Freetown – 11October 2017.
As Sierra Leone celebrates today another International Day of the Girl Child, Defence for Children International – Sierra Leone (DCI-SL), calls on politicians in Sierra Leone to immediately refrain from supporting the initiation of young girls into the “Bondo Society” as a strategy to attract and gain political popularity.
The rampant presence of harmful gender norms and practices in the Sierra Leonean society continues to fuel acts of gender-based violence, including child, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sexual violence, putting girls at higher risk of early pregnancy, physical and mental suffering, social stigma and economic exclusion.
The perpetuation of all forms of discrimination and violence against children in all settings, and in particular those based on gender, violate Sierra Leone’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), and compromise the full and effective realization of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG goal 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, to which the government of Sierra Leone has committed.
As Sierra Leone prepares for its Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, set for 7 March 2018, DCI-SL is particularly concerned that some politicians fail to condemn the initiation of young girls, through the practice of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), into the “Bondo Society” as a way to gather support for their political campaigns. FGM is a serious violation of children’s rights and should therefore be strongly condemned by politicians and political parties rather than being used as a tool to gain political popularity. Such behaviour sends the wrong message and does little to ensure the commitment of the Sierra Leonean society as a whole to combat gender-based discrimination and violence.
DCI-SL is therefore calling on all political aspirants for the 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections to give urgent consideration to the following:
- Refrain from all exploitative political activities, including supporting the initiation of young girls into the “Bondo Society”, as a strategy to attract and gain political popularity for the 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in Sierra Leone;
- Develop practical political manifestos reflective of Sierra Leone’s ambition for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular on measures to achieve SDG 4 (achieving inclusive and equitable quality education for all), SDG 5 (achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls) and SDG 10 (reducing gender inequality and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all people irrespective of age, sex, disability);
- Additionally, we are calling on the Government of Sierra Leone to recognize “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030” and completely protect the rights of girls against all forms of gender-based violence by condemning politicians that exploit young people, women and girls to gain political fame.
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