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Female genital mutilation is on the rise in Africa: disturbing new trends are driving up the numbers

Female genital mutilation is on the rise in Africa: disturbing new trends are driving up the numbers

THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD Salamatu Jalloh had her whole future to look forward to. But in January 2023, her lifeless body was found wrapped in a pink and blue shroud on an earthen floor in a village in northwest Sierra Leone. Salamatu and two other girls bled to death after participating in a secret Bondo society initiation into womanhood. The ceremony, which lasted for several weeks, began with a sense of excitement and anticipation – a rare occasion in this rural community to celebrate girls. But at its core was a violent act: the cutting and removal of the girls’ external genitalia. Their…
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Gambian parliament debates bill to reverse ban on female genital mutilation

Gambian parliament debates bill to reverse ban on female genital mutilation

GAMBIAN lawmakers debated whether to repeal a ban on female genital mutilation, which has been on the rise in recent years despite activist campaigns to end the practice. The small West African nation imposed steep fines and jail sentences in 2015 for those who carry out female circumcision, known by the acronym FGM. The World Health Organization says the practice has no health benefits and can lead to excessive bleeding, shock, psychological problems and even death. Lawmaker Almameh Gibba presented the repeal bill earlier this month, arguing the ban violates citizens' rights to practice their culture and religion. Gambia is…
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Kakenya Ntaiya’s dream is to end a brutal custom. She’s had some unexpected help

Kakenya Ntaiya’s dream is to end a brutal custom. She’s had some unexpected help

AS a young girl growing up in Enoosaen, a rural Maasai village in southwestern Kenya, Kakenya Ntaiya's fate seemed determined from birth. After undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) at puberty, she was expected to stop her education and start life as a married woman. In the Maasai community, female genital mutilation includes the removal of the entire exterior of the clitoris. This usually takes place in the homestead, with the use of a sharp knife or razor. Though the practice is banned in Kenya, many elders continue to consider the practice a prerequisite for the transition from childhood to womanhood.…
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Not just a woman’s issue: the Maasai man fighting to end female genital mutilation in Kenya

Not just a woman’s issue: the Maasai man fighting to end female genital mutilation in Kenya

SHEILA MWALILI, BIRD STORY AGENCY PARSANKA Sayianka grew up in Kenya's Maa community, where female genital mutilation was the norm. In his village of Paranai in Kajiado County, it was customary for girls to drop out of primary school after undergoing "the cut". This is the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), sometimes erroneously referred to as circumcision. These girls would soon be married off in exchange for cows, mostly to older men. "I kept wondering why this had to happen to our girls while their mates from other communities remained in school. I saw how the practice coupled with…
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Victory for Kenyan girls

Victory for Kenyan girls

DOMINIC KIRUI TRIBAL leaders in northern Kenya have pledged to end female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage in their communities, a step hailed by President Uhuru Kenyatta as "an important milestone" in boosting girls' rights. One in five women and girls aged between 15 and 49 in Kenya have undergone FGM, which usually involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia and can cause serious health problems, the United Nations says. Kenya outlawed the widely condemned practice a decade ago, but it continues in some communities such as the semi-nomadic Samburu tribe, who see it as necessary…
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Outrage as Somali parliament drafts law permitting child, forced marriages

Outrage as Somali parliament drafts law permitting child, forced marriages

NITA BHALLA and MOHAMMED OMER SOMALIA's parliament has sparked outrage by replacing long-awaited legislation to protect women and girls from violence with a new bill permitting child and forced marriage. The East African nation has high rates of child marriage and violence against women, including rape and female genital mutilation (FGM). The United Nations says 45% of women are married before 18, while 98% have undergone FGM. In 2018, Somalia's cabinet approved the landmark Sexual Offences bill aimed at criminalising a wide range of forms of gender-based violence including rape, child marriage and sex trafficking. The bill sets out clear…
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Egypt’s cabinet toughens law banning female genital mutilation

Egypt’s cabinet toughens law banning female genital mutilation

MENNA A FAROUK EGYPT’S cabinet has toughened a law banning female genital mutilation (FGM) - imposing jail terms of up to 20 years as part of efforts to stamp out the ancient practice. Nearly 90% of Egyptian women and girls aged between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM, according to a 2016 survey by the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the ritual is practised widely by both Muslims and Christians despite the 2008 ban. Amendments to the FGM law approved by the cabinet on Wednesday include hiking the maximum sentence from the current seven years and banning doctors and other…
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COVID-19 creates ‘fertile ground’ for genital cutting in Africa

COVID-19 creates ‘fertile ground’ for genital cutting in Africa

WHEN Margaret heard the family making plans for her genital cutting ceremony last August, the 15-year-old Kenyan schoolgirl knew there was no room for negotiation. Her school in rural, western Kenya had been closed for five months due to the pandemic, and with no certainty when classes would resume, Margaret's parents decided she should wed. "They wanted me to be cut so I could be married and they would get dowry," Margaret told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from a temporary foster home in West Pokot county, which borders Uganda. "They didn't listen when I told them I wanted…
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Egypt toughens penalties for FGM

Egypt toughens penalties for FGM

MENNA A FAROUK EGYPT has toughened penalties for female genital mutilation (FGM), imposing prison terms of up to 20 years in a push to end the ancient practice. It is the second time Egypt's parliament has cracked down on FGM - which typically involves the removal of a girl's external genitalia - but activists remain sceptical about enforcement in a country where cutting is deep-rooted and widespread. "It's fantastic news that Egypt has strengthened its law on FGM again. However, unless the government takes it seriously this time, nothing is likely to change," Brendan Wynne, co-founder of The Five Foundation…
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