By Foday Moriba Conteh
“Bondo Business, nor to you talk oh” these were the exact words from hundreds of Soweis in Sierra Leone during a Press Conference held on Friday 18th August, 2023 at the Obasai Hall on Regent Road in the Central Part of Freetown.
The Press conference was held by the Sierra Leone Women Are Free to Choose (SLWAFC) and National Sowei Council in order to call on President Julius Maada Bio to safeguard Soweis from Anti-FGM campaigners.
“We want the Bio Administration to protect our Soweis and ordinary Bondo and Sande women in this country and our rights to self-determination and to bodily autonomy,” said Dr. Sia Fuambai Ahmadu.
She disclosed how, sometime back, they filed a lawsuit ,through their Attorneys , at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in which there are three Plaintiffs: a Non Governmental Organization, Purposeful, which was then headed by the newly appointed Minister of Information and Civic Education, Chernor Bah (popularly known as C. Bah); the Forum Against Harmful Traditional Practices headed by Nenneh Rugiatu Turay and one alleged victim, Kadija Balaima Allieu.
Reading a Press Statement to members of the Press, the Spokeswoman of the National Sowei Council, Dr. Fuambai Sia Nyoko Ahmadu ,who doubles as the founder of Sierra Leone Woman Are Free to Choose (SLWAFC) said the Bondo and Sande Societies do not practice Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
She noted that: “The dictionary definition of “mutilation” is not just to cut – it means to disfigure and to cause dysfunction. According to her, for most affected women, the typical Bondo procedure is an aesthetic and sexual enhancement that beautifies the vulva (the vulva is the actual word for the external female genitalia).
She continued that most of them affected women prefer and enjoy the smoother, cleaner and more symmetrical appearance of their vulva after the Bondo procedure.
The Spokeswoman said their practice has been deliberately tagged to be barbaric by western nations in an attempt to downplay the culture and tradition of Sierra Leone further stating that Female Genital Mutilation is wrong and that what they practice is female circumcision synonymous to that of the male.
“Bondo and Sande societies do not practice FGM,” Ahmadu affirmed.
She argued that the term FGM is just another way of tagging African and Muslim women as “sexually disfigured and dysfunctional victims of patriarchy”.
Dr. Fuambai Sia Nyoko Ahmadu pointed out that there is an increase in the number of Western women going for circumcision and that it is now becoming lucrative for surgeons.
The Sowei Spokeswoman underscored how the West has created “legal loopholes” in order to make the practice safe for predominantly white male doctors who make “millions of dollars” from it.
The Soweis also added that most the campaigns over the years have been undertaken by local NGOs like Purposeful Now and Amazonian Initiative maintaining that most of those local NGOs campaign because they get in return millions of US dollars from foreign organizations like Equality Now.
According to the Soweis, the Government should reconsider the appointment of the new Minister of Information and Civic Education, Chernor Bah. These Soweis pointed out that he is the head of ‘Purposeful Now’ one of the plaintiffs in a matter filed against the state of Sierra Leone in an alleged FGM matter at the ECOWAS Court.
“The appointment of C. Bah who, as head of Purposeful, less than three months ago filed a lawsuit at ECOWAS against this very Bio Government appears disingenuous,” the spokeswoman said.
Madam Ahmadu concluded by calling on His Excellency, President Julius Maada Bio and his administration to make a public statement on the position of the Government and status of the ECOWAS case, from the time it was filed, on the 20th April 2, 2023 to present, including any official response filed by the GoSL saying such is of national interest to the people of Sierra Leone.