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Submitted by Mohamed Sidie Sheriff on

Without exception to Sierra Leone, community by-laws across the African continent - and perhaps the world over - have always been community defined and community driven. Communities are often prompted by the need and demand for collective responsibility and action in solving common problems as they arise such as the case presented by this article. This is not new.

What is relatively new, however, is that in recent times (in post-war Sierra Leone) pressure has been mounting on traditional rulers at chiefdom and section levels to incorporate national laws centered on human rights and humanitarian values that are in turn driven by international laws and conventions to which Sierra Leone had subscribed. In this way, Sierra Leone fast becoming a legally globalized nation which is excellent; but this comes with the challenge of overcoming attitude and behavior gap between what the communities adopt as by-laws that they did not really initiate and the by-laws they define and initiate by themselves without an internationally supported development program from outside.

This gap is even more prone to showing up during in-depth research missions in communities that have adopted by-laws on harmful traditional practices (HTPs), especially practices relating to female genital cutting.

There are evidences of certain communities in the south and northern parts of Sierra Leone where by laws on HTPs have been adopted to appease social welfare authorities and NGOs providing material assistance to them without necessarily enforcing those laws.