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Monday, March 9, 2009

France 24: A painful fight against a painful practice

Saturday 07 March 2009
Even as the world focuses on women's rights on International Women's Day, the cruel, excruciating practice of female genital mutilation continues in some parts of Africa such as Uganda.
In a village in eastern Uganda’s Bukwo district, a group of young girls are smeared in a mixture of ash and mud.
It’s a sign of beauty, but it’s also a marker for a gruesome ceremony to come.
One by one, the girls, some as young as 8 years old, fall to the ground, and are circumcised in public - as the villagers look on. The process is excruciatingly painful. But locals say experiencing the pain is part of the ritual, a passage to womanhood.
Women across the world are commemorating International Women’s Day on Sunday. But as the international community focuses on women’s rights, in some parts of the world, the cruel, dangerous practice of female genital mutilation is still being practised.
Despite campaigns against the practice, female genital mutilation is particularly widespread in parts of Africa.
‘This ensures respect for the family’
In these parts, it’s a cultural practice that is not only upheld by society, but by older women in particular.
“I've been circumcising for 25 years,” says Agnes Chebet, the circumciser. “Through me, people know if the girl is a virgin or not. This ensures respect for the family.”
Internationally though, the practice has long been condemned as unnecessary and brutal.
While it's much less of a problem in the cities, the practice remains widespread especially in the rural areas.
Doctors say there's a grave risk of infection and that women can be traumatised for life.
"We know that this is a sensitive part in the human genitalia, so when it is removed, or cut off brutally, these people may never enjoy their marriages,” says gynaecologist, Tony Mulumba.
For the past decade, the World Health Organisation has been pushing for an end to female genital mutilation. In Africa alone, it estimates as many as three million women and girls are at risk each year.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Letter to Sudan President on female genital cutting

(From Sudan Tribune) Wednesday 25 February 2009 04:10. His Excellency President, Omer Hassan Ahmed Al Basheer His Excellency First Vice President, Salva Kiir Mayardit His Excellency Vice President, Ali Osman Mohammed Taha Honorable Minister of Justice Honorable Minster of Health Honorable Minster of Social Welfare and Women and Child Affairs Secretary-General of the National Council for Child Welfare The Council of the Ministers Secretary-General of the National Council for Strategic Planning Chairperson of the Sudan Medical Council Secretary-General of the Sudan Medical Council The Rapporteur of the Advisory Board for Human Rights The Chairperson and Members of the Association of the of Obstetrics and Gynecology Specialists The Chairperson and Members of the Association of the Pediatrics Specialists. Re: Memorandum on the Repeal of Article (13) in the Child Act, 2009 In this crucial moment of the history of our beloved Sudan, we would like to address you with great hope that this memorandum will meet your full attention along with your immediate response, we all expect from you a positive response to this memorandum as it presents fair and objective claims relevant to the protection and safeguarding of the heath of women and girls, and the protection and promotion of their rights. The Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one of most hazardous practices that endanger the bodily integrity, physical and psychological health of women and girls in Sudan. According to the 2006 Sudan Household Survey (SHHS) implemented by the Ministry of Health and the Central Bureau of Statistics, the practice of FGM among girl Children in Sudan amounts to %69.4. This aggravating fact was encountered by sincere efforts led by the Sudanese educated, intellectuals, enlightened religious men, Sufi sects since the era of Shaiekh Hamad Wad Umm Maryoum. Also, the non governmental and voluntary efforts to eliminate the FGM practice continued. Realizing the gravity of the FGM and its negative health, psychological, economical and social consequences, the State has adopted the National Strategy for the Elimination of FGM 208-2018 in partnership with the civil society organizations, the UN Agencies and the specialized international organizations. Furthermore, the State has ratified many regional and international treaties and conventions that protect child rights; on the top of it is the Child Rights Convention, which Sudan has taken the initiative to ratify. These efforts framed the official stand of the Government against the FGM through the following national, regional and international obligations: National Obligations: Sudan Declaration on Safe Motherhood, 1999; Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), 2005; Article 32 (1) of the Bill of Rights in the Interim Constitution of the Republic of Sudan, 2005, which states: “The State shall combat harmful customs and traditions which undermine the dignity and the status of women”; The Directives of the Quarter- Century Strategy 2007-2031; The National policy for Population as per Resolution No.48 of the Sudan Council Of Ministers 2002, which reads “The studies available on the practice of harmful customs reaffirmed the association between FGM and the pregnancy and childbirth complications. In spite of the efforts exerted to eliminate FGM, the practice is still very common; more than % 80 of females undergo FGM practice in Sudan”; The Strategy and Work Plan to Eliminate FGM in Sudan, Federal Ministry of Health 2001, signed by the Minster of Health; National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, Ministry of Social Welfare and Women Affairs, March 2007, signed by the President of the Republic of Sudan. It identified the widely practiced FGM as one of the most critical challenges that empowerment of women faces, and aimed at uprooting FGM practice; Resolution No.366 of the Sudan Medical Council, which reads: "Based on the fundamental principle rule that there should be neither harm nor malice". The Sudan Medical Council issued the following recommendation: "doctors are not allowed to practice any deed that causes harm, or of suspicion of harm to any human being, including Female Genital Mutilation, in its all forms"; Resolution No. 29 of the National Assembly, dated 20/06/2007 to enact legislations necessary to prohibit FGM, highlighting the necessity of fighting all harmful customs, and calling the relevant institutions to support these efforts. Regional Obligations: Article 21, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; Dakar Declaration on the "Violence Against Women, Abandoning Female Genital Mutilation: the Role of National Parliaments ", December 2005; Rabat Declaration on Child’s Issues in the Islamic World, issued by the First Islamic Ministerial Conference for The Ministers in charge of Childhood Affairs, November 2005; Khartoum Declaration on Child Issues in the Islamic World, issued by the Second Islamic Ministerial Conference for The Ministers in Charge of Child Affairs, February 2009 called for "Take[ing] the necessary measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against girls and all harmful traditional or customary practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation, in the light of the relevant declarations, instruments, and conventions". International Obligations: Millennium Developmental Objectives (MDGs); Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, September 1995; Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article (19); Resolution No.51/2, Ending Female Genital Mutilation, the Fifty First Session of the Commission of the Status of Women, the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination and Violence Against the Girl Child, 2007. We, the undersigned, are concerned about the resolution issued by the Council of Ministers, dated 05/02/2009, withdrawing article (13) of the draft Child Act, which prohibits and criminalizes FGM. We are also concerned of inserting the same article in the Criminal Act, upon legalization of the so called "Islamic FGM". This contravenes the state strategy and its national, regional and international obligations to eliminate the FGM, in its all forms. The decision of withdrawing article (13) is an abortion of the national formal and informal efforts which have been solidly exerted to affirm the need for a legislation that prohibits and criminalizes FGM in its all forms and with no exception in order to protect the health and integrity of the Sudanese women and girls. Addressing you with this regard, we declare refutation of any exception or any legislation that legalizes any form of the FGM. We urge you to re-include article (13) as it is originally drafted in the Child Act, based on the following: Firstly: the national and international obligations of the Sudan. Secondly: the health harm caused by FGM as proved by scientific studies and research, and life experiences as well as what was publicized by the national and international official medical institutions alerting public attention to the high parentage of mothers’ mortality during childbirth which tops 11 women in each one thousand childbirths. It is one of the direct consequences of this harmful practice. Thirdly, a legislation that allows any form of FGM, would encourage practicing all other FGM forms. Thus, we call for the following: Re-include article (13) in the Child Act to prohibit and criminalize FGM, and integrating the same article in other acts and bylaws if necessary Work to implement the national Strategy and Work Plan to Eliminate FGM in Sudan The State is to comply with its reference institutions specialized in medical and health issues, represented by: The Ministry of Health The Sudan Medical Council The Association of the of Obstetrics and Gynecology Specialists The Association of Pediatrics Specialists We submit this memorandum, in this historical condition that faces the march of our country, hoping to and working for promoting the values of human rights and the protection and enhancement of women and child rights. Undersigned Institute Name Signature cc to: The Chairperson and members of the National Assembly Local Civil Society Organizations Untried Nations Secretary General The Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on Violence against Women, UN specialized agencies: UNICEF UNDP UNFPA WHO UNIFEM UNMIS Child Rights International Committee (CRC) Embassies in Sudan National and international media organs International Organizations: Islamic Conference Organization (ICO) Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Save the Children, Sweden Save the Children, USA Save the Children, UK Plan Sudan Oxfam Care International Goal DED Red Crescent International Red Cross signatories Democratic Unionist Party Sudanese Communist Party National Alliance of Sudan Sudanese Women’s Union National Democratic Women’s Caucus New Democratic Forces Movement Babiker Badr Scientific Association Ashaad Association Darfur International Agency Sudan Freedom Movement Sudanese Women’s General Union Sudanese Association for Development Network for Human Rights and Legal Aid – Students’ Committee Human Rights Organization Social and Human Development Consultancy Group Ahlam Childcare Charitable Organization Sudanese Centre of Culture and Development Human Rights’ Media Centre U of K – Law Faculty Social Civil Platform Sudanese Studies Centre Legal Platform Organization Civil Society Initiative for Peace National Society for Combating Harmful Traditional Practices National Network Against FGM and Harmful Traditional Practices Teacher First Organization Socialist Medical Association Sudanese Centre for Union Rights and Human Rights Women’s Initiative Group Friends of the Child and Family Association AlKhair wa Albaraka Association Alshawshab Centre for the Development of Society The Democratic Platform of Darfur Amal Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence Arab Baath Socialist Party Youth Peace Association Marafi Association for Sustainable Development Sudan for All Organization Network of Arab Women (Aisha) Saalma Centre for Resources and Women Studies Asma Association for Development The Environmentalist Association Centre for Gender Sudanese Association for Environmental Protection Afiya Sudan Edena lil Balad Association Sudanese Youth Union The Development of Young Children Association Sudanese Network for the Abolition of FGM Network of Human Rights and Legal Aid Strategic Initiative – Sayha World Centre for the Culture of Peace National Organization for Human Development Justice Party COMOCS Dimbior Organization for Development and Reconstruction The Nation’s National Security United Liberal Democratic Party GPC Congress Party of Sudan Sudanese Organization for Research and Development Khatim Adlan Centre Alaq Centre for Press Services Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development Journalists for Human Rights Child Rights Institute (CRI) Music for All Organization Asma Association for Women Jewiriya Bint al Harith Association Asala Association for Women Dar es Salam Association for Women Al-Hadaf Association for Women Cultural Centre of Action Mutawinat Charitable Company Rad al Jameel Charitable Organization Sudanese National AIDS Program (SNAP) Fashoda Alniswi Organization Alsafat Organization John Garang Organization Noor Al-Nisa Charitable Organization Al-Sadiqat Charity General Department for Women and Family Shimoos Sudanese Organization for Disabled Women