afrol News, 1 October - The Burkinabe government reports that the harmful and outlawed practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is "beginning to be punished effectively" throughout the country. Forced marriages however still continued to escape punishment, it regretted.
The government of Burkina Faso presented its second periodic report about the rights of the child to the UN human rights agency (UNHCHR), which was discussed today. The report, among other things treats the outlawed practices of FGM and forced marriages of young girls, which traditionally are widespread in the country.
Mariam Lamizana, Burkinabe Minister of Social Action, said that her government had achieved results in its efforts to implement the laws against FGM and forced marriage. However, widespread poverty and the lack of national and international financial resources had put constraints on its progress.
With regard to punishment under the Penal Code for forced marriage and female genital mutilation, the Burkinabe government report says that despite the efforts made, "forced marriages will continue to escape punishment because of the widespread conspiracy of silence, especially in rural areas, which makes it impossible to report."
Female genital mutilation was however beginning to be punished effectively. For instance, seven practitioners were currently being held in the Ouagadougou short-stay prison and another was sentenced to three month's imprisonment.
It is estimated that over 60 per cent of women are mutilated and there had unfortunately been "no signs of significant changes in behaviour as a result of the campaign against this harmful traditional practice," the report says.
Conventional campaigns to bring home the damaging effects of forced marriages and female genital mutilation had a limited reach "given that 78 percent of the population is illiterate." Education for girls was however on the rise: from a school enrolment of 26.1 percent in 1992 to 32.2 percent in 1997, Minister Lamizana said.
The Burkinabe government made great efforts to maintain dialogue with and organise workshops for traditional leaders over the FGM issue. "Public debates are also an important way to raise awareness, given that access to information is a crucial problem in a country where many people can neither read nor afford to buy a television," Mrs Konsirbo of the Burkinabe delegation pointed out.
Burkina Faso has prohibited the practice of early and forced marriages in the country. People are also encouraged to report any such acts to the authorities. Any breach of the relevant article of the Penal Code can entail a 6-month to 2-year long imprisonment and the penalty can be aggravated if the victim in the forced marriage was a minor. There were however few court cases to refer to.
The evaluating experts of the UNHCHR particularly told Minister Lamizana that the situation of female genital mutilation was an aspect "to which the attention of the authorities should be drawn."
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