September 13, 2013

Member of Parliament (MP) for Tumu in the Upper West Region, Ms Alijata Sulemana, has called for a more concerted effort by all stakeholders to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the country.

She said FGM continued to cause serious havoc to the lives of many married women, who were either losing their marriages or were experiencing stalled marriages due to their inability to meet their conjugal obligations.

In an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) on the sidelines of a workshop held in Accra, Ms Sulemana said being a victim of FGM herself, she had been encountering many marital challenges right through child-birth as well as meeting her conjugal rights as a wife, adding that she was more prepared to openly join the campaign to eliminate the practice in Ghana.

“I even wanted to give birth to five children but had to stop at three because of the many serious complications and pains I go through during delivery,” she told the GNA.

“FGM is never a good thing, it breaks homes – the most sensitive thing that will make a woman have sexual contact with her husband is taken out during the FGM process,” the MP said.

Madam Sulemana said all efforts must, therefore, be put in place to ensure that the practice was eliminated totally from the society, adding that various educational and social awareness programmes should be embarked upon to sensitize the people on the dangers and harmful effects of FGM on women.

FGM has been described as the most dangerous and degrading surgical procedure that women and girls are made to endure in the name of tradition, which unfortunately has been on the increase in the three northern regions and the Brong Ahafo Region as well as some Zongo communities in urban centres.

The current prevalence rate of FGM in Ghana is four per cent, a UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2011 has revealed.

In 2007, the MICS puts FGM at 3.8 per cent for women between 15 and 49 years.

The procedure of FGM is done in three various forms with the first type called clitoridectomy and involves the excision of the clitoris. The second type known as excision is where the clitoral hood, the clitoris itself and the labia minora are removed altogether.

The third known as infibulations or pharonic type involves the total removal of the clitoris, the hood, the labia minora and the labia majora so as to expose flesh for the stitching together of two sides of the vulva to cover the urethra and the entrance of the vagina.

While the first two types are widely practiced in several African countries including Ghana, Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso Ethiopia, Egypt and Kenya, the infibulations is practiced in few north-eastern states of Nigeria.

In some practicing communities, FGM is performed in the first two weeks after birth, before the third month; between four and ten years; during adolescence or before marriage.

Some also do it during woman’s first pregnancy and even just before women were delivered of their first babies

Mrs Afua Ansre, Representative of United Nations Women, said FGM had no medical reasons but unfortunately, 18 per cent of FGM were performed by medical doctors in some countries.

She said the practice, a deep–rooted tradition, was a human right issue against girls and women, therefore, the 2012 United Nations Resolution 67/146 on FGM entitled: “Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation” has come to mandate all countries to put in measures at eliminating the practices.

The Resolution urges member countries to condemn all harmful practices that affect women and girls, in particular FGM, and to take the necessary measures including enforcing legislation, advocacy, awareness raising and especially, allocating sufficient resources to the implementation of policies and programmes aimed at eliminating FGM by engaging all parts of society.

Mrs Ansre said instead of the myth that FGM prepared the woman for marriage and childbirth, it rather caused severe pain, bleeding, urinary detention and open sour that placed life time consequences on the victims, thereby increasing risk of childbearing complications.

Ghana’s Criminal Code Amendment Act 2007 Act 741, according to Mrs Benita Okity-Duah, Deputy Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, has comprehensive provisions that deal with FGM with enhanced penalties to deal with perpetrators of the practice.

However, she said, the law needed to be implemented to the letter by all stakeholders, including the police and, especially, traditional leaders, who are the custodians of customs and traditions, to ensure that all outmoded customs are eliminated.

Intensive education and awareness creation, she added, were also needed to expose the harm FGM to womankind.