Sudan has criminalised female genital mutilation (FGM) and imposed a three-year prison sentence for offenders, according to a newly amended law.
The amendment to the criminal law was approved on 22 April, the Reuters news agency reports.
Sudan is one of the African nations where FGM is believed to be highly prevalent.
The procedure is practised in at least 27 African countries, according to the United Nations Population Fund.
But its has been prohibited in numerous others countries including Kenya, Mauritania, Mali, Liberia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger and Nigeria.
Female Genital Mutilation in Africa
FGM involves the cutting or removal of a female’s external genitalia. It often involves the removal or cutting of the labia and clitoris.
The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. In many settings, health care providers also perform FGM due to the belief that the procedure is safer when medicalized.
The reasons for the practice are complex, but most practice it because of the belief that it is a religious requirement. While some believe that there are medical benefits to it.
What is clear, however, is that Female Genital Mutilation has no known medical benefits to women and girls. In fact, according to the UNFPA, the attendant consequences of FGM are dire. “Complications include severe pain, shock, hemorrhage, tetanus or infection, urine retention, ulceration of the genital region and injury to adjacent tissue, wound infection, urinary infection, fever, and septicemia. Hemorrhage and infection can be severe enough to cause death.”
That said, the general consensus in the international community is that FGM imposes real health consequences, violates a child’s rights, and promotes inequality between the sexes.
Cultural, Religious and Social Factors for Performing FGM
The reasons why FGM is practised today are a mix of cultural, religious and social factors within families and communities. According to WHO, they include:
– Where FGM is a social convention, the social pressure to confirm is a strong motivation to continue the practice.
– FGM is often considered necessary part of raising a girl properly and preparing her for marriage/adulthood.
– FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour.
– FGM is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty.
– Although no religious scripts prescribe the practices, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support. Religious leaders take varying positions with regard to FGM: some promote it, some consider it irrelevant and other contribute to its elimination.
– Local structures of power and authority can continue upholding the practice.
– FGM is often considered a cultural tradition, which is often used as an argument for its continuation.
– In some societies, recent adoption of FGM is linked to copying the traditions of neighbouring groups, or part of a wider religious or traditional revival movement.
More than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated. In addition, every year, an estimated 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation.
For further information: WHO: Female genital mutilation