Liberian Women Protest For Passage Of Domestic Violence Bill

By Bettie Johnson-Mbayo

In observance of International Women's Day, participants march from thr centre of Monrovia to the Temple of Justice, home of the Liberian Supremem Court, where they staged a peaceful sit-in protest against gender-based violence. UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein
Photo/Eric Kanalstein

Having lingered from one shelf to the other at the Capitol, the Domestic Violence Bill sees no light at the end of the tunnel as the 53rd Legislature nears its end.

The bill, titled “An Act to Amend Title 26, Chapter 16 of The Penal Law. LCLR Offenses Against The Family To Add Subchapter A. Domestic Violence”, was introduced to the Legislature about 14 months, but its passage has remained a controversial debate with some legislators shying away from the Act for fear of reprisal from traditional leaders.

The bill seeks to address many vital issues affecting domestic and gender-based violence, but the most contentious issue stalling its passage is the legislation of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as illegal and offenders punishable by law.

Among vital issues the Act seeks to address are Domestic (physical abuse, emotional verbal and psychological abuse, economic abuse) dowry-related violence, offenses against the family, female genital mutilation, sexual abuse, and harassment.

According to the senate chairman on health and Gender Senator, Peter Coleman, sessions have been postponed due to the senators’ discomfort about the passage of the Act due to issues surrounding FGM.

“The House of Representative passed a version of the bill that completely removed the issue of FGM which was different from the original bill.”

“The House of Representative passed a version of the bill that completely removed the issue of FGM which was different from the original bill.”

“The Liberian Senate conducted two public hearings where the issue of FGM was discussed with the traditional women and zoes.”

“Following this hearing, a consensus was reached to tackle the issue of FGM, because almost all of the senators were not comfortable with an Act that would interfere with our cultural traditions.”

“Since then, we have been lobbying with colleagues of the senate to accept that compromise while at the same time consulting with members of the House of Representative (HOR) to accept the same compromise.”

“Many legislators are apprehensive about being perceived by our traditional people as a group of people that are rejecting our cultural values,” Sen. Coleman told FrontPageAfrica.

Senator Coleman disclosed that the committee has not submitted the bill to the plenary for fear that it will not get the required number of votes for passage.

“We continue to lobby with the colleagues and I am optimistic that in next few weeks, we will get the numbers for passage, after which we’ll work with the House of Representatives through a joint conference committee to overcome the other hurdle,” he said.


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