Sierra Leone must end impunity for female genital mutilation, UN experts demand

Sierra Leone must end impunity for female genital mutilation, UN experts demand

As a result of the criminal proceedings for the death of a 21-year-old student who was subjected to this brutal practice in the Bonthe district, a group of UN experts in human rights* They called for stronger action to prevent and criminalize female genital mutilation in Sierra Leone.

According to the experts, “female genital mutilation is a serious form of violence against women and girls that amounts to torture, violating the fundamental rights of its victims such as their physical integrity, the right to life, sexual health and reproductive health and the right not to be subjected to any form of torture or other cruel treatment”.

“Discriminatory customs are embedded in social norms and power structures linked to social status and place in communities. Like other harmful practices of a similar nature, female genital mutilation reflects and perpetuates a broad trend of gender inequalitythey said.

“Female genital mutilation cannot be normalized and cannot be used to justify socio-cultural and religious customs that only harm the well-being of women and girls,” the experts said, adding that “this problem should be seen as one of the biggest practices within gender violence, something that simply cannot continue to go unpunished”.

Clear laws to point out those responsible

The lack of systemic protection of women and girls is reportedly the cause of the delay in the criminal proceedings against one of the alleged perpetrators accused of carrying out the female genital mutilation that caused the death of a 21-year-old woman .

The lack of specific and applicable legislation that criminalizes and expressly punishes this crime makes it difficult for there to be a judicial investigation. or of another type and also makes it difficult to prosecute these harmful practices and unlawful killings,” the experts point out.

“Laws and public policies must provide clear frameworks of responsibility and disciplinary sanctions with respect to female genital mutilation,” they stated.

The UN experts urged the Sierra Leone government to put in place a comprehensive set of legal prohibitions to explicitly ban female genital mutilation for all age groups.

Within this is the strengthening of memorandums of understanding with local professionals and the amendment of the Sierra Leonean Child Rights Act.

Sierra Leone takes a step forward on human rights

UN officials welcomed the president’s announcement to support a bill on safe motherhoodwhich will help improve women’s and girls’ access to sexual and reproductive health services.

“Sierra Leone is taking concrete and significant steps in advancing the exercise of human rights, including the recent abolition of the death penalty. The government’s response to female genital mutilation will be a test of whether this commitment can be extended to women’s rights,” the experts said.

UN experts have been in official communication with the Sierra Leonean government to address these issues and clarify their obligations under international law.

* The special rapporteurs are part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name for the independent investigation and monitoring mechanisms established by the Council to address specific country situations or thematic issues around the world. The experts of the Special Procedures work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government and organization and act in their individual capacity.

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