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08.06.2007 General News

Parliament “supports” lesser punishment for FGM


Parliament has voted to support a counter amendment to a clause to deal humanely with practitioners of female genital mutilation (FGM).

The question of whether to deal harshly with practitioners of FGM or not took centre stage last week with divisions over what was a suitable jail sentence for offenders.

Some members had called for a minimum of five and maximum of 10 years jail sentences for offenders, while others said the degrading cultural practice could result in death and pressed for a minimum of 10 and maximum of 25 years to deter the practitioners and accomplices of FGM.

The Speaker, Mr Ebenezer Sekyi Hughes, had ruled that the proposed amendment for stiffer punishment be looked at again and stepped down the proposal for further consultation and consensus.

The matter came up last Wednesday, when the Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Committee, Mr Kofi Osei-Ameyaw, moved an amendment proposing that a four-year jail sentence be deleted and substituted with 10 years as minimum sentence and 10 years be replaced with 25, as maximum for offence of the Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill.

Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, (NDC-Tamale South) disagreed and moved a counter amendment for a minimum of five and maximum of 10 years, saying countries were moving from custodial sentences, besides there was the need to focus on reformation of offenders and therefore the 10-25 years was too violent.

The Bill was being taken through the Consideration Stage and it seeks to amend the Criminal Code to change the reference female circumcision to female genital mutilation to widen the scope of the actual nature of the offence and alter the scope of responsibility to include all other accomplices to the practice.

When the House visited the issue again on Friday, it was still divided with arguments from Mr Osei-Ameyaw, who quoted article 15, saying, the dignity of all persons shall be inviolable.

He also quoted article 26(2), which says all customary practices, which dehumanises or are injurious to the physical and mental well-being of a person are prohibited.

He said a severe punishment was in order to put an end to the dehumanizing practice comparable to rape and defilement.

Mr. Alban Bagbin, Minority leader and Mr Abraham Ossei-Aidooh, Deputy Majority Leader, were, however of the view that although FGM was a serious crime, education of the practitioners was in order and called for lesser sentences.

Source: GNA