Members of Parliament (MPs) have described the practice of female genital mutilation as inhuman and barbaric, and have called for more stringent measures to deter people from committing such a crime.
This was the general consensus of the various MPs who spoke during the debate in the House when the Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill reached its second reading stage yesterday.
The bill was presented to and read for the first time in the House in July last year and was referred to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration.
The bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code to change the reference “female circumcision to “female genital mutilation” and to widen the scope of the provision to reflect the actual nature of the offence.
The amendment would also widen the scope of responsibility in relation to the offence to include all other accomplices to the practice.
The Member of Parliament for Asuogyaman and chairman of the committee, Mr Kofi Osei-Ameyaw, who presented the report of the committee said the Criminal Offences Act (Act 29) was amended in 1994 to make female circumcision a second degree felony because of the outcry against the cruel nature of the practice.
He said the implementation of the law over the past eight years when the practice was criminalised had revealed a number of shortcomings which tended to undermine its effectiveness.
“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”, he said.
He added that there was therefore the need to amend the law to reflect the actual nature and gravity of the practice and to also robe in all accomplices involved in the crime.
Mr Osei-Ameyaw said the committee observed that the practice of the crime still persisted, even after it had been criminalised, as such erasing female circumcision completely from the country would require more than a legislation.
That was in view of the fact that the practice was considered a condition for successful marriages in communities which had embraced the practice.
He said the committee, therefore recommended that the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and all other relevant state institutions, the media and non-governmental organisations joined in the campaign to rid the practice from the society.
Contributing to the debate, the MP for Berekum, Captain Nkrabea Effah-Dartey, said it was unfortunate that such a crime was being committed in a number of communities in the name of culture.
He called on stakeholders to take a bold action to end the practice from the country once and for all, adding that the four years the amendment sought to propose as penalty was not enough and that it should be increased to 10 years.
“Mr Speaker, this is the only way that will send a signal to the perpetrators about the seriousness of the practice”, he said.
Other MPs who expressed their disgust at the practice of female genital circumcision in the debate that received a bi-partisan support were Mr John Dramani Mahama (Bole/Bamboi) and Mr Emmanuel Kwasi Bandua (Biakoye).
Story by Kweku Tsen
& Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah