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16.10.2008 Feature Article

Okyenhene Is Right On Target!

The Okyenhene's call for the vigorous prosecution of any traditional ruler, or authority, who unconscionably promotes the criminally regressive practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) could not be more opportune. Such call also, quite obviously, gives even greater credibility and credence to the Osagyefo's laudable and acclaimed campaign against predatory degradation of our environment, particularly regarding the imperative need for the preservation of our forestry resources.

But that FGM, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) correspondent who first reported the foregoing story called the practice Female Sexual Mutilation (FSM), is an issue that ought not to be ignored, under any circumstances, was fast driven home to me, and I suppose also to all frontline advocates of human rights, when the question was brought to the floor of Ghana's parliament for debate not very long ago.

Back then, what more than rankled me was to read a story about one National Democratic Congress Member of Parliament (NDC-MP) from the northern-half of the country, where the practice is quite prevalent, vehemently railing against the need to toughen penalties imposed on adamant and recalcitrant subscribers to the practice, largely male relatives of the victims.

If I recall correctly, the original penalty for scofflaw practitioners of FGM was pegged at 10 years of imprisonment, or an incarceration term of that order. And the reason for the NDC-MP's objection? That members of the august House of the Ghanaian parliament needed to be more culturally sensitive to those indigenous Ghanaian cultures that routinely recognized the practice. I would not in the least bit be averse to having this smug primitivist being cannon-foddered at the Teshie Military Range.

And then recently, Hajjia Alima Mahama, the Minister for Children and Women's Affairs, was widely lambasted in the Ghanaian media for, allegedly, suggesting that the swiftest and most effective method for stanching the savage practice of FGM, was to educate potential suitors against marrying genitally mutilated women. And it goes without saying that Hajjia Alima Mahana, a lawyer by profession, knew exactly what she was talking about, if, indeed, what she had been quoted as suggesting was accurate. For not only does Ms. Mahama hail from the North, where the practice of FGM is unpardonably prevalent, she had also, one aptly and readily imagined, experienced enough gender discrimination in order for her to fully appreciate what it meant for women to be permanently maimed for the sadistic and exclusive sexual gratification of clinically addled men.

Of course, there is a strong case to be made in favor of victims of FGM, In other words, one may aptly disagree with the stance taken by Hajjia Alima Mahama, which would simply be that it is grossly remiss for any victim of Female Genital Mutilation to be doubly punished for an unprovoked crime perpetrated against her and against which crime the victim was too vulnerable and defenseless to forestall.

Still, viewed from the perspective of a well-educated northern-born woman like Ms. Mahama, the acute frustration motivating the Minister's proposal for wholesale – or massive – conjugal boycotting of women who have been criminally subjected to genital mutilation cannot be readily or lightly ignored.

For my part, as one who have dated and also had a child by a non-Ghanaian continental African-born woman who underwent this odious practice, I can readily vouch for the unremitting criminality of the practice, particularly vis-à-vis the negative toll that it invariably takes on conjugal harmony. Even more culpable is the dangerous toll that FGM indisputably takes on the health of the victim, particularly when it comes to reproduction or child birth. I have also had a remarkable number of West African women who have suffered FGM appeal to me, in the recent past, to highlight this patently criminal infringement on the human rights of women in my considerable journalistic fare.

Ultimately, what major traditional Ghanaian rulers and authorities like Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori-Panyin II, the Okyenhene, can do to effectively help root out the practice, is to launch a vigorous campaign in the Zongo enclaves of their states and kingdoms in order to send a strong signal to the unconscionable practitioners of FGM, that the latter practice unpardonably militates against the sort of cross-cultural peaceful coexistence that ought to prevail within our multi-nation. For, it cannot be gainsaid that a significant percentage of crude and life-threatening FGM operations do occur in the southern-half of our country.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of 18 books, including “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Atumpan Publications/lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: [email protected]
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2008

The author has 4800 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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