Gold Supporting Member
- Feb 22, 2004
- Reaction score
The communities have agreed to abandon FGM after three or more years of discussions about human rights and social change, said women's rights group Tostan, which is behind the drive. The declarations are taking place in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Mauritania, according to Senegal-based Tostan. "The declarations are an opportunity for community members to openly and collectively commit to ending harmful traditional practices, including women in decision-making processes, and ensuring the rights and safety of children," the group's spokeswoman Joya Taft-Dick told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
FGM affects an estimated 140 million girls and women across a swathe of Africa and parts of the Middle East and Asia, and is seen as a gateway to marriage and a way of preserving purity. The ritual involves the removal of the external genitalia and causes numerous health problems that can be fatal. Critics of Tostan's approach say it expects attitudes towards FGM to change too quickly and that some communities keep cutting girls after declaring their opposition to the practice.
A man's T-shirt reads "Stop the Cut," referring to female genital mutilation during an event advocating against the practice, at Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya
While the public declarations do not always guarantee an end to FGM, they do at least spark community-wide discussions about harmful practices and social change, said Taft-Dick of Tostan. Support for FGM among women and girls is rising in Guinea, which has the second highest rate in the world after Somalia with around 97 percent of women and adolescent girls cut, the United Nations rights office said in April.
Nine in 10 girls and women have been cut in Mali, which has the world's fifth highest rate of FGM and is one of the few West African nations, along with Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the practice remains legal. "These declarations are happening in some of the countries where female genital cutting prevalence is the highest in Africa, I am truly convinced... it is possible to witness the end of cutting in one generation," said Tostan founder Molly Melching. Some 3 million people across eight West African nations live in communities that have declared an end to FGM, Tostan said.
Hundreds of W. African Communities Declare End to FGM, Campaigners Say
“FGM is a barbaric practice,” Niger’s Lalla Malika Issoufou told an international conference in Rome. She said that Nigerian President Mahamadou Issoufou was fully behind efforts to eradicate the ritual and that the country was looking at bolstering its law. Worldwide, an estimated 200 million girls and women have been subjected to the ritual, which usually involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia. It is often carried out by traditional cutters. The internationally condemned practice is rooted in the wish to control female sexuality, but beliefs around it vary. Some communities see it as a prerequisite for marriage. Most African countries have introduced laws against the practice, although these are generally poorly enforced.
The first lady of Benin, Claudine Talon, said cutters had found ways around the law. “The phenomenon has become an underground one,” she said in a statement read out by her adviser, Pounami Doko Toko. Doko Toko told reporters that the ritual, which was once done openly, was now performed behind closed doors. Parents were also getting their daughters cut at a much younger age before they had learned to speak — a trend seen in several other African nations. Some girls in Benin were now cut shortly after birth whereas in the past they would have been cut at about the age of 11, Doko Toko said. Families were also circumventing the law by crossing into neighboring Burkina Faso or Niger to get their girls cut.
UN statistics show that 9 percent of girls and women have undergone the process in Benin, but Doko Toko said she believed the real figure was two to three times higher. She said there had been a significant drive to end FGM in Benin up until 2006, but little action since. Some young women who did not have it done when they were girls are now asking to be cut because they cannot find a man willing to marry them, she said. Cutters who had previously abandoned the practice have also resumed their work. Bernice Noudegbessi, an official with the UN population fund (UNFPA) in Benin, said there was a new political will in the nation to tackle the issue.
The prevalence rate in Niger is 2 percent, according to UN data, but the first lady said it was common in some areas. International campaigners have praised Burkina Faso for its efforts to eradicate the practice. Although three-quarters of girls and women have had FGM, only 13 percent of under-15s have been cut. The nation has carried out hundreds of prosecutions and set up a hotline where people can inform the authorities if they hear FGM is about to happen. The first lady of Burkina Faso, Sika Kabore, said boosting girls’ education, literacy and independence was crucial in fighting FGM and child marriage. “Great steps have been taken, but there’s a long way to go,” she said in a statement read out at the BanFGM conference.
First ladies vow to battle genital mutilation - Taipei Times