“Shock and intense fear during the initiation led to her death” medical report
By Jonathan B.J. Omaru in Bonthe
The practice of female genital cutting/mutilation (FGM) is as old as other traditional practices in Sierra Leone. Dozens of women and girls have died as a result of it. A 21 year old lady in Bonthe district, south is the latest victim to have allegedly lost her life as a result of the practice.
According to our sources, the women of the unique cultural Bondo structure in the area raised an alarm to the town speaker of Nyadehun village about the sickness of an initiate, Masiray Sei in the bush who needs medical help at around 4:30 am on Monday, Dec. 21, 2021. The town speaker then advised them to seek the service of a qualified medical practitioner to remedy the situation.
According to councilor M’Bamba Kanneh of ward 324, Bigo section; few hours after the initial report, the lady was pronounced dead inside the FGM secret society bush. The town speaker/chief immediately reported the matter to the Sierra Rutile police division to commence an investigation. “Police and other stakeholders in the Imperi chiefdom visited the village and summoned a meeting to find out the circumstances that led to the death of the 21 year old woman inside the Bondo bush,” Kanneh said.
Councilor Kanneh further explained that the women were asked to provide a copy of the receipt issued them by the chiefdom treasury clerk or the paramount chief that gave them the mandate to host the FGM secret initiation in the village.
The women further responded that they were not issued with a permit to host the (FGM) secret society event on legal grounds. The female paramount chief of the area, PC Hawa Kpanabom of Imperi Chiefdom refuse issuing the permit to them because of the nationwide ban on all secret societies including FGM as a result of the Covid19 surge. Councilor Kanneh said, the women in their desperate move to carry on with their initiation went to the acting section chief of Bigo, Karamoh Nashiru Koroma who issued them with a receipt written in Arabic giving them the go ahead to host their secret initiation. The acting section chief later admitted of giving them the go ahead in the name of having respect for the local culture and women. Medical experts were later contacted to identify the cause of death.
The first medical examination conducted by Amara Fofanah of Gbagbama community health post disclosed that the deceased pictured shock and intense fear during the initiation process which resulted to her death. The deceased Masiray Sei has been taken to the second city, Bo, for an advance medical examination on the cause of death to determine if the actions of the women in the bush are directly related to her demise.
The women FGM initiators involved in the incident plus acting section chief, Karamoh Nashiru Koroma are currently helping the police in their investigation at the Sierra Rutile police division, as the ward councilor Kanneh has promised mountain waves that he will continue to monitor the incident to allow justice to take its course.
It could be recalled that a ban on secret societies nationwide was placed since the Covid19 outbreak hit the country. The ban has not yet been lifted. Hence, the practice of any form of secret society including FGM is illegal.
In Sierra Leone, according to the 2019 Demographic Health Survey, 83 percent of women age 15-49 have undergone FGM, a decrease from90 percent in 2013. Female circumcision occurs mostly between age 10 and age 14; 71 percent of women age 15-49 had FGM before the age of 15. Dozens have lost their lives in the widely cultural accepted rites of passage for girls and women.