CAMEROON: US Ambassador Urges Gov't to Criminalise Female Genital Mutilation

The US Ambassador to Cameroon, HE Janet Elizabeth Garvey, has called on Government to enact a law that would render Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, a criminal offence.

She made the call while chairing a FGM advocacy workshop recently. The workshop brought together Members of Parliament and some members of the civil society. Organised by the Cameroon Young Jurist Legal Resource Centre, CYJULERC, the workshop was aimed sensitising lawmakers on the necessity of enacting a law that will act as a deterrent to those who practise the barbaric act.

Janet Garvey said female genital mutilation causes physical and psychological damage to millions of innocent women and girls. To her, it is a fundamental violation of women's human rights. The Ambassador said 150 million women and girls have been subjected to FGM while an additional two million girls are at risk each year. According to her FGM is the worst form of violent against women.

Out of 28 African countries where it is practised, she expressed joy that of them have enacted laws criminalising FGM. Chad, Central African Republic, Cote D'Ivoire, Ghana and Egypt were cited as countries that have already ignited laws against FGM.

Taking the queue, the Deputy British High Commissioner to Cameroon, Gillian Edwards, said FGM is a practice that compounds unspeakable violence against women and young girls with discrimination, repression and inequality. FGM, she said, is a common practice in some traditional communities in Cameroon especially with tribes in the Southwest province, the Far North and the East province. She said studies indicate that the incidence of FGM in the Southwest is almost 40 percent. She said States have the responsibility and obligation to enact anti-FGM legislation.

FGM is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons. During the workshop at the American Embassy, an FGM victim who pleaded for anonymity told recounted how her clitoris was removed when she was only six years old. She saw she has been unable to enjoy sex and has not been able to get pregnant after she got married two years ago.

According to the Vice Prime Minister in charge of Justice and Keeper of the Seals, Ahmadou Ali, who attended the workshop, FGM is illegal in Cameroon. He pledged that the current revision of the Penal Code will make more provisions against the practice. Many observers were of the opinion that stakeholders also need to sensitise the local communities against such a practice.

Madame Esther Ayuk of CYJULERC regretted that there was no data to truly portray the incidence of FGM in Cameroon. She presented statistics that indicate that the FGM practice is reducing in countries that have enacted laws against the practice.

Private Member's Bill

The workshop saw the distribution of copies of a private member's bill on FGM. The bill is tailored to amend and supplement the provisions of section 277 of the Cameroon Penal Code. The bill proposes imprisonment to defaulters Since the group struggling to push through this bill in Parliament, is led by the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Hon. Rose Abunaw Makia, observers say there is hope that the private member's bill could get through to adoption.


AUTHOR: Kini Nsom

URL: Click here

DATE: 09/12/2007

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