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Human Rights Commission Condemns ‘Soweis’:…But Makeni Soweis now follow suit of Kenema Soweis in Sierra Leone
By Our Reporters
Feb 16, 2009, 00:26
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The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) has noted with concern, reports of threats on the lives; humiliation and forceful parading on the streets of Kenema of some female journalists apparently by Soweis and other members of the Bondo Society in Kenema. However, even as the HRCSL was condemning such, reports have emerged that last Saturday February 14th 2009, the United Nations security network in-country had to quickly evacuate one of the UN’s female journalists, Cecilia During, from the Northern Provincial headquarters of Makeni. Cecilia During had to escape from Makeni after soweis threatened to capture her and forcibly initiate her into the Bondo Society. The Makeni soweis vow reprisal for the UN Radio’s continuous publicising of the demerits of the mutilation of the female genitalia; an integral part of initiation into the Bondo Society.

The Kenema incident itself, which occurred on Saturday February 7th 2009, has now been given worldwide publicity and has also been covered by the CNN’s Inside Africa programme. It happened following the UN Radio’s coverage of the International Zero Tolerance Day against Female Genital Mutilation.

The HRCSL in their statement has stated that if the report is true, it contravenes freedom of expression as enshrined in Section 25(1) of our 1991 Constitution which states: "no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression…. the said freedom includes the freedom to hold opinion and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference…"

Furthermore, the HRCSL insisted that "the humiliation, threats, singing of provocative and abusive songs and parading the streets of a female journalist constitutes inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment and punishment contrary to Section 20 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone".

By taking the law into their hands, the Bondo society members contravened the rule of law which is so essential and indispensable in building a democratic society, the Commission noted.

The HRCSL called on the authorities concerned to fully investigate these allegations and punish the perpetrators. More importantly, the Commission urged that protection should be provided to ensure the safety of the affected journalists and others who in future may wish to express their views regarding Female Genital Mutilation.

The Commission went on to state that the members of the Bondo society including its hierarchy, must never be allowed through their actions to gag people from the discussion of Female Genital Mutilation.

HRCSL also views with serious concern the continuous abduction and forceful initiation of under aged girls in Sierra Leone through the widespread practice of Female Genital Cutting, as this act contravenes Section 33 (1) of the Child Rights Act 2007.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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