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22.05.2007 General News

Fight against FGM should not be left for women alone, Says Ethiopian gender activist

By daily Expreess-Nii Kwaku Osabutey ANNY

An Ethiopian gender activist Emebet Mulugeta says the fight to end the Female Genital Mutilation menace should not be left in the hands of women alone.

Speaking to the dailyEXPRESS in an interview Dr. Mulugeta, who was a resource person at a capacity building workshop for women, said the practice continue to claim the lives of many teenage girls, and this calls for a more proactive effort in putting an end to it.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the practice comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons.
The most common type of female genital mutilation is excision of the clitoris and the labia minora, accounting for up to 80% of all cases while the most extreme form is infibulations, which constitutes about 15% of all procedures.
Statistics indicate that most of the girls and women who have undergone genital mutilation live in 28 African countries, although some live in Asia and the Middle East. They are also increasingly found in Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA, primarily among immigrants from these countries.
The number of girls and women who have undergone female genital mutilation according to researchers, is estimated between 100 and 140 million. It is again estimated that each year, a further 2 million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM.
Dr. Emebet Mulugeta hopes a sustained education and awareness creation among women folks, especially in rural areas where the practice is prevalent, could finally eliminate the practice and save the most vulnerable girls who undergo the pain and agony of FGM from it.
According to her, despite the numerous arguments put forward by the practitioners that the practice preserves the woman's virginity before marriage and fidelity during marriage, and also increasing the male sexual pleasure, such arguments are “baseless and unfounded”.
She added that most even loose their lives during the circumcision period while others too die during child birth.
Though statistics are lacking as to the number of people who loose their lives as a result of the practice, one Gambian doctor who has over 20 years experience in medicine and later became the regional director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) documented that, between 300 and 400 women loose their lives during childbirth every year from complications attributed to removal of the clitoral hood together with part or all of the labia minora (the inner vaginal lips).
Health experts opposed to FGM say the psychosexual and psychological health damage caused to the victim is normally incalculable. The practice, they argue, may leave a lasting mark on the life and mind of the woman who has undergone it. The victim may also suffer feelings of incompleteness, anxiety and depression.
It would be recalled that individuals and organizations have in the past called for an end to the practice, urging respective governments in Africa and elsewhere to ensure that those who indulge in the practice are severely punished.
A joint statement by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund, and the United Nations Population Fund issued in 1997 confirmed the unacceptable harm caused by female circumcision, and issued an unqualified call for the elimination of this practice in all its forms.
While noting that female genital mutilation continues as a deeply rooted traditional practice, the statement maintains that culture is in constant flux, capable of adapting and reforming.
The statement added that “the clear position of the three agencies is thus presented in the hope that this harmful practice will end when people understand the severe health consequences and indignity it inevitably causes.”
Touching on the issue of gender disparity in societies, Dr Emebet Mulugeta says it's unfortunate that despite the contributions of women in the social, economic and political life of their respective countries, they still face marginalization.
She also called for a greater sensitization and awareness creation among rural women in order for them to appreciate the need to fight for their rights.
The week long capacity building workshop was organised by the International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) with support from the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), Ghana.