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NIGER: Fall in Rate of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

The prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in Niger fell dramatically between 1998 and 2006, according to recent government survey.

The practice, which involves removing and sewing-up parts of the female genitalia, occurred in only 2.2 percent of women in Niger in 2006 compared to 5.8 percent of women in 1998, the survey by the Nigerien national statistics agency stated.

The advance in Niger is "remarkable" according to UN children's agency (UNICEF) Niger representative Akhil Iyer. Niger could become the first country in the West Africa region to completely eradicate the practice, the representative said.

FGM/C has been illegal in Niger since June 2003. Practitioners face between 6 months and 20 years in jail if found guilty.

"The law is extremely persuasive in getting people to stop," said Maïga Amsou, president of the Nigerien Committee on Traditional Practices, a non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Niger's minister of women and child protection, Bibata Barry, said various NGOs have been "instrumental" in the fight against FGM/C, which she said is "unacceptable in a civilised society". NGOs lobbied the government to pass the law in 2003 and then worked to educate people about the health risks associated with the practice.

Still, FGM/C remains prevalent amongst the Gourmantché and Peulhs ethnic groups in the Tillaberi, Niamey and Diffa regions of the country, Barry said.

SOURCE: allAfrica.com

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DATE: 23/02/2008

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