Liberia has imposed a one-year ban on female genital mutilation – a highly contentious issue in the West African country – but campaigners said on Thursday it may not be enforceable and urged new president George Weah to push for a permanent law.
The ban came into force after former leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed an executive order late last week before stepping down.
But the move received little publicity, overshadowed by this week’s inauguration of Johnson Sirleaf’s successor, former soccer star George Weah.
The ban makes it an offence to perform FGM on anyone under 18 but it can still be carried out on adults with their consent.
Campaigners said FGM should be banned outright as even women who gave consent often did so under pressure.
“It is too early to celebrate as there is still a long way to go before there is zero tolerance to FGM in Liberia,” said Grace Uwizeye, a consultant with international rights group Equality Now.
Activists have long campaigned for FGM to be outlawed in Liberia, a country of about 4.6 million people, where around half of women have undergone the procedure.
However, FGM has been an awkward issue for Johnson Sirleaf – Africa’s first female president – because it is overseen by a highly secretive and politically influential women’s society.
Supporters say the ritual, involving the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, is a key rite of passage. But it often causes health problems and can be fatal.