leone to criminalize female genital mutilation

Following yet another tragic death in Sierra Leone due to female genital mutilation (FGM), add your voice to our campaign calling on the Government of Sierra Leone to criminalize FGM and protect women and girls from this harmful practice.

On 20 December 2021, 21-year-old Maseray Sei bled to death a day after being subjected to FGM, and this was confirmed by the postmortem carried out on 14 January. A few days following Maseray’s death, in a different region, a 15-year-old girl was admitted to hospital for urgent treatment after suffering serious complications due to being cut.

Sadly, these are not isolated incidents in Sierra Leone. Many women and girls in recent years have died or suffered devastating harm as a result of FGM, and during the recent holiday period, there were widespread reports of hundreds of young women and girls being cut.

Sierra Leone’s government is failing in its duty to protect women and girls from FGM

Sierra Leone has one the highest FGM prevalence rates in Africa, with 83% of women and girls aged between 15 and 49 years having undergone the procedure according to the 2019 Demographic Health Survey.

Despite the harm caused by FGM, the Government of Sierra Leone has failed to criminalize this harmful practice. The country’s penal code does not specifically prohibit FGM, and there have been no known prosecutions relating to FGM.

The failure to criminalize FGM has been further aggravated by a widespread lack of political will to end this harmful practice and the failure by the State to explicitly condemn FGM.

Following the death from FGM of 19-year-old Fatmata Turay in 2016, 10-year-old Marie Kamara, and Maseray’s recent death, organizations in Sierra Leone campaigning against FGM wrote each time to the President and Attorney General in office but never received a reply. This silence is deafening.

Of particular concern is how various politicians seeking election have made political pronouncements in support of FGM, with some even offering to pay for women and girls to be cut.

Sierra Leone must urgently enact and enforce a comprehensive anti-FGM law

We are calling on the Government of Sierra Leone, H.E. President Julius Maada Bio, and Attorney General Mohamed Lamin Tarawalley Esq. to urgently enact a law that explicitly bans FGM for all ages, puts in place adequate measures to protect against and eliminate FGM, and gives survivors and the families of victims a means to access justice.

We strongly condemn the actions of politicians who are supporting FGM. We also commend the politicians and other duty bearers who have spoken out and taken action against this harmful practice, and we call on others to join them.

We ask the State to prosecute all offenders putting the lives of women and girls at risk. This includes a comprehensive and swift police investigation and prosecution of all those responsible for the death of Maseray Sei. It is vital that justice is served in this case, and is seen to be served so that it can deter others from committing FGM.

Read our open letter to the Government of Sierra Leone signed by 130 women’s rights organizations.