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We must end female genital mutilation

This year, 4.3 million girls are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) estimates.

This number is projected to reach 4.6 million by 2030, as conflict, climate change, rising poverty and inequality continue to hinder efforts to transform gender and social norms that underpin this harmful practice and disrupt programmes that help protect girls.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes FGM as ‘’the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.’’

The practice is also known as female genital cutting, female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and female circumcision. According to the WHO, it has no health benefits and describes all forms of FGM as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, including their sexual and reproductive health, and are an extreme form of gender-based violence.

The practice is a human rights violation with serious consequences in the lives of women and girls, including their health, education and economic empowerment.

The practice is rooted in gender inequality, attempts to control women's sexuality, and ideas about purity, modesty and beauty. It is usually initiated and carried out by women, who see it as a source of honour, and who fear that failing to have their daughters and granddaughters cut will expose the girls to social exclusion.

There have been international efforts since the 1970s to persuade practitioners to abandon FGM, and it has been outlawed or restricted in most of the countries in which it occurs, although the laws are often poorly enforced.

In Ghana, the prevalence of FGM in women aged 15 to 49 is said to be 2.4 per cent. The national prevalence as of 2020 was estimated to range between 20 and 30 per cent, while the combined prevalence for Upper West and Upper East regions was estimated to be 86 per cent.

The main law relating to FGM in the country is the Criminal and Other Offences Act 1960 (Act 29), Section 69A (Female Gender Mutilation) (COA 1960). In 1994 the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act inserted Article 69A to the COA 1960 to prohibit female circumcision.

In 2007, this was further amended to ‘female genital mutilation’ and penalties were increased; however, there is limited information on prosecutions to date in the country.

FGM violates the principles of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex. It violates the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It violates the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to physical integrity and the rights of the child. In the worst cases, it even violates the right to life.

The Daily Graphic is calling for effective action to end FGM by involving entire communities where the practice is widespread and engage all relevant stakeholders in the process, including girls themselves, grandmothers, older women, community and religious leaders, men and boys, health professionals, teachers and the justice system.

Also we call on religious leaders to openly dispel myths that associate FGM with any religion, as well as the harmful gender norms underlying the practice and support communities to abandon FGM through local and national advocacy.

We further call on the government to enact, fully implement and resource comprehensive national legislation and evidence-based national action plans to support an enabling environment for gender-transformative social norms change that prohibits all forms of FGM.

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