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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

African Villages Denounce Female Genital Mutilation

April 15, 2009 (CNN) -- Ten villages in western Niger have publicly denounced the practice of female genital mutilation, according to a UNICEF report. Representatives from the West African nation's Tillabery region have called for all people living there to end the practice, the report said. "We have decided to definitively put an end to female genital mutilation in our villages and to continue sensitizing neighboring villages so they also give up the practice," said N. Babobou Pana, leader of one of the villages. Heading the call was Kompoa Tamkpa, a former traditional practitioner. "I have given up the bad work, because it does not bring anything to our village," she said. "We thought it was good for women, that it was going to bring them success. But we found out that it does not bring anything." Female genital mutilation, which is also called female circumcision, is commonly performed on young girls without anesthesia, and is extremely painful and traumatizing, UNICEF said. The practice involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia and can result in prolonged bleeding, a higher risk of HIV infection, infertility and even death. The procedures are based on religious and cultural beliefs, including efforts to prevent premarital sex and marital infidelity. "UNICEF is extremely pleased with this public declaration to end female genital mutilation in this part of Niger, as it is seen by Nigerian authorities as a severe violation of the rights of women and young girls," said Akhil Iyer, a UNICEF representative in Niger. The rate of genital mutilation in Niger dropped by more than half between 1998 and 2006, from 5.8 percent to 2 percent, according to a government survey released last year. But about 66 percent of women in the west of the country are still subjected to the practice, the report said. The practice is most common in western, eastern and northeastern regions of Africa, as well as in some countries in Asia and the Middle East, and among certain immigrant communities in the United States and Europe.