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LIST: 6 African Countries Who Have Made Significant Progress In The Combat Against FGM

Outgone Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, with only 48 hours before leaving office as the then president of Liberia, officially issued an Executive Order demanding to protect women against domestic violence and completely abolishing female genital mutilation against girls below the age of 18.

This order, which has been greeted with much excitement from people in the country, particularly women, comes as other African countries make strides to end what many have described as a barbaric act.

FGM victim undergoing the barbaric practice

A recent UN report pegged the number of victims of female genital mutilation around the world at 200 million.

Women and girls have had to live with the consequences of having their sexual organs forcibly mutilated. Many of them have since been suffering from fistula, maternal mortality, child mortality, infection from Aids and typhus, and post-traumatic stress.

However, behind that figure of about 200 million lies some progress: In nearly every country, the percentage of girls who have had the procedure has decreased.

And, all these achievements by the various African countries could not have been met without the support of NGOs, public officers, and other government actions.

Here are six African countries that have made progress so far to end the practice.

Egypt

The country banned all forms of female genital mutilation since 2007. It declared as ‘prohibited for any doctors, nurses, or any other person to carry out any cut of, flattening or modification of any natural part of the female reproductive system’.

Previously, girls underwent such procedure for health reasons. A 2013 UNICEF report stated that Egypt had the highest number of women and girls who had had FGM procedures: 27.2 million. However, the figure seems to be going down following interventions made by bodies like the UNDP and other partners in Egypt.

The country even had its first trial against the practice in November 2014. Two men involved were acquitted but the doctor was ordered to pay the girl’s mother compensation. But in 2015, after an appeal, the doctor was sentenced to more than two years in prison. The father was also sentenced to three months in prison.

Kenya

The country, in 2001, enacted the Children’s Act, under the provisions of which FGM was criminalized when practised on girls younger than 18.

The practice was subsequently made illegal nationwide in September 2011. The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) estimated the national prevalence of FGM to be 21% among women age 15-49.

This figure was a reduction from 27% in the 2008/09 survey and 32 percent in the 2003 survey.

Central African Republic

In 2010, WHO gave the prevalence of FGM in the Central African Republic at 24.2% in 2010. A survey from 2000 found FGM was prevalent in 36% of women. This is a decline over the 1994 survey, which reported 43%. Thanks to the president, in 1996, an Ordinance prohibiting FGM throughout the country was issued. It has the force of national law. Any violation of the Ordinance is punishable by imprisonment of between one month and one day to two years. A fine of 5,100 to 100,000 francs (approximately US$8–160) would also be imposed on those who go against the ordinance.

Ghana

Ghana’s Minister for Gender and Social Protection, Otiko Afisa-Djaba, in November 2017 stated that the government was making headway in its fight against FGM.

The Ghana News Agency (GNA), in 2013, reported an increase in cases of the practice even though the practice has been criminalized in Ghana by Act 484 in 1994.

According to the GNA, a UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster (MICS) puts “FGM at 3.8 per cent for women between 15 to 49 years and four per cent for the most recent survey of 2011.”

The current Gender Minister has, however, blamed the situation on cross-border migration. She added that the government of Ghana is ensuring that perpetrators of FGM are made to face the law, adding that support systems have been put in place for victims.

“After condemning and criminalizing it, we support and put in services in the communities for sensitization, for counselling, and how we can abandon the practices,” she said.

Senegal

The Demographic and Health Survey (EDS-MICS) 2014 has stated that the prevalence of circumcision is 25% among women aged 15-49 years. There is, however, a disparity in the southern regions – South East (69%) and the North (30%) West (17%) and Central (6%).

Senegal passed its first law making FGM illegal in 1999. The law also modified the country’s Penal Code to make the practice a criminal act, punishable by a sentence of up to five years in prison. But there were still reported cases of the act being practised behind the scenes. So, in 2005, Senegal went a step further and ratified the Maputo Protocol, which advocates for women’s rights and an end to the practice of FGM.

Senegal is now hoping to arrive at a total abandonment of the practice through a national action plan.

The Gambia

Former iron-fisted leader Yahya Jammeh banned FGM in the Gambia and set steep fines and up to life imprisonment for those taking part in the ancient ritual.

A month after his promise to end the practice which brought about lifelong health complications, the country’s parliament passed a bill criminalizing FGM in 2015.

Before the bans, about 75 percent of girls in the Gambia were cut and 30 percent married before the age of 18, UNICEF said.

But one year after Gambia’s iron-fisted leader Yahya Jammeh flew into exile, residents of the tiny West African nation are reportedly facing a resurgence in FGM as the new president, Adama Barrow, who ousted Jammeh seems to have given them some freedom. The president is yet to come clear on the reports.

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