Friday, December 02, 2005


ABIDJAN- Thirty practitioners of female circumcision in the Ivorian financial capital, Abidjan, have publicly laid aside their blades, knives and scissors. This is the result of an ongoing campaign in the West African country to eradicate the practice, estimated by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to affect 40 percent of women living there. The campaign, underway for a decade now, is led by the National Organisation for the Child, the Woman and the Family (Organisation nationale pour l'enfant, la femme et la famille, ONEF), a non-governmental group. The decision by the 30 to renounce their trade during a ceremony in Abidjan earlier this month marked the first instance in which ONEF had managed to convince some of the 75 identified circumcisors working in Abidjan to quit the profession. They had been circumcising girls and women despite the fact that circumcision was banned by a 1998 law. Although it was once restricted to villages and remote hamlets, FGM has since developed into an urban phenomenon as well; men have become involved in the practice, and different excision techniques have evolved. Female circumcision involves the partial or complete removal of female genitalia. The most severe form of FGM -- infibulation -- results in part or all of the clitoris being cut away, as well as the folds of skin around the openings of the urethra and vagina. The resulting wounds are then stitched up, with only a small opening left to allow for the passage of urine and menstrual blood. UNICEF says FGM in Ivory Coast is most often carried out on teenagers before they get married -- although girls as young as five may also undergo the procedure. The agency also estimates that 13,000 new circumcisions are carried out annually. According to Geneviève Saki-Nékouressi of the WHO's Abidjan office, 130 million girls and women in Africa have undergone some form of genital mutilation. Circumcision may be carried out with crude and unsterilised implements such as tin lids, putting girls at risk of contracting HIV. FGM can lead to difficulties in sexual intercourse and birth, and also cause girls to develop infections and other complications. The procedure may even result in death. In two villages, where 10 practitioners have been identified, a girl of eight died as a result of the bleeding caused by FGM. In another instance, a 25-year-old woman who was pregnant lost her life after undergoing circumcision, which custom dictates should be done before women give birth.

ONEF says it has made funds available so that loans can be extended to the former circumcisors, enabling them to embark on other revenue-generating activities.

Each has received about 130 dollars, under flexible terms of repayment.


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