Female Genital Mutilation in SudanAlthough six African states issued legislation to prohibit female genital mutilation, the north African state of Sudan was lagging behind in these efforts. Female genital mutilation ( FGM) was illegal in some Sudanese states but the bans were widely ignored. Under the leadership of Omar al-Bashir, parliament rejected recommendations to ban the practice.

Female Genital Mutilation

FGM is defined as procedures that deliberately alter or cause injury to female genital organs. It is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and adolescence and occasionally performed on adult women. These procedures are nonmedical and provide no health benefits, only harm to the female. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, therefore, it interferes with the natural functions of the female body.

The reasons behind FGM vary between regions due to a mix of sociocultural factors. The procedure is routinely executed by a midwife without anesthesia. There are four types of FGM. Type one is the partial or total removal of the clitoris. Type two is the removal of the clitoris and inner labia. Type three is the removal of all the external genitalia or narrowing of the vaginal opening. Type four is any other type of damage to the female genitalia, such as burning, scraping or piercing.

Females experience either short-term or long-term effects. The short-term effects include severe pain, excessive bleeding (hemorrhage), genital tissue swelling, fever, infections, wound healing issues. The more dangerous and life-altering long-term effects include urinary problems, menstrual problems, increased risk of childbirth complications, the need for later surgeries or psychological problems.

According to UNICEF, 87% of Sudanese women aged between 14 and 49 have undergone a form of FGM. FGM is also more prevalent among the poorest women.

Actions to End Female Genital Mutilation

In 2008, the National Council of Child Welfare and UNICEF joined together to launch the Saleema Initiative, which focused on abandoning FGM at a community level.  The initiative educated women about the health risks and encouraged females to say no to the procedure.

Additionally, the United Nations General Assembly took action in 2012 by calling on the international community to enhance efforts to end FGM. In 2015, the global community agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include a target under Goal 5 to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation by 2030.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is addressing the issue by implementing guidelines, tools, training and policy to allow healthcare providers the opportunity to offer medical care and counseling to females suffering the effects of FGM.  The WHO also aims at generating knowledge to encourage the abandonment of the FGM procedures. One final measure by the WHO is increased advocacy through publications and tools for policymakers.

Criminalizing Female Genital Mutilation in Sudan

In May 2020, the Sudanese Government criminalized FGM and made it punishable by up to three years in prison. But, experts remain concerned that a law is not sufficient in ending the practice due to religious and cultural ties to the procedure.

The sociocultural and religious ties surrounding female genital mutilation in Sudan complicate attempts to end the practice. Criminalizing FGM in Sudan may not be enough to end the practice. The National Council of Child Welfare, UNICEF, the United Nations General Assembly and the WHO are taking major steps to eliminate FGM or assist those already affected by the practice.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

Good News Amid the Refugee Ban Rollout
The number of refugees around the world is at an all-time high. There are currently 22.5 million people seeking refuge from their home countries. Fifty-five percent of these refugees hail from only three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan. Most of these refugees are women and children. Children alone make up about half of all the world’s refugees. The Supreme Court’s approval of the refugee ban is bad news for these millions of people, but there is still good news in the way the ban is being rolled out.

Since his days on the campaign trail, President Trump has promised to make entry into the United States difficult for refugees. However, the road to a total blockade of all refugees has been a rocky one. President Trump originally signed Executive Order 13769 on January 27. The order initially intended to reduce the number of annual refugees from 100,000 to 50,000, suspend the U.S Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days and temporarily ban all Syrian refugees. The travel ban was met with mass protests at airports across the country and challenges from numerous judges. Amid this backlash, the Trump administration eased and then suspended the ban in March. It was not until June 26 that the Supreme Court finally approved Executive Order 13780, a revised version of the ban.

The revised travel ban is not as stringent as its predecessor, but it still suspends all refugee resettlement in the U.S. for 120 days. The good news amid the refugee ban is that only a week after it was approved, it already faces obstacles. The cut-off date for all refugee entry into the United States may be pushed back. Estimates project that it could take at least an extra week before the ban actually goes into effect.

The same legal challenges that initially plagued the first executive order persist in the face of the refugee ban. Immigrant, refugee and human rights groups are all pushing back against the ban. Federal judges have also issued challenges to the legality of the ban and the ambiguity of its interpretation. The guidelines allow for the entry of refugees with a “bona fide relationship” to “close family” in the U.S. The blurry lines of “close family” ties and “bona fide relationships” have complicated the implementation of the ban in U.S. embassies. All of these challenges offer points of hope for refugees.

The worldwide refugee crisis is dire and the refugee ban only threatens to worsen the situation. However, even as the order goes into effect, there is still hope for the many refugees who wish to resettle in the United States.

Bret Anne Serbin

Photo: Flickr