Senegal determined to eliminate female genital mutilation
afrol News, 29 October - The Senegalese government has embarked on a campaign to eliminate the harmful tradition of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the country within the next four years. An estimated 20 percent of Senegalese
women undergo the practice.
Senegalese officials officially launched the new plan on Friday in the regional capital Tambacounda, an area where the practice is pervasive. The government plan puts weight on community awareness campaigns to provoke cultural changes. Information campaigns, where special attention is given to health risks following FGM, are to be intensified. Research on the topic will also be enhanced.
The government passed legislation banning the practice of FGM in January 1999, but this has not been followed up until recently. It has however helped NGO campaigners, which have had notable successes in Senegal.
The first prosecution of FGM performers in Senegal was conducted two years ago in Tambacounda, but have since then been few in number. This week, however, eight women and five old men in the Kolda district were arrested by Senegalese authorities for "circumcising" more than 20 young girls. The young girls were reportedly aged between two and five years.
Despite the government ban, FGM, which is practised by the Fulani and Mandingo peoples, but not by the Wolof majority people, does not seem to have diminished significantly. Critics of the ban claim government campaigning has been too lax and the risk of being prosecuted has been too small.
The new government programme, which is supported by UNICEF, however seems to have these strengths. The campaign was opened successfully by the public announcement of some 101 villages in the Tambacounda region, they would abandon the practice. A declaration was read by the villagers, referring to the health risks of the practice.
Earlier, other communities have made similar announcements. All the villages had participated in a training programme organised by TOSTAN and UNICEF. The government also had launched a widespread media campaign before presenting the plan.
Infibulation, the most extreme and dangerous form of FGM, is practiced by the Toucouleur and Fulani peoples. Infibulation includes the excision of a part or the entire external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening. Hygienic conditions surrounding the practice and following haemorrhage and/or infections cause a relative high death toll.
Sources: UNICEF, Senegalese govt., press reports and
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