Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Female genital mutilation - some progress

Both The Lancet this week, and a press release from the UNFPA in February, outline the progress being made to combat female genital mutilation in Africa.

In Egypt and Kenya, Muslim leaders are campaigning for the end to female genital mutilation, saying that it is a tradition not related to Islam, and the practice has been banned.

In Guinea 150 communities made a declaration to abandon the practice after work by Tostan to show how it harmed individuals and communities.

Tanzania says the prevalence has dropped from 18% to 15% from 1996 to 2005 after awareness campaigns.

In Niger the rate has fallen, according to official statistics, from 5% in 1998 to 2.2% in 2006.

In Mali 200 circumcisers have stopped practising but 92% of women between 15 and 49 have already been circumcised and it is still practised by all religions.

There are two trends which are less positive. One is to carry out the procedure on younger and younger girls so that they cannot voice objections. The second is the “medicalisation” of the procedure, asking, sometimes pressuring, medical staff to carry it out in the belief that it therefore safer. Yes, it is safer, but it implies a legitimacy which should not exist.

UNFPA supports a number of initiatives to abolish female genital mutilation/cutting around the world. The most successful – like those in Uganda and Kenya – provide alternative rites to mark the passage of girls into adulthood without genital mutilation. However little progress is being made in some other countries such as Somalia, Cameroon, the Gambia and it is estimated that 3 million girls throughout the world are still at risk of mutilation.

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