The Bush School
In Liberia female genital mutilation is legal and it is practiced as an initiation into a secret society of women, known as Sande, which is spread in 11 of the 15 counties of the nation. In its “bush schools”, whose rite of access is the cut of the clitoris, the girls spend a period from few months up to three years, in order to learn the respect for the elderly, their duties of future wives and mothers, dances and songs. And they remain totally illiterate. Those who are not Sande members remain on a lower social level and can’t aspire to a good marriage. The “bush schools”, inaccessible to those who are not part of the secret society, receive regular licenses from the Ministry of the Interior. Sande’s enormous political influence has held back Parliament from enacting a law criminalizing female genital mutilation. Those who go against Sande, like journalists and civil society activists, are threatened with death or mutilation: there have been several cases of abductions of women, taken to the forest and mutilated by force as an exemplary punishment. While in many African countries decades of female battles have succeeded in reducing genital mutilation and making it punishable by law, in Liberia this journey has just begun.