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29.05.2007 General News

FGM accomplices to face tougher law


Parliament has debated the merits of a bill that seeks to change the reference "female circumcision" to female genital mutilation to widen the scope of the offence after a motion was moved for the Second Reading of the bill.

The Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill seeks to widen the scope of the offence to reflect the actual nature of the offence and responsibility to include all accomplices to the practice.

The Criminal Offences Act 1960 (Act 29) was amended in 1994 to provide for female circumcision as second degree felony due to public outcry against the cruel practice.

Implementation of the law over the past eight years when the practice was criminalized, however, reveal a number of shortcomings which tend to undermine its effectiveness.

A report of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs said: "The current state of the law exempts a number of accomplices to this criminal practice from prosecution and also narrows the scope of the actual nature of the practice."

It said there was therefore, the need to amend the law to reflect the actual nature and gravity of the practice and also robe in all accomplices to the crime.

According to the report, the committee observed continual practice of female circumcision in some parts of the country even after criminalizing the act.

It indicated that changing the offence to a second degree felony, gave cause for concern, particularly because of associated health hazards.

"During its public hearings in the Upper West, Upper East, and Northern regions (the three Northern regions), the committee noted that the practice is deeply rooted in cultural belief and practices. The committee observed that the continuous practice of this criminal act in the name of cultural belief and practice cannot be justified in the light of constitutional guarantee of human rights,” the report said.

It said: “The committee has examined closely the object and purpose of the bill in the light of provisions of the constitution, the Criminal Offences Act and the concerns it noted in its interaction with the section of the public during its hearings on the bill."

The report said the committee was of the considered view that, they were necessary and appropriate for the furtherance of the ends of justice and accordingly recommended it to the House for passage.

It was expected that the bill would be taken through the consideration stage for a winnowing process before going through the Third Reading for passage.

Source: GNA