Sudan To Outlaw Female Genital Mutilation

Sudan is all set to ban female genital mutilation (FGM), in a significant move welcomed by campaigners. Anyone found carrying out FGM will face up to three years in prison, according to a document seen by the Guardian.

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Sudan is all set to ban female genital mutilation (FGM), in a significant move welcomed by campaigners. Anyone found carrying out FGM will face up to three years in prison, according to a document seen by the Guardian.

The council of ministers approved the new law on 22 April, but it still needs to be passed by members of the sovereign council, which was created following the ousting of former dictator Omar al-Bashir.
Sudan has one of the highest rates of FGM in the world. According to the UN, 87% of Sudanese women have undergone the practice. Girls are usually cut between the ages of five and 14.

However, because the practice is entrenched in Sudanese culture, activists expect it will take a long time to be eradicated entirely. “There is so much work to be done. This is a start, a good start,” said Fatma Naib, communication officer of the UN children’s agency, Unicef, in Sudan.

FGM involves the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons.

The UN estimates that 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM in 31 countries – 27 of which are in Africa. However, a report published in March said the number could be much higher as the practice is carried out in more than 90 countries, many of which do not collect data.

Genital mutilation is practiced in at least 27 African countries, as well as parts of Asia and the Middle East. Other than Sudan and Egypt, it is most prevalent in Ethiopia, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Djibouti and Senegal, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

“The law will help protect girls from this barbaric practice and enable them to live in dignity,” said Salma Ismail, a spokeswoman in Khartoum for the United Nations Children’s Fund. “And it will help mothers who didn’t want to cut their girls, but felt they had no choice, to say ‘no.’”

Experts warn, however, that a law alone is not sufficient to end the practice, which in many countries is enmeshed with cultural and religious beliefs, considered a pillar of tradition and marriage, and supported by women as well as men.

“This is not just about legal reforms,” Ms. Ismail said. “There’s a lot of work to be done to ensure that society will accept this.”

In Egypt, for instance, genital cutting was banned in 2008 and the law amended in 2016 to criminalize doctors and parents who facilitate the practice, with prison sentences of up to seven years for performing the operation and up to 15 if it results in disability or death.

As global and local campaigns to end the practice have grown in recent years, some communities have slowly begun to turn against genital cutting, which is often seen as a rite of passage in communities of various faiths. In some places, campaigners have come up with alternative initiation ceremonies.

One such program among the Maasai in Kenya, where cutting has been outlawed since 2011, has reportedly helped saved at least 15,000 girls from the practice.

Most Sudanese women undergo what the World Health Organization calls Type III circumcision, an extreme form of the practice in which the inner and outer labia, and usually the clitoris, are removed. The wound is then sewn closed in a practice known as reinfibulation that can cause cysts, lead to painful sex and prevent orgasm.

A violation of rights with no medical justification
 FGM has no health benefits. It can lead to not only immediate health risks, but also to long-term complications to women’s physical, mental and sexual health and well-being.   The practice is recognized internationally as a violation of human rights of girls and women and as an extreme form of gender discrimination, reflecting deep-rooted inequality between the sexes. As it is practiced on young girls without consent, it is a violation of the rights of children. FGM also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.As part of the Sustainable Development Goals, the global community has set a target to abandon the practice of   female genital mutilation by the year 2030.

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