PRESS RELEASE FROM FORUM AGAINST HARMFUL PRACTICES (FAHP) ON THE INCIDENT OF THE DEATH OF A 21-YEAR-OLD WOMAN IN BONTHE DISTRICT

It has come to the attention of FAHP that a 21-year-old woman was found dead in a bondo bush at Nyandeni village, Imperri Chiefdom, Bonthe district. It was reported that the late Maseray Sei was found dead at approximately 4: 30am on Monday 20th December 2021 having allegedly bled to death after undergoing FGM/C in an initiation with other young women.

FAHP has also been informed that four sowei women and, the Acting Section Chief Nasiru Koroma of Bigo Section, who permitted the initiation, are helping the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) with investigations at the Sierra Rutile Police Division in Moriba Town, whilst the corpse has been taken to the Bo government hospital for post-mortem.

FAHP is appreciative of the fact that the matter is being investigated by the SLP and that a post-mortem has been ordered.

We also want to remind all Sierra Leoneans that the ban on initiations into secret societies during the Covid 19 emergency outbreak has not been lifted. Any initiation programme, therefore, is against government regulations and those funding and promoting initiations can also be held liable.

FAHP states that the cutting of girls and women’s clitorises for no medical or any valid purpose, wherever it is carried out, is a barbaric act and has no place in Sierra Leone.

Quote from Asenath Mwithigah, EQUALITY NOW Global Lead for End Harmful Practices : “It is unfortunate that women and girls continue to be subjected to one of the gravest forms of human rights violation in our time-FGM. As Equality Now, we are deeply saddened to learn the loss of life of a 21-year-old woman who succumbed to death as a result of FGM in Bonthe district, Sierra Leone. Nine out of ten women and girls in Sierra Leone aged between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM according to UNICEF reports. Although the country has ratified human rights treaties at the national and regional level, including CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol. Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of FGM in Africa and remains among the few African countries where the practice is not illegal. We therefore call upon the Government of Sierra Leone to honor its commitment to eliminate FGM in line with “Pillar 8 on Gender and Women’s Empowerment” in its Agenda for Prosperity. We further demand a comprehensive and timely police investigation, and the prosecution of all those responsible for the tragic death of this young woman from FGM. It is vital that justice is served, and is seen to be served so that it can be a deterrent to others ».

FAHP membership visited the Bo Government Hospital on the 20th December 2021, to confirm the arrival of the corpse from Bonthe. The Public Relations officer in Bo Government Hospital advised that the corpse will be kept at the mortuary until the pathologist and only medical doctor certified to perform post-mortems returns to office. FAHP a coalition of 21 registered NGOs working to End FGM/C in Sierra Leone working in all the six regions of Sierra Leone has committed to pay all bills throughout this period until a post-mortem is carried out.

FGM/C consequences are the same for every woman and girl. FAHP and its partners, including the International Community, are therefore calling for the total abandonment of this harmful practice. We are also calling on the Ministries of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Social Welfare, Local Government and Rural Development and Political and Public Affairs and all stakeholders to use this unfortunate incident to shift their stances from ‘age of consent’ to total abandonment and a ban of FGM/C. Uphold the bondo heritage. Bondo is not FGM/C.

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Rugiatu Neneh Koroma (Nee Turay)                                  

Chairperson- FAHP                                                           

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