Friday, 10 February 2017

Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation by Eunice Maasodong

February 6 marks International day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The objective of the day is to call international, regional, national and community attention to efforts needed to free women and girls from the adverse effects of FGM. The Day is also to accelerate actions towards its total elimination. FGM refers to any practice that involves partial or total removal or alteration of the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons. By a conservative estimation, about four million women and girls are subjected to FGM worldwide annually. Currently, about 133 million women and girls have experienced FGM in 29 African countries including Ghana and the Middle East where the harmful practice is most common.

Experts have argued that FGM exposes women and girls to a wide range of health issues. They include severe emotional and physical trauma, risks in maternal and reproductive health, sexual health , childbirth complications, infertility, risk of contracting tetanus, HIV/AIDS mental health and possible death through loss of blood. One may ask, why should people still hold on to such gruesome practice which has no benefit at all? Some people believe it is a tradition passed on to them by their ancestors and they cannot let go. Others say it is a religious requirement and in certain quarters FGM is to prevent girls from becoming promiscuous.

Though many women around the world today are against FGM on grounds of the violation of human right, mental problems, the practice is still going on. FGM is now a world wide problem due to migration. No wonder the United Nations General Assembly at its 67th meeting banned FGM worldwide. Last week a Conference on the global ban on FGM took place in Rome and was attended by Ministers, Parliamentarians and Civil Society Organisations. The conference saw the need for regional and international legal instruments and national legislation to help the campaign for Zero Tolerance for FGM.

Ghana is lucky to have a law banning the practice of FGM that notwithstanding a survey conducted by UNICEF in 2011 indicate that FGM prevalence rate in the country still stands at four percent. People find it difficult to believe this figure which gives an indication that FGM still exist in the country. A clear example is that two years ago, a 14 year old girl suffered FGM at Brohani in the Brong Ahafo Region. FGM is a violation of women's rights and should be condemned and treated with all the seriousness it deserves. The Ghanaian Association for Women's Welfare, GAWW, is playing a lead role to eliminate FGM but more needs to done.

Officials at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection should collaborate with other stakeholders especially the Ghanaian Association for Women's Welfare to intensify educational programmes in the communities because FGM is a deep rooted custom. With the passage of the law on FGM in 1994, the public seed to know records of any arrests, convictions or an independent study to show how the legislative piece has helped in the fight against FGM. Africa is a land of rich culture. It abounds with cultural beliefs and tradition, some are good but many are harmful to women and children. The good ones should be improved upon, while the bad ones like FGM must be stopped, after all culture is dynamic. FGM is a health issue and cannot be over looked as far as the Sustainable Development Goals are concerned.

As we mark the International day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, let us not forget that FGM is still with us in Ghana and all hands must be on deck to eradicate it.


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