According to UNICEF, the prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in Liberia is 66%. Terre des Femmes notes that in Liberia FGM is usually practised as an initiation into the secret ‘sande’ society. During this initiation marking the transition from childhood to adulthood, girls spend some time apart from the rest of the community in a holy place, usually outside the city or village. There, girls learn what they need to know as adults and FGM/C is performed. During inititation girls have to prove their strong will and self-control, as no anaesthetic is used. Moreover, they are cut with non-sterile instruments, which are used on several girls in succession.
The GIZ fact sheet on FGM in Liberia notes that in rural areas, 72% of women are members of the women’s association that ‘initiates’ girls, namely sande societies, while in urban areas only 39% are members. FGM/C is most common in northwest Liberia with a prevalence of 84% and in the central northern region with a prevalence of 92%. FGM/C is seldom found in south-eastern Liberia. This is due to different ethnic groups living in the different regions. FGM/C is commonly practised among the Mende, Gola, Kissi and Bassa, but hardly ever among the Kru, Grebo and Krahn, the Muslim Mandinke and the American-Liberian population. The most common type of FGM/C is excision.
The fact sheet notes further that national legislation making FGM/C illegal has not yet been passed. In theory, Article 242 of the penal code, stating that amputation of body parts is a crime, could be used in cases of FGM/C. Liberia ratified the ICESCR in 2004, acceded to CEDAW in 1984, ratified the CRC in 1993 and the Banjul Charter in 1982.
See also 28 Too Many’s country profile on Liberia.
FGM/C Country of Origin Expert for Liberia
Prof Jacqueline Knörr
Jacqueline Knörr, Head of Research at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Extraordinary Professor at the Martin Luther University in Halle/Saale, Germany. Professor Knörr was brought up in Ghana and Germany and has for many years conducted extensive field research in Sierra Leone und the Upper Guinea Coast of West Africa more generally, as well as in Indonesia. She has worked as a Lecturer, Senior Researcher, University Professor, Scientific Director, and Political Advisor. She has served as expert witness in about two hundred asylum cases, writing expert reports concerning FGC/M and other human rights issues.