The 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