MALI: Government moves softly against female
BAMAKO, 31 December (IRIN) - The government of Mali has agreed to take firm
but low profile action to counter the widespread practise of female
circumcision, otherwise known as female genital mutilation (FMG).
Nine out of 10 girls in this poor West African country suffer the total or
partial removal of their clitoris before or shortly after they reach puberty
in a ceremony that has formed part of social life for centuries.
Given the popularity of this custom among Mali's 12 million people, the
government has not so far come forward with a law to ban the practise, even
though it can lead to serious health problems, some immediate and others
which occur later at childbirth.
However, the government-backed National Programme against Excision and the
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) held a meeting in Bamako with
religious and civil society leaders last week to review progress in
combatting the practise and develop new strategies.
The participants recommended that training about how to combat FMG be
incorporated into the government training programmes for teachers and nurses.
They also called for a national summit meeting be held to publicly debate the
problem of female circumcision.
The participants also agreed to draft a brochure about FMG in Arabic to take
the message to the Muslim religious community.
Several representatives of Muslim youth organisations pointed out that
although Mali is overwhelmingly Islamic country, there is nothing in Koranic
law that calls for FMG.
Alhaji Kadi Drame, a representative of the Islamic Action association said:
"Islam does not mention excision...it is just a customary
He pointed out that FMG was not practised in neighbouring Mauritania, or
indeed in other devoutly Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Several women representing non-governmental organisations protested that many
Muslim clerics in Mali openly endorsed FMG. But Drame said they were doing so
out of ignorance.
This debate gave rise to the suggestion that a brochure about FMG be produced
in Arabic to raise awareness among the Islamic religious community.
According to a demographic and health survey called EDS II, 92 percent of
Mali's female population have undergone FGM. It is most widely practiced in
the south of the country, much less so by the nomadic Sohrhai, Tuareg and Moorish
peoples of the desert north.
In Mali, it is an honour for older women to be called upon to circumcize a
young girl and many are practised at performing the operation.
Others have turned female circumcision into a business, charging up to US$5
According to Kadiatou Ly Diallo, a UNICEF protection officer in Mali, parents
circumcise their daughters in the belief that it will suppress their sexual
desires and help preserve their virginity.
Widely practied throughout Africa, FGM is the partial or total removal of
external female genital organs whether for cultural, religous or other
According to the World Health Organization, this painful practice has grave
immediate and long term health consequences. These include tetanus infection,
the formation of cysts and abcesses, painful sexual intercourse and
difficulty during childbirth, urine retention, heavy bleeding, sterility and
psycho-sexual and psychological trauma.
The use of improperly sterilised blades can also lead to the spread of
About two million young girls, between 4 and 12 years old, are circumcised
each year, according to WHO.
Ask of Me, and I will make the nations your inheritance. (Ps 2:8)
Dr. Claudia R. Wintoch
s/c Ecole Biya
Tel. (+223) 220 0311
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