NEWS COMMENTARY ON ZERO TOLERANCE FOR FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (FGM) DAY – 6TH FEBRUARY
Another milestone of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, day is with us again. The day is celebrated globally as part of the UN efforts to eradicate FGM. The day is also to accelerate action towards its total elimination to free women and girls from the adverse effects of the practice. Some find it difficult to believe that such an outmoded cultural practice still exists. FGM refers to any practice that involves partial or total removal or alteration of the external female genital organ for non-medical reasons. Studies show that an estimated 100 to 140 million women and girls in the world have undergone some form of FGM and two million girls are at risk from the practice each year. Parts of the Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Brong Ahafo, Volta Region and some Zongo Communities in urban centres of the country are notable places where the practice still goes on. It is clear that the adoption of this cultural practice has not served any good purpose. A culture that violates the rights of the people is not worth practicing.
The Ghanaian Association for Women’s Welfare, GAWW through its advocacy and sensitization at the grassroots has helped to reduce the practice to four percent as at 2011. It is however regrettable that the practice still takes place under cover despite the numerous campaigns and education over the years. Experts say FGM exposes women and girls to a wide range of health issues. They include severe emotional and physical trauma, risks in maternal and reproductive health, sexual health, risk of contracting tetanus, blood poisoning, HIV and AIDS, obstetric fistula, mental health and possible death through loss of blood. The practice appears to be so endemic in some communities that it has been perceived as almost a norm. It is deeply embedded in some societies to the extent that it is regarded as a traditional identity. And this is where one sees the eradication of FGM as a daunting task. It was so surprising that last year, the United Kingdom reported an FGM case where a three-year-old girl of Ghanaian descent was mutilated and almost lost her life. The UK Home office could not bear it and had to write to find out what Ghana government is doing to eliminate the practice. As a nation, we need to adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to eliminate FGM. Ending FGM is in accordance with Article 5 of the Protocol on the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Rights of women in Africa. Article 26 clause 2 of the Constitution prohibits all customary practices that dehumanize or are injurious to the physical and mental well-being of a person”. The Ghanaian Association for Women’s Welfare championed the institution of a law on FGM in 1994 and its amendment in 2007, but one would ask how effective is the law? The new law provides for an imprisonment, fine or both for the circumciser and those who request, incite or promote the exercise by providing money, goods or moral support. The law has however made some communities to resort to other methods like the pressing of the girl child’s clitoris with hot water and shea butter to prevent the clitoris from growing. The situation persists due to gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls. FGM constitutes an extreme form of social control over women bodies particularly their sexuality, denying them the most basic form of autonomy.
Eradicating the practice must be one of the priorities of government, civil society and international organizations worldwide. FGM is a serious health issue that cannot be overlooked as far as the Sustainable Development Goal 5 is concerned. Government and international agencies should support GAWW which is playing lead roles in sensitizing people in the communities. Some traditional leaders fear not reaching their ancestors if they allow the practice to die during their reign. In some quarters it is a religious requirement and most people believe that FGM will prevent girls from becoming promiscuous. As we mark the International Day on Zero Tolerance of FGM let us not forget that the practice is still with us and must not be tolerated. All hands must be on deck to eradicate it. Say NO to FGM in Ghana.
BY: EUNICE MAASODONG, A JOURNALIST.