Niger sets heavy penalties against FGM

Niamey- Niger (PANA) -- The government of Niger has set heavy penalties of six months to three years imprisonment for persons found guilty of practising female genital mutilation, according to a revised criminal code draft.
If case the mutilations resulted in death, the perpetrator faces 10-20 years imprisonment.
The penalties are applied to the maximum if the FGM performer is a member of the medical or paramedical profession, the criminal code says.
The perpetrator may also be banned from practising for a period not exceeding five years.
Presently, Malian law does not punish perpetrators and accomplices of female circumcision even though the practice has tragic consequences.
In July 2000, a young girl died in Magaria (850km east of Niamey) after bleeding that occurred following the removal of her vaginal diaphragm by a traditional practitioner.
Female circumcision comprises cutting off the woman's partial or entire external genital organ.
More often, it involves the removal of the woman's clitoris in order to "reduce her sexual desire and at the same time ensure her faithfulness", according to practitioners.
Female genital mutilation is still practised in Niger, despite the efforts by health services and organisations involved in efforts to eradicate traditional practices harmful to health, many surveys in the country indicate.
A first survey carried out in 1992 by Niger's Committee on harmful traditional practices (CONIPRAT), completed by another in 1998, attests that female circumcision is actively practised in Niger, even though there is a tendency to abandon it in certain areas of the country.
According to that survey, the practice is rampant in three divisions of the country - Diffa (east), Tillabery (west) and the Niamey Urban Community, comprising some villages along the Niger River.
The survey notes that the practice is particularly done in ethnic groups like the Peulh, Gourmantche, Djerma-Songhai, Kurtey, Arabs and Wogo.
People in regions where the practice is rampant give various reasons including Islam to justify their tradition.
But many Muslim scholars reject the notion by arguing that there is in fact no text in the Quoran concerning the practice.
In some ethnic groups, female circumcision is a form of initiation rite for young girls.
An uncircumcised girl is the subject of her friends' jokes and t is believed that she will have difficulties finding a husband.
Female circumcision is also said to be a measure to protect the woman since it reduces her sensitivity and guarantees her marital fidelity.
The Arabs believe that in addition to the religious reasons, female circumcision serves to make the woman's eyes whiter and transform her voice to make her more feminine.
But doctors say that female circumcision has many serious adverse consequences on a woman's health.
They cite the sharp pain following the operation which is carried out in the village without anaesthesia, bleeding that could cause death, infections due to the use of unsterilised equipment, urinary complications, fistulas, frigidity and psychological trauma.
In an effort to eradicate harmful traditional practices, CONIPRAT organised a symbolic ceremony in Tera (180km west of Niamey) organised in November 1999 whereby several practitioners vowed to abandon the practice.

15 may 2001 15:13:00

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