Hidden wounds

Female genital mutilation and excision (FGM/E) is on the rise in Guinea, says a new report issued by the UN Human Rights Office.

The practice consists in the partial or total ablation of the external parts of the female sexual organ. Although the practice is decreasing around the world, it is still firmly anchored in the customs and traditions in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East. The World Health Organization estimates that 130-140 million girls and women alive today have endured some form of genital mutilation and more than 30 million girls will be forced to suffer the practice in the coming decade.

In Guinea, according to UNICEF, 97 percent of women and girls aged 15-49 have had the practice inflicted on them. The small West African country holds the second highest global prevalence rate after Somalia.

Excision is usually performed by traditional practitioners, often women, who use the same unsterilized knives or razor-blades to cut several girls at a time, without anaesthesia or modern hygiene and often exposing them to infection. Recent awareness campaigns have emphasized the health risks linked to FGM/E, which has paradoxically encouraged greater medicalization of the practice rather than its eradication.

FGM/E involves multiple violations of the human rights of girls and women; it is prohibited under several binding international conventions and the Maputo protocol of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Guinea is party.

“The persistence of FGM/E is in large part due to an absence of vigorous action by judicial authorities to ensure their prevention and eradication,” the report says. “Thousands of young girls are excised across the country every year, during school vacations, with the full knowledge of judicial personnel including prosecutors and instructing magistrates.”

The reports further points out that non-excision of girls is considered dishonourable in Guinean society, and social pressure leads to a fear of being excluded or forced to remain unmarried if they do not suffer the practice.

The report makes several recommendations to the Government, NGOs and the international community to enhance the fight against FGM/E. In particular, it calls on the authorities to ensure the full respect and enforcement of all relevant legislation, with independent and impartial investigation of every suspected case of FGM/E, and the prosecution of perpetrators and their accomplices.

28 April 2016


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