Female Genital Mutilation in NigerFemale genital mutilation is the act of “removing and sewing-up parts of the female genitalia.” Many are against the practice and Niger’s Minister of Women and Children Protection Bibata Barry says the act is “unacceptable in a civilized society.” It dehumanizes the women it affects and threatens the lives of mothers and daughters. Several facts help explain the issue of female genital mutilation in Niger.

5 Facts About Female Genital Mutilation in Niger

  1. Niger has laws against female genital mutilation. In 2003, the practice became illegal. Practitioners and assistants who violate this law face six months to 20 years of jail time. The law reduced the occurrence of the practice throughout the country. According to the president of the Nigerien Committee on Traditional Practices, the law has been effective so far. The steps Niger is taking are leading the country toward becoming the first West African country to eradicate female genital mutilation practices.
  2. Female genital mutilation rates are decreasing. In a United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report, the prevalence of female genital mutilation in Niger greatly decreased between 1998 and 2006. In 1998, around 5.8% of women fell victim to the practice. Meanwhile, in 2006, the percentage dropped to only 2.2% of women. The decrease is largely due to the latest law.
  3. Disparities in education and wealth do not distinctly affect FGM rates in Niger. In a European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI) poll, the percentage of women who undergo FGM procedures does not vary much among education levels. Female genital mutilation practices among women and girls in impoverished rural areas are about 1% more prevalent than in wealthier urban areas.
  4. The population largely believes FGM should be eradicated. In fact, 91% of males aged 15 to 49 believe that female genital mutilation in Niger should stop. Meanwhile, 3% think it should continue and 6% are unsure. Likewise, 82% of females aged 15 to 49 agree the practice should stop. Meanwhile, about 6% believe it should continue and 12% are not sure. This demonstrates the change in beliefs among the younger generations in Niger. These statistics show promise that the nation is moving toward a bright future in which FGM no longer exists.
  5. The United Nations aims to end FGM in Niger. UNICEF and Niger’s government sponsored a ceremony in which about 14,000 villagers from 20 communities vowed to end female genital mutilation and forced underage marriages. About 38% of girls in Niger marry before the age of 15. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that urged countries to ban the practice. However, without fighting poverty in the communities where female mutilation is prevalent, there is a chance that it may reemerge. Through consistent education and aid programs through the U.N. and other NGOs, there is hope in eradicating the practice completely. Raising the education rate for women will also help eradicate the practice.

There is hope for ending female genital mutilation in Niger. Through the efforts of the community, NGOs and Niger’s government, the practice will continue decreasing. With changing beliefs and laws in place, the culturally entrenched tradition can be eliminated.

– Jake Herbetko
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in ChadThe World Health Organization defines female genital mutilation as “any procedure that involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Despite constituting an international human rights violation, FGM remains a pervasive issue affecting the lives of many women, especially in developing countries. According to UNICEF, at least 200 million girls and women have undergone genital mutilation globally. FGM is particularly prevalent in Chad, a landlocked country in Northern Africa, despite laws banning female genital mutilation in Chad. Over the years, steps have been taken to reduce the prevalence of FGM in Chad.

The Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in Chad

BMC Public Health explains that, in Chad, the citizenry continues FGM practices in both religious and traditional contexts. FGM is a hazardous practice, often done without anesthetic, putting girls and women at risk of both short and long-term health effects. These effects include genital swelling, bleeding, the inability to pass feces and urine, urinary tract infections and birth complications, among other consequences.

A BMC Public Health research article based on data from 2014-2015 indicates that, in Chad, 50.2% of women and 12.9% of girls have been genitally mutilated, endangering their health. There are multiple conditions that affect this staggering statistic. First, BMC Public Health explains that women with lower levels of education are more likely to experience FGM. Poverty levels also drive the practice as impoverished families have their daughters undergo FGM with the intention of marrying them off, granting impoverished families dowries and the benefits of marrying into a wealthier family. The practice of FGM tends to follow ethnic and religious traditions and is most common among the Sara ethnic group and other Muslim tribes.

Addressing FGM in Chad

While FGM prevalence has been decreasing throughout much of the world, Chad, Mali and Sierra Leone have seen an increase of 2–8% over the last 30 years. This increase in prevalence demonstrates the importance of efforts addressing FGM in Chad, especially now, when poverty rates are heightened due to COVID-19. With the help of NGOs, the U.S. government and tribal leaders, Chad is fighting the deeply entrenched traditions of FGM to protect the well-being of young women and girls.

NGOs play a vitally important role in the creation of long-term programs aimed at changing societal and cultural norms surrounding female genital mutilation in Chad. These NGOs can expand their reach with support from the Chadian government. For example, the Chadian government aided the Chadian Association for Family Well-Being in its work surrounding FGM education and awareness. This education includes seminars, campaigns and conferences explaining the dangers of FGM.

The Role of the US

Not only has Chad’s government stepped up to combat FGM but the U.S. has played a critical role in education surrounding FGM practices. From 1997 to 1999, the U.S. Embassy’s Democracy and Human Rights Fund supported a locally implemented FGM education program to change norms surrounding FGM in Chad. This resulted in a roundtable meeting with “doctors, judges, parliamentarians and NGO representatives, a national seminar” and four regional seminars, all of which helped spread awareness of the dangers of FGM in Chad.

Mobilizing Tribal Leaders to Fight FGM

Due to the cultural and ethnic ties surrounding the practice of female genital mutilation in Chad, tribal leaders have played an important part in the movement to end FGM. Because of the trust bestowed upon tribal leaders, they can increase awareness about FGM’s consequences and generate support for the laws banning its practice among ethnic groups throughout the country. In order to motivate and educate tribal leaders, the Red Cross of Chad set up an advocacy program that creates initiatives and training sessions for tribal leaders to combat FGM in their communities.

While the inhumane practice of FGM continues in Chad due to deeply entrenched cultural roots, the U.S. and Chadian governments play consequential roles in combating the prevalence of FGM. This support is crucial as female genital mutilation in Chad severely harms girls’ and women’s health, impacting their futures and their abilities to rise out of poverty.

Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code
Photo: Flickr

Female genital mutilation in TanzaniaThe WHO estimates that more than 200 million women and girls across the world have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM). The culturally entrenched practice holds no benefits for girls and women. In fact, FGM puts girls and women at risk of severe health complications. Despite constituting an international human rights violation, in countries such as Tanzania, cases of FGM persist. The government of Tanzania, individuals and organizations aim to address incidents of female genital mutilation in Tanzania.

Female Genital Mutilation in Tanzania

In the year 1998, female genital mutilation became illegal in Tanzania through the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act. However, the legislation only criminalized the act for women younger than 18. Law enforcement officials intervened in rituals where young girls received their rite of passage through mutilation. The country hopes to end all harmful actions against women and children by 2030. This includes FGM practices.

A few issues surrounding the prosecution of FGM cases include victims refusing to testify against the perpetrators, especially if they are family members. Additionally, bribery by perpetrators is common to avoid prosecution. Inadequate evidence and “witnesses failing to appear in court” also contribute to low prosecution rates.

At times, “community leaders pretend to abandon the practice then organize alternative rite of passage festivals for girls only to continue with female genital mutilation in disguise.” Despite these barriers, Tanzania has seen a decrease in mutilations from 18% in 1996 to around 10% in 2021.

Recommendations From WHO

According to the World Health Organization, nine out of 10 Tanzanian women are against FGM practices. Because the practice is culturally entrenched, it is more difficult to completely abolish. The WHO recommends raising awareness about FGM in order to communicate the dangers the practice holds for girls and women. Furthermore, health professionals should be trained to “manage and prevent” cases on FGM. Furthermore, law enforcement needs to be better supported in order to ensure cases are investigated and prosecuted.

Solutions to FGM in Tanzania

Tanzania has developed a national strategy to address FGM in the country. The strategy launched on March 15, 2021, and will run for four years. The strategy involves “running campaigns on the health consequences of FGM for girls and women, recruitment of change agents from within the communities and the enforcement of legal mechanisms.” Though FGM rates in Tanzania have reduced to 10%, the fight to abolish the practice continues.

Men in the community have also joined the fight to end FGM. Chief Girihuida Gegasa Shulumbu is a traditional leader in the Mara village of Tanzania. As a father of three daughters, Shulumbu works with other male leaders to end the practice and find “alternative rites of passage.” Shulumbu recognizes that FGM impacts the most impoverished people and impacts education by keeping girls out of school due to recovery time and health complications that may ensue.

A lack of education keeps women in poverty, economically impacting Tanzania as a whole. Due to individual efforts and efforts from organizations, in the past three years, 96 ritual leaders have stopped FGM practices in Mara. Furthermore, more than 1,500 girls between 9 and 19 were protected from FGM practices through campaigns and programs.

Efforts to decrease female genital mutilation in Tanzania have proven successful. Although the fight continues, there is much promise that the practice may be eliminated by 2030.

– Selena Soto
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in Senegal
Female genital mutilation in Senegal is still happening. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an internationally acknowledged human rights violation. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as any procedure involving the partial or total removal or other injury to the female genital organs without proper medical cause.

Estimates have determined that internationally, there are 200 million women alive today who have undergone the procedure. FGM, while incredibly detrimental to long-term health, has been devastatingly popular for so long because of its cultural significance. Female genital mutilation in Senegal, in addition to Africa, the Middle East and Asia, has the purpose of controlling sexual behavior. This is to prepare young girls for marriage and keep girls ‘clean’ and ‘feminine.’

The Costs of Female Genital Mutilation

The practice leads to incredibly painful lifelong complications like horrific problems with childbirth, urination, menstruation and safe sex. Moreover, WHO estimated that the international monetary costs of treating health complications from FGM were $1.4 billion in 2018. Unfortunately, this figure could almost double by 2037.

Despite this prediction, Senegal has presented a fascinating case that defies international trends. Grassroots organizations and leadership from women in Senegal have demonstrated the resilience and power of localized movements and communities in effectively denouncing this practice. Because of this, the rates of female genital mutilation in Senegal have decreased in contrast to its persistent presence globally.

Senegal’s Progress in the Fight Against Female Mutilation

The action that some have taken against female genital mutilation in Senegal is especially promising given its past prominence in the national culture. In 2017, the Senegal Demographic and Health Survey found that almost 25% of 15 to 49-year-old women had undergone the procedure, as well as 14% of girls ages 0-14.

Since 2017, Senegal has made impressive strides to lower these numbers. The nation is now on track to become the first African country to fully make genital cutting a thing of the past.

Tostan is an NGO that has been working within communities in Senegal to put a stop to human rights violations like female genital mutilation and cutting. Tostan works with villages to increase literacy rates and bolster education initiatives including topics like proper healthcare, feminine hygiene, child welfare and human rights. Along with this advocacy work, Tostan encourages mothers, typically those who have undergone FGM, to speak out against the practice. Encouraged to not cut their daughters, these mothers now condemn it at community gatherings. Tostan’s work has helped 5,300 villages put a complete stop to the execution of this practice.

Tostan’s methods became replicated throughout Senegal and have led to surges of mothers speaking out for the cause. Following Tostan’s work, artists, rappers and other members of communities creatively engage in initiatives to spread awareness and promote discussion about the ramifications of FGM.

Looking Ahead

The progress in the fight against female genital mutilation in Senegal stands to teach international leaders and governments a lot. While regulation and legislation are important to stop this human rights violation, Senegal is showing how attitude and cultural shifts are the keys to real change.

Female genital mutilation in Senegal became illegal in 1999. However, this strong symbolic gesture only stopped medical professionals from administering the procedures. Determined parents were still able to cut their daughters, just without properly sanitized tools or medical care.

It is all the more important to educate communities of the very real and life-long ramifications of female genital mutilation, as well as empower women’s voices and grassroots movements to truly end this practice. Since many in Senegal still consider FGM to be a part of their cultural identity, the voices of women within communities, rather than external influence and legislation, are incredibly important to create change.

Jaya Patten
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in Mali
Mali currently has no legislation that criminalizes female genital mutilation (FGM). In 1997, the government committed to criminalizing FGM. Two years later, the Ministry of Health issued a directive banning it in public health facilities. However, despite a comprehensive reform plan, Mali did not implement any laws against FGM.

About Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation is the practice of removing some or all of the external female reproductive organ for no medical purpose. The World Health Organization (WHO) divides FGM into four types. Type I is the removal of the clitoral hood and/or the clitoral glans. Meanwhile, Type II is the removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, possibly accompanied by the removal of the labia majora. Type III involves narrowing the vaginal opening, leaving only a very small hole for menstruation and urination. Finally, Type IV is any other mutilation to the external female reproductive system, such as piercing or cauterizing. The most common forms of FGM in Mali are Types I and II, although some southern regions of the country practice Type III.

The Dangers of FGM

FGM has no health benefits and many side effects, some of which are deadly. It can cause chronic pain, mental health issues, scarring, future surgeries, risk of childbirth complications, urinary, vaginal and menstruation problems and other issues.

The History of FGM

Research traces the origin of FGM to Egypt in the fifth-century B.C.E. The original reasons for the practice are unclear, but evidence from Somalia and Egypt ties it to preventing female slaves from reproducing. Today, the practice is widespread across the northern half of Africa.

FGM is largely a cultural practice, and in Mali, societal pressures often result in mutilation before 5-years-old. Communities practice FGM for a variety of reasons, from decreasing girls’ and women’s libido to fulfilling a prerequisite for marriage. Although no religion endorses FGM, 70% of Malian women aged 15-49 believe that it is a religious requirement, and 75.8% believe it should continue.

Nearly 90% of Malian women and girls aged 15-49 have at least one type of genital mutilation. The regions with the highest rates of FGM are Kayes, Koulikoro, Sikasso and Ségou and Bamako, the capital. All have rates above 90%.

The Path to Legislation Banning FGM

As of June 2021, Mali has not criminalized female genital mutilation despite the harm that the procedure does. Millions of girls remain at risk not only in Mali but across the world. Thirty countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia still have not outlawed FGM.

However, advocacy groups and global governments are working to end FGM, and they have made great progress over the past 20 years. Since 1997, 26 countries in Africa and the Middle East have outlawed FGM. Furthermore, members of communities that practice FGM have begun to oppose the procedure in increasing numbers.

Communities abandoning FGM of their own volition is the fastest way to end the practice. Since 2019, the organizations Healthy Tomorrow and Sini Sanuman have worked to end female genital mutilation in Mali by changing minds. With the help of donations, they have renewed three anti-FGM billboards in Bamako and also created a TV trailer, “In the Name of Your Daughter,” which shows how Tanzanian police officers, courthouses, and safehouses protect young girls from FGM.

Despite the existence of FGM in Mali, the fact that many nearby countries in the area have banned it shows promise for the country. Hopefully, through the work of organizations like Healthy Tomorrow and Sini Sanuman, Mali will soon eliminate FGM as well.

Ana Golden
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in GuineaFemale genital mutilation is one of many forms of violence that women face all over the world. In Guinea, according to UNICEF, 97% of women aged 15 to 49 have been subjected to genital mutilation. Female genital mutilation (FGM) in Guinea is a significant issue in the fight for global gender justice.

Background of Female Genital Mutilation

The practice of FGM is deeply rooted in tradition and culture. According to the FGM National Clinic Group, FGM is commonly viewed as a traditional initiation ceremony that marks a girl’s transition into womanhood. Some communities see FGM as an act that increases a girl’s marriageability. Others perform FGM because of the belief that it will ensure girls’ virginity and suppress the sexual desire of women so as to prevent adultery. FGM is a dangerous practice that perpetuates violence against women and holds no health benefits. While the practice of FGM is widespread today, the origins of the practice remain unclear.

Additionally, the practice of FGM is inextricably linked with poverty. UNICEF states that 56% of mutilated Guinean girls aged 0-14 fall in the most impoverished economic quintile. This fact expresses a clear intersectional overlap between gender and class. In particular, lower-income women in Guinea are disproportionately impacted by FGM. The overlap of gender and class reveals a link between women’s rights issues in the fight for global poverty relief.

Abolishing Female Genital Mutilation

Despite the fact that female genital mutilation is banned nationally and internationally, the practice continues in Guinea. The U.N. reported that although the majority of women and girls in other countries are against FGM, in 2012, 76% of women and girls in Guinea were in support of the practice. Guinean women tend to be in favor of the excision due to social pressures and fears of being unable to marry due to being uncut. Global support against the practice has helped to alleviate the suffering of women in Guinea. By amplifying a strong global movement against female genital mutilation, more women will realize the serious health consequences of FGM, and thus, more women will support its ultimate abolition.

In a 2020 publication by Reprod Health, “positive deviance” is seen as an important strategy for women and girls in Guinea. Positive deviance refers to girls challenging cultural norms by denying FGM practitioners access to their bodies without their consent. Reprod Health argues that this can ultimately lead to an updated and reformed public health action that fully rejects and abandons female genital mutilation in the country.

Taking Action Against FGM

The Coordinating Body on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (CPTAFE) in Guinea advocates for the eradication of FGM in Guinea. CPTAFE’s efforts contributed to an article in the Guinean Constitution “that upholds the right to physical integrity of the person and condemns all forms of inhumane treatment.” This prohibition must be interpreted as banning the practice of FGM. The CPTAFE created four FGM films to raise awareness about the harms of the practice. The organization also educates the public through informative resources, media broadcasts and educational training. The CPTAFE is working with the Guinean government to strengthen legislative prohibitions against FGM.

The Road Ahead

Female genital mutilation is an outright human rights violation. However, there is strong opposition both nationally and globally with the “positive deviance” movement and NGO action and involvement. While progress needs to continue to completely eradicate female genital mutilation in Guinea, these efforts are powerful in the fight to empower women and uphold women’s rights.

Sebastian Fell
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire
Female genital mutilation is the process of partially or totally removing the external female genitalia, and is a violation of the human rights of women and girls around the globe. While many strive to ban this non-medical practice, FGM still has a grip on many countries. One such country where FGM is prevalent is Côte d’Ivoire. Here is some information regarding the practice of female genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire and the measures to eradicate it.

Female Genital Mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast, is a country located along the south coast of West Africa. With a population of about 25 million, FGM practices affect approximately 36.7% of women ages 15-67, the highest prevalence being 60% to 75% among the ethnic groups of the northwest regions of Nord, Nord-Ouest and Ouest. However, girls and women of all ages and from all different regions of Côte d’Ivoire are at risk of FGM.

The prevalence of female genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire stems from two reasons, the first being social and cultural traditions. Those who perform the actual cut are typically the older women that make it their living and perform the procedure without anesthesia and the use of medical facilities. Pressure for older girls to undergo FGM often takes place when the prospective husband and his family will not accept a bride that has not experienced it.

The second reason for FGM’s prevalence in Côte d’Ivoire traces back to the large migrant population coming in and out of the country. Many migrants originate from countries where there is little to no legal action against FGM, such as the border nations of Guinea and Mali. The frequent crossing of borders attributes to the high percentages of women and girls who experience FGM in the northwest regions.

Harms of Female Genital Mutilation

Of the four major types of FGM that the World Health Organization (WHO) identified, Côte d’Ivoire practices Type 2. There are no health benefits to any type of FGM, as the non-medical practice mutilates a normal organ of a woman’s body. Instead, FGM harms those who undergo the procedure, and the victims become increasingly at risk to develop health complications in the present moment or in the future. Women and girls who experience FGM largely suffer from the following:

  • Severe pain
  • Infection
  • Urinary and vaginal problems
  • Childbirth complications

Steps Against Female Genital Mutilation

The government of  Côte d’Ivoire created legislation targeting the practice of FGM. Article 5 of the Constitution of Côte d’Ivoire prohibits “female genital mutilation as well as any other forms of degradation of human beings.” Law No. 98-757 of 23 December 1998 criminalized the practice of FGM in all forms, which includes actions by medical professionals and by those who aid in its performance.

Since the creation of Law No. 98-757, few people who practice FGM have experienced prosecution. The Ministry for Women and the Protection of the Child and Solidarity is a major government authority in Côte d’Ivoire. It protects the country’s women and girls and ensures equality in economic, social and cultural areas. From 2008-2012, the government put a National Action Plan in place that protects women and girls from sexual violence, including FGM. Since the National Action Plan’s end, there have been no new talks to implement a new plan.

Looking Ahead

While more work is necessary to completely end female genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire and the Ivory Coast, the work of those advocating to end FGM is making a difference in the local communities. Many are starting to see the harms that the practice inflicts. Small steps are still steps toward a brighter future for the women and girls affected.

– Grace Ingles
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in Cameroon
In the Central African nation of Cameroon, many women go about their daily lives as one might expect to see in most other cities across the world. From Douala in the southern region to the capital city of Yaounde, all the way up north toward the smaller, old historical city of N’Gaoundéré, life is beautiful, diverse and unique. However, the practice of female genital mutilation remains a prevalent risk for far too many women. This affliction affects women of varying ages across different tribes, regions and nations of Africa. The performance of female genital mutilation is a crime in Cameroon. Despite this, the country has not completely eliminated the practice, although women in Cameroon live in safer environments than most of their continental neighbors.

Rates of FGM in Cameroon

Female genital mutilation has a long history across different parts of the world, including Africa, Asia and Australia. Groups across these regions generally practice its application for sociocultural, sexual, possessive or coercive purposes. Its function remains a cruel blight upon the estimated 200 million people it afflicts and disfigures globally. Today, FGM most commonly exists across various African nations. Girls between the ages of 5 and 9 years old routinely experience the practice.

Yet, Cameroon’s FGM numbers are markedly better than its neighbors. This is especially impressive for a nation with approximately 27 million people with a median age of just under 19 years old. One reason for Cameroon’s lower FGM numbers in comparison with other nearby nations is that it has made efforts to diminish FGM since the 1980s. However, FGM is still a prevalent issue in Cameroon that requires attention.

The Persistence of FGM

Cameroon established the National Action Plan to combat FGM in 2011 and founded the Department for the Promotion and Protection of the Family and Children’s Rights in 2012. Meanwhile, it also instigated the 2016 passage of the civil, “Penal Codes of the Republic of Cameroon.” However, neither mandate nor legislation exists to truly stop the practice of FGM. Non-governmental organizations, international pressure and awareness campaigns, as well as natural human development, have driven initiatives against FGM.

The practice remains accepted in specific cultures and regions. FGM is generally more popular in the southwest of Cameroon within tribes such as the Ejagham community or particular Muslim groups like the Fulbe, Haoussas and Arapshouas in the north. Surveys have shown that up to 20% of women in the most affected communities have experienced FGM, and 85% of FGM in Cameroon is Type I or Type II. This is improved from the country’s rates in the mid-1990s, which were closer to 40% of women. Meanwhile, surveys estimate that only about 1% of the national population now suffers the burden of this practice, which is similar to the estimated percentage roughly 20 years ago.

The Resurgence of FGM in Cameroon

While the fight against FGM continues, the COVID-19 crisis, civil conflicts, economic downturn and resource scarcity-related issues have hindered efforts to decrease FGM. In addition, cultural superstitions and dogma have proven to be rigid obstacles in the campaign to end FGM. Warning of these hurdles, 100 young women traveled to Yaounde in late January and early February 2021 to discuss the COVID-19 related resurgence of FGM. The people of the city and international human rights advocates were quick to listen to these women’s stories. Kousseri, a city to the north, is a barometer for this. It has recently witnessed an increased 8% of women who have suffered from some form of genital mutilation. As work and capital have been difficult to come by during the pandemic, some blame these economic conditions as severely as cultural ones for the national and regional increases in FGM.

Organizations Fighting to Eliminate FGM in Cameroon

While the United Nations and various humanitarian organizations are continuing to make an impact, there is still room for improvement. Long-time Cameroonian President Paul Biya and his government must continue to receive pressure to officially define, illegalize and constitutionally denounce FGM. Groups like the Orchid Project have been fighting the practice of FGM, while actively working to educate, donate and promote legislative innovations. Additionally, No Peace Without Justice  formed in 1993 to combat various international atrocities, including this type of violence against women.

The Orchid Project secured the first-ever governmental commitment to end FGM globally from the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development, while No Peace Without Justice founded the Ban Female Genital Mutilation Campaign. This campaign successfully pushed for the U.N. to adopt Resolution 67/146 on Dec. 20, 2012, to increase global efforts to end FGM. This work has been critical in uniting and catalyzing different nations and peoples toward action and empathy and has pushed the U.N. for ever-increasing global action against this violence.

Cameroon has made progress regarding female genital mutilation over previous years, yet much of it has stagnated in recent years. Despite the negative impact of COVID-19, the nation is continuing to fight for progress. In order for Cameroon to reach its full potential, all of its citizens will have to receive equal respect, appreciation, love and empathy. This is what ending female genital mutilation in Cameroon will achieve. Only then will Cameroon be able to function as it should domestically and within the international community.

– Trent R Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in YemenFemale genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure that is still being performed in parts of Yemen and is rooted in social concepts of femininity. Female genital mutilation is a practice that is inhumane and has many adverse side effects. In Yemen, 15% of women have been mutilated. However, humanitarian organizations are proactive in alleviating the tradition of female genital mutilation in Yemen by raising awareness.

Cultural Pressures for Women

The justification for female genital mutilation stems from a long-held social belief backed by gender inequality practices. The procedure intends to help maintain a woman’s clean, feminine and virtuous ways. The World Health Organization claims FGM is “associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are clean and beautiful after removal of body parts that are considered unclean, unfeminine and male.”

However, female genitalia mutilation has costly effects for women in both the short term and long term. It is excruciatingly painful in the short term, causing excessive bleeding and urinary problems. In the long term, women experience an increased risk of vaginal cysts, wound infections, menstrual issues, childbirth complications and reoccurring pain.

Although Yemen has outlawed female genital mutilation in medical facilities, it is a practice within homes. The woman of the family usually performs the act using a razor blade or scissors. This usually occurs a few days after a female is born, but records show that girls have undergone the procedure as old as 15. Unfortunately, since FGM is illegal in medical facilities, families cannot provide further care to the girls if it is necessary.

Finding Solutions for Female Genital Mutilation in Yemen

UNICEF estimates that 19% of females in Yemen have experienced female genital mutilation. However, the Yemen Demographic Mother and Child Health Survey of 1997 shows that 48% of Yemen’s population believes it should be against the law.

The resistance to outlaw this practice traces back to a lack of education for young girls. DVV International studies show that 60% of Yemen women are illiterate, while 70% of men know how to read and write.

It will take time and education to criminalize female genitalia mutilation in Yemen to enlighten the practice’s truths. Without a full grasp of the pain of female genitalia mutilation, women cannot understand why the procedure is criminal. By utilizing the community and educational tools, knowledge about female genitalia mutilation will increase and awareness spread.

Raising Awareness for Female Genital Mutilation in Yemen

As said by Moroccan human rights activist Khadija Ryadi on the opposition to outlaw FGM, “This is because these laws require that society prepares for them. Society cannot prepare automatically, as these are the responsibilities of governments and civil organizations. Governments must work harder to change the attitudes, customs, and the inequality of women.”

However, there is a growing awareness of the practice in Yemen. Many women are advocating for laws and regulations to end female genital mutilation. However, there are no other bills within Yemen’s republic that protect women from gender-based violence or child marriage. A 2020 report by 28 Too Many found that since the onset of civil war in 2015, Yemen has seen a 63% rise in violence against women. However, because of the lack of government protection, the women of Yemen are vulnerable.

Looking Ahead

The World Health Organization has made February 6 Zero Tolerance Day for those affected by female genitalia mutilation. This showcases that more than 200 million women worldwide have seen the direct effects of female genital mutilation, thus bringing more attention to the issue. With growing knowledge and awareness around this act of abuse, there will be reform and change.

– Rachel Wolf
Photo: Flickr

Ifrah AhmedAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) refers to “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” The practice is illegal in many countries but still takes place in a number of cultures worldwide. Africa is the leading continent in FGM cases. Although the origin of FGM is hard to pin down, it seems to have cultural roots in the continent.

FGM as a Human Rights Violation

The WHO and United Nations (U.N.) are strongly against FGM practices. WHO cites a number of studies that confirm FGM is deeply harmful to women — psychologically and physically. The U.N. considers FGM a human rights violation because of the long-term physical and mental health effects. However, the practice remains deeply ingrained in many African cultures.

Recently, progress has been made in ending FGM in Somalia and Sudan. However, change has been slow-moving because of the social pressure surrounding the continuation of FGM. Many women who have undergone the process speak out against it. But, because of its deep cultural roots, changing the dialogue around FGM has proven to be a challenge. Despite the difficulties, Jaha Dukureh and Ifrah Ahmed are fighting to end FGM in Africa.

Jaha Dukureh

Jaha Dukureh is a survivor of FGM and child marriage. Dukureh is originally from The Gambia, a country with high percentages of FGM (in 2010, 56% of girls aged 0-14 had undergone FGM). The pain she felt inspired her to start her own non-governmental organization, Safe Hands for Girls. Safe Hands For Girls fights FGM in Africa and works to protect children from forced marriages.

Dukureh played a crucial role in The Gambian government’s ban on FGM and has continued advocating for women in her role as a women’s ambassador to the U.N. For her work, Dukureh became one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world. She was also named one of the 100 most influential African by the New African Magazine. Additionally, she has won a number of human rights awards and has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Ifrah Ahmed

Ifrah Ahmed is a native Somalian. Ireland granted Ahmed asylum after she fled Somalia, where she underwent FGM. Ahmed immediately began speaking out against FGM in Africa. She has created two organizations. One of the organizations, The United Youth of Ireland, helps young immigrants and refugees settle in Ireland, establish businesses and learn about the importance of human rights. Her second organization, called the Ifrah Foundation in Ireland, is dedicated specifically to advocate for the eradication of FGM in Somalia.

Ahmed’s voice, among others, helped to create a formal, legal ban in Ireland in 2012. Ahmed has also participated in the creation of films condemning FGM in Africa that showcase the trauma it causes. She currently works with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Both Jaha Dukureh and Ifrah Ahmed are key figures in fighting Female Genital Mutilation in Africa. With the help of advocacy groups, humanitarian organizations and governmental efforts, countries worldwide can get closer to ending FGM.

– Grace Parker
Photo: Flickr