By Arret Jatta
Human Rights Advocates revealed that over 92 million girls have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Africa at a side event of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) 73rd Ordinary Session. The multi-sectoral stakeholder event organised by Equality Now was held at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference Center on Monday, 24 October 2021, to galvanise efforts to address the harmful practice of Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting (FGM/C).
Commissioner Janet Ramatoulie Sallah-Njie was previously the former Commissioner for the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and was appointed as ACHPR Commissioner in 2021. She revealed that over 92 million girls from the age of 10 and above have undergone FGM in Africa. Commissioner Njie is also the Chairperson of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV and Those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV; and Vice-Chairperson of the Resolutions Committee.
Our research has revealed that World Health Organisation (WHO) website has noted that a 2016 UNICEF Report on FGM highlights that “more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is practised”.
Equality Now is an international human rights organization founded in 1992 to protect and advance the rights of women and girls around the world. Its campaigns focus on four programmatic areas: legal equality, ending sexual violence, ending harmful practices and ending sexual exploitation, with a cross-cutting focus on the special needs of adolescent girls.
Doctor Satang Nabaneh, A Director of programs and Research Professor of law present at the meeting highlighted that The Gambia has had a law that criminalizes FGM since 2015 and recently with the statistics they have, there is a two per cent drop. She also stated that 29 countries are practising FGM and The Gambia is one of those countries, “what we’ve also seen is the cross border, if your country criminalizes it you go into the neighbouring country like Casamance or somewhere else to practice it”.
WHO adds that “FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls and women’s bodies”. The risk listed on the WHO site includes severe pain, urinary infection, childbirth complications, sexual problems and death amongst others. It’s stated that “although all forms of FGM are associated with increased risk of health complications, the risk is greater with more severe forms of FGM”.
The Foundation for Research on Women’s Health, Productivity and the Environment (BAFFROW) reports that seven of The Gambia’s nine ethnic groups practice one form of FGM. According to the report by FGM advocates, approximately 60 to 90 per cent of Gambian women have undergone the harmful practice.
According to Commissioner Sallah-Njie, statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights that FGM is “an act of discrimination because sometimes the reasons given for the practice actually entrenches some of the entrenched and deep beliefs that we have”.
She highlighted the need for anti-FGM advocates to channel more efforts towards challenging and attacking the harmful practices “because in some instances people actually lose their lives, some people also suffer from health conditions throughout their lives due to the practice”.
The ACHPRC Commissioner revealed that the Maputo Protocol is the only human right instrument that explicitly referred to FGM “this can be found in article 5 which provides that state parties shall prohibit and condemn through legislation or legislative measures backed by sanctions”.