Monrovia, Liberia – On 8 July 2011, the case of Ruth Berry Peal, who was abducted and forcibly genitally mutilated by two women of the Gola community, was concluded after one month of hearings with a verdict of “guilty” by the jury on charges of kidnapping, felonious restraint and theft. The sentencing of the two women will take place this week by the judge, who in closing made references to the Liberian Constitution and Article 4(1) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (African Women’s Protocol), which states “Every woman shall be entitled to respect for her life and the integrity and security of her person. All forms of exploitation, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.”
Equality Now and its Liberian partners, the Women of Liberia Peace Network (WOLPNET) and Women NGOs Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), welcome the jury’s decision and are eagerly awaiting the sentencing of the perpetrators. Equality Now launched an international campaign calling for justice for Ruth and urging Liberia to criminalize female genital mutilation (FGM), which it has an obligation to do under Article 5 of African Women’s Protocol ratified by Liberia in December 2007.
In response to advocacy efforts of Liberian groups and Equality Now, Ruth’s case was moved from Bomi to Monrovia, away from the influence of the Gola community that upholds the harmful traditional practice of FGM. Una Kumba Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of WOLPNET says “women look up to the judiciary for justice and Liberia is obliged under Article 8(a) of the African Women’s Protocol to ensure effective access to judicial and legal services and so we are very pleased about the support the government has provided Ruth Peal in exercising her right to seek justice.”
The prevalence rate of FGM in Liberia is estimated at a staggering 58 percent of women and girls. Most undergo this practice as part of their initiation into the Sande society. Faiza Mohamed, Equality Now Nairobi Office Director, stated, “The swiftness in which the government acted to ensure Ruth gets justice is exemplary; however the government needs to demonstrate leadership in eliminating FGM, including by enacting legislation to protect girls and women from this human rights violation.”
Equality Now and its partners continue to urge the government of Liberia to take expeditious action to protect girls and women from female genital mutilation, and, to this end, call on the Liberian government to stop issuing permits to the FGM practitioners, to initiate the process towards enactment of a law criminalizing FGM and to invest in public education against the practice.
Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the world. Equality Now’s Women’s Action Network comprises 35,000 groups and individual members in over 160 countries.