CAMEROON: Traditions that Torture

Painful! This is the word that best describes the feeling of a woman undergoing female circumcision. The act, involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other parts to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons, is one of the cruellest forms of violence inflicted on women.

Health experts confirm that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) destroys a woman physically and psychologically. Most of the girls and women who have undergone genital mutilation live in 28 African countries, including Cameroon. FGM is also increasingly found in Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA, primarily among immigrants from these countries. Today, statistics from the World Health Organisation indicate that the number of girls and women who have undergone FGM is estimated at between 100 to 140. It is also estimated by W.H.O that each year, a further two million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM.

In Cameroon information indicates that the practice takes place in many regions but there is no exact data. However, there is information that the practice of FGM varies from one region to the other. In the Far-North Province the practice stands at 35 -50 per cent while in Ejagham in the Manyu Division, South West, it ranges from 75 -90 per cent. Ayuk Esther from the Cameroon Young Jurist Legal Resource Centre (CYJULERC) in Buea, says investigations show that there are nine villages around Ejagham were the practice of female circumcision is 100 per cent. Every day, thousands of girls are targeted for mutilation. Like torture, FGM involves the deliberate infliction of severe pain and suffering. Its effects can be life-threatening as most survivors have struggled to cope with the physical and mental scars for the rest of their lives. Such is the case with a victim (who preferred to remain anonymous) who was circumcised when she was six years old. Today she is 17 years, married without children. She is afraid that might be a reason why she is not being able to become pregnant. The victim says it was an ordeal moment for her. "I was taken to a very dark room and undressed. I was stripped naked... I was forced to lie flat on my back by four strong women, two holding tight to each leg. Another woman sat on my chest to prevent my upper body from moving. A piece of cloth was forced in my mouth to stop me from screaming. I was then shaved. When it began, I put up a big fight. The pain was terrible and unbearable. During this fight I was badly cut and lost blood." This is not a testimony about torture in custody. Her assailants were not members of the country's warring factions but close friends of her family.

A human rights perspective obliges the international community to assume its share of responsibility for the protection of the human rights of women and girls. The fact that FGM is a cultural tradition should not deter the international community from asserting that it violates universally recognized rights.


AUTHOR: Brenda Yufeh

URL: Click here

DATE: 28/11/2007

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