- Djiboutian authorities have been asked to conquer poverty and ignorance if they want their country to "win the struggle against the age-old Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C).
In her speech at the launch of a five-yer national plan of action aimed at accelerating the abandonment of the deeply-rooted culture, Djibouti's First Lady, Mrs Kadra Mahmoud Haid, said there is a strong correlation between the high prevalence of FGM/C and high levels of poverty in the country.
“We must ensure the education of the girl child, if we are to eliminate the plight of FGM/C in this country,” Mrs. Haid urged.
Although a 1995 law prohibits the practice of FGM/C, 9 out of 10 women aged 15 – 49 years have been cut thus making Djibouti one of the countries with the highest prevalence rates of FGM/C in the world.
Describing the practice as a manifestation of gender inequalities, the First Lady believed that "abandonment of the FGM/C will therefore contribute to the empowerment of women; improvement of maternal health and reduction of child mortality."
For Mrs. Margaret Thuo, a Technical Advisor of UNFPA in New York, the practice is "a form of torture which causes significant and irreversible damage to the physical, psychological and mental health of a large number of women and girls. “It is one of the most devastating human rights violations that are hidden from view."
“Since communities associate FGM/C with myths surrounding traditions, spirituality, and gender, and collectively enforce this practice, they themselves must take collective decisions to stop the practice,” Mrs. Thuo said.
Djiboutian Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dr. Hamoud Abdi Souldan, said FGM/C is a socio-cultural phenomenon with no basis in the Holy Koran. He urged doctors and Islamic scholars to collaborate in sensitizing their communities on the negative effects of the practice.
The practice involves the removal of little or all of the clitoris, mutilation of the genital areas (labour minora and manjora) and infibulation. Apart from putting the lives of women at risk, especially during labour, the practice also causes severe bleeding, stomach complications and even death.
Infibulation is the most common type in Djibouti. Most women who underwent infibulation risk spend stay too long during labour mainly because of lack of elasticity of the excised tissue.
The World Health Organization estimates that between 100 to 140 million have been subjected to FGM/C in 28 countries in Africa and in immigrant communities in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and Europe. Recent evidence shows that FGM/C is also being practiced in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Yemen.
Djibouti is the first of eight beneficiaries in Africa of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme and Trust Fund for the elimination of FGM/C in a generation. It is also the first to launch a national campaign to eliminate FGM/C.
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