Liberia

Population

4.88 million

Estimated prevalence among girls and women aged 15-49

50%

2018 population growth rate

2.57%

Estimated prevalence among girls and women aged 15-19

31%

Type practised

The most widely practised form of female genital cutting (FGC) in Liberia is Type II.

[Source: UNICEF, based on DHS 2013 as source]


Age

The majority of girls in Liberia are likely to experience FGC during adolescence. The practice is part of their initiation into Liberia’s secret women’s society, the Sande, although FGC is also reported to be performed on girls who are not members.

Source: 28 Too Many


Agent

Traditional practitioners, often leaders of the Sande secret society.

Source: 28 Too Many


Legal status

Legal. Liberia is one of the three African countries that practice FGC, alongside Mali and Sierra Leone, yet to ban the practice. In January 2018, Liberia’s former leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf imposed a ‘one-year ban’ on performing FGC on girls under the age of 18, although this was criticised as unenforceable by campaigners.


National progress

  • 2016 – Draft Domestic Violence Bill included the criminalisation of FGC
  • 2017 – Bill was passed only after FGC references were removed
  • 2018 – Executive Order banning FGC by Outgoing President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

The House of Representatives’ removal of all references to FGC within the 2017 Domestic Violence Act followed intense political pressure and concern about prohibiting what is considered a cultural tradition.

The 2018 Executive Order, banning FGC on girls under 18 and on women over 18 without their consent, might appear to represent real progress. It will, however, expire after one year. The ban on FGC will have lapsed in January 2019 if not enshrined into Liberian national law.

There is no national strategy or action plan for combating FGC, which hinders grassroots organisations, international NGOs and activists working with communities to advocate for an end to this harmful practice.


Enforcement

Without FGC legislation in place, Liberia’s Penal Code and Children’s Act could arguably be used to address the practice. They do not appear to have not been used to bring FGC successful prosecutions to date.

Source: 28 Too Many


Human Development Index ranking

181 in 2018 index, based on 2017 data.


Infant mortality rate

53 deaths per 1,000 live births (2015).

Source: 28 Too Many


Maternal mortality rate

725 deaths per 100,000 live births (2015).

Source: 28 Too Many


Trends in FGC prevalence

The prevalence of FGC in Liberia has almost halved within three decades. Liberians living in urban areas that have greater wealth and access to education are less likely to support and undergo FGC than their rural counterparts.


Prevalence breakdown

By region

Given the taboo nature of FGC in Liberia and the sensitivity of direct questioning, actual prevalence data is not available. Instead, the strong link to Sande society initiation rituals is recognised by the DHS and their prevalence estimates use Sande membership as a proxy for FGC prevalence.

The highest Sande membership rates are found in Liberia’s North Central (68.1%) and North Western (67.9%) regions.

Source: 28 Too Many and  UNICEF, based on DHS 2013

By ethnicity

The DHS 2013 does not show prevalence of FGC by ethnic group. However, according to a 2011 report*,  about half of Liberia‘s 16 ethnic groups subject women and girls to FGC; the Mende, Gola, Kissi and Bassa with particular frequency, whereas the practice is virtually unknown among the Kru, Grebo and Krahn, the Muslim Mandinke and the American Liberian population.

* Country Department Africa – Western Africa II, Angola and Pan-African Organisations and Programmes, Female Genital Mutilation in Liberia (Eschborn, Germany: Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2011)

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