Liberia: Victim of FGM Wins Court Case

Ruth Berry Peal was abducted from her home and forcibly subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) in January 2010. The day before the abduction, Peal had argued with two women from the Gola ethnic group and their chief ordered that she be genitally mutilated. Peal’s ethnic group does not practice FGM but many groups in Liberia, including the Gola, Bassa, and Dei, use FGM as part of an initiation into the Sande society, a politically-influential secret society.

After recovering from the medical complications she suffered as a result of the mutilation, Peal sued the two women who abducted and forcibly mutilated her. Despite receiving many threats, she did not drop the case. With the help of several NGOs, including the Women’s NGO Secretariat of LiberiaWomen of Liberia Peace Network and the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia, the case was moved to Monrovia, away from the pervasive influence of the Sande Society in Bomi. Equality Now initiated an international campaign advocating for Ruth and insisting Liberia respect its 2007 ratification of the African Women’s Protocol.

After a month of hearings, the jury found the two women guilty of kidnapping, felonious restraint and theft on 8 July 2010. The sentencing of the two women will occur later this month.   

Despite obligations under several international and regional treaties that prohibit FGM, Liberia does not have a law that criminalizes FGM. It is estimated that fifty-eight percent of Liberian women are subjected to the procedure.

Compiled fromLiberia: Ensure justice in the case of Ruth Berry Peal who was forcibly subjected to FGM, Equality Now(24 March 2011). Liberian Jury Delivers “Guilty” Verdict on Ruth Berry Peal’s CaseEquality Now(11 July 2011).