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AFRICA: Parents turn to clinics for genital mutilation: U.N.

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - More parents are turning to medical clinics to perform genital mutilation, wrongly assuming that it spares girls physical and psychological damage, a U.N. agency warned on Monday.

The trend has been spotted in Egypt, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Yemen, according to demographic surveys and patient reports, the U.N. Population Fund said.

"This tendency arises from increased awareness of the health risks associated with the practice," said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the fund's executive director.

The practice, also known as female circumcision, usually involves cutting of the clitoris and other parts of the female genitalia. Many practitioners are untrained and use crude instruments.

The practice leaves lasting physical and psychological scars, in addition to the risks it generates during childbirth, the U.N. Population Fund said.

Some 3 million girls face the risk of circumcision every year, Obaid said. An estimated 120 million to 140 million women and girls have been subjected to the cutting.

Immediate complications include severe pain, shock, hemorrhage, urine retention, ulceration of the genital region and injury to adjacent tissue. Hemorrhage and infection can cause death, the World health Organization said.

Obaid also warned that in some nations parents were subjecting "younger and younger" girls to the practice to avoid refusals to participate. Girls generally undergo the rite before the age of 10, often without anesthesia.

While predominant in 28 African countries, including Sudan, Chad, Sierra Leone and Djibouti, genital mutilation also takes place in some Middle East nations, such as Saudi Arabia, and among immigrant communities in Europe and North America.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

PUBLICATION DATE: 2/5/2007

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