Salone News

Freetown: Gender Director speaks on circumcision

20 May 2017 at 09:54 | 1369 views

By Sultan Kargbo, Freetown.

The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs has completely dissociated the government of Sierra Leone from the headline of New Citizen newspaper of Thursday 18th May 2017 titled "Religious Leaders schooled on FGM strategy."

Speaking to journalists recently, the Director of Gender Charles Vandy (photo) condemned the words of one Dr. Owolabi Bjalkandra who spoke of a so-called National Strategy on FGM which the government says "does not even exist". The fact is that a draft strategy sponsored by UNICEF has been long ago discarded by the Sierra Leone government.

However Dr. Bjalkandra had been quoted in New Citizen as saying that government of Sierra Leone has such a strategy which recognized that Bondo Society abused rights of women and girls during Bondo initiation.

Vandy said the statement made by Dr. Bjalkandra was very unfortunate and did not represent official policy. He said, the position of government is to implore traditional Bondo women leaders to "totally avoid" the initiation of girls below the age of 18 years into the Bondo society but the government "does not stop adult women from choosing to be initiated." Therefore, he said, the statement by Dr. Bjalkandra referencing women alongside children was completely unfortunate.

Vandy said government has not banned Bondo, but rather they are imploring Bondo women to practice the positive aspects of it. He said, the positive aspect of the Bondo practice include, not to initiate girls under the age of 18 years and also not to forcefully initiate women above the age of 18.

Vandy added that at the national level “government has made tremendous efforts in ensuring the advancement and promotion of women and girls’ rights" and this includes the rights of women to willingly be initiated into the Bondo society.

The Director of Gender also further stated that the Child Rights Act of Sierra Leone defines the age of a child as 18 and therefore it is not permissible to initiate girls into the secret society who are under 18 years. He therefore stated that the government of Sierra Leone respects Bondo Society as one of the traditional institutions that contribute to the development of the country, and that it wants the Bondo Society to respect a girl’s right to first reach the age of 18 years and make a choice.

He however said while women aged 18 years and above can be freely initiated into the Bondo Society if they so desire, no woman should be forced into Bondo.