FGM Is A Crime; Stop It

The Minister for Gender, Children & Social Protection, Otiko Afisah Djaba, has served notice to proponents of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) will be prosecuted since the practice is against the laws of Ghana.

As the world marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on Tuesday, February 6, 2018, Ms Djaba is appealing to all hands to be on deck to completely eradicate the archaic practice.

The day was set aside by the United Nations since 2003 to raise awareness as concerted efforts are combined to stem the canker.

“As we mark this day as part of our combined efforts with the UN and other social activist parties, we must remind ourselves that the elimination of FGM is a key target under SDGoal 5, we therefore call on our friends from the media to send this information to the furthest parts of the country and let the public know that the practice of FGM is a crime in Ghana.

“The law against FGM, ACT 741 of the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana entitled Criminal Code (Amendment) Act 2007, provides for imprisonment and/or fines for both the circumciser and those who request, incite, or promote excision by providing money, goods, or moral support. The person who commits this offense is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than 10 years,” the outspoken Gender Minister averred in a statement to mark the day.

According to her, FGM is against the human rights of the victims and “the practice of FGM has serious implications on the health of the females in terms of maternal health, infant mortality, self-esteem, discrimination, stigma, and productivity.”

She added: “Indeed, the practice has no benefits for girls and women but rather in the name of ensuring fidelity in females, FGM exposes them to health hazards and psychological trauma. It causes severe bleeding, problems in urinating which can develop into cysts, infections, complications in children and increased risks of fistula during child birth.”

“We have come very far as the leading African country in our practice of democracy, the rule of law and the fight for human rights. After sixty years of independence THE TIME IS NOW FOR GHANA TO STOP FGM completely. We have to understand that ending FGM is not to be narrowed down as a women’s issue or a Ministry of Gender, Children & Social Protection problem. The fight to eradicate FGM must be addressed as a national crusade that would lead to sustainable development,” Ms. Djaba stressed.

Below is the full statement:

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is recognized internationally as a human rights violation of girls and women. It results in deep rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes as an extreme form of discrimination against females. It violates the right to health, physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruelty, inhuman treatment and the right to live where it results in death. Thus, since 2003, the United Nations introduced The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation as an annual awareness day, that is celebrated globally every 6th February as part of the UN’s efforts to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation.

Female Genital Mutilation is one of the ancient cultures which has been practiced in Africa and Asia for decades. History has it that the practice of FGM came from neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Togo into Ghana. In Ghana, some parts of the Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Brong Ahafo and the Volta regions including the Zongo Communities in certain urban centers of the country are notable places where the practice still goes on.

It is clear that the adoption of this cultural practice of FGM has not served any good purpose in our country. Culture that violates the rights of the people is not worth practicing. The practice of FGM has serious implications on the health of the females in terms of maternal health, infant mortality, self-esteem, discrimination, stigma and productivity. Indeed, the practice has no benefits for girls and women but rather in the name of ensuring fidelity in females, FGM exposes them to health hazards and psychological trauma. It causes severe bleeding, problems in urinating which can develop into cysts, infections, complications in children and increased risks of fistula during child birth.

Studies show that an estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women in the world today have undergone some form of FGM and two million girls are at risk from the practice each year. Studies also indicate that in Ghana, the prevalence in the 1990s was as high as 77% but reduced drastically due to the advocacy and sensitization that has gone on.  In 1994, Ghana abolished the practice of FGM and in 2011, the World Bank reported female genital mutilation prevalence as 3.8%.

The current national prevalence stands at 4%, but regional prevalence, especially in the Upper East is reported to be higher. This increase could be due to the cross boarder practice where people move to and fro Ghana and neighboring countries to perpetuate this crime. Nationwide surveys are being embarked on to ascertain the accurate current data per our regions.

It is believed that this practice fosters our male dominant and patriarchal traditions designed to ensure fidelity and honour in women and girls. FGM is erroneously believed to be an honourable act which is a determination of womanhood. However, it does not take into consideration the fact that women and girls have a right over their sexuality. The Question is: Who checks the fidelity of the males?

As the Ministry for the vulnerable, the weak, excluded and marginalized, we join the international community to condemn female genital mutilation in Ghana. As we celebrate this International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM we wish to forge better collective responsibility with the media, faith-based organizations, traditional rulers, MMDAs, civil society and community based organizations to implement concrete actions to end FGM NOW in Ghana and to intensify public community based awareness campaigns against FGM.

We have come very far as the leading African country in our practice of democracy, the rule of law and the fight for human rights. After sixty years of independence THE TIME IS NOW FOR GHANA TO STOP FGM completely. We have to understand that ending FGM is not to be narrowed down as a women’s issue or a Ministry of Gender, Children & Social Protection problem. The fight to eradicate FGM must be addressed as a national crusade that would lead to sustainable development.

Ghana can no longer leave anyone out or behind, especially females. Thus, we cannot afford our women and children to be subjected to this risky, life threatening, inhuman, degrading and shameful FGM practice in this country any longer. We as a community of Ghanaians must demonstrate our commitment to protect our women and girls from human rights abuses to eliminate all forms of violence against them.

The challenges are mainly attitudinal and the issues of cross border practice. The Ministry will increase collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Foreign Affairs, Interior and Regional Integration to sensitize and educate citizens from the border areas and neighbouring countries through their Embassys and or High Commissions. The Ministry will also intensify our grassroots community based approach of public awareness, capacity building and reward systems. We are initiating A National Social Protection Excellence Awards program this year to promote best practices of social protection tenets and actions.

The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection through its regional offices has been doing a lot of sensitization and advocacy on ending inimical and harmful cultural practices including inhuman widowhood rites, child /forced marriages and FGM among others.

Society Organizations, Development Partners and individuals have have worked hard to reduce the practice of FGM to 4% nationally in Ghana but we need to consolidate the gains made to date and get it down to zero tolerance.

Lastly, the Ministry will collaborate with the law enforcement agencies and our development partners through a series of targeted stakeholder consultations to ending FGM once and for all in Ghana.

As we mark this day as part of our combined efforts with the UN and other social activist parties, we must remind ourselves that the elimination of FGM is a key target under SDGoal 5, We therefore call on our friends from the media to send this information to the furthest parts of the country and let the public know that the practice of FGM is a crime in Ghana. The law against FGM, ACT 741 of the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana entitled Criminal Code (Amendment) Act 2007, provides for imprisonment and/or fines for both the circumciser and those who request, incite or promote excision by providing money, goods or moral support. The person who commits this offense is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than 10 years.

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