A new UN report released Monday says despite being forbidden by national and international law, female genital mutilation and/or excision shows no sign of abating in Guinea: 97 percent of women and girls aged 15 to 49 years in Guinea have undergone female genital mutilation and/or excision.
“Although female genital mutilation appears to be decreasing worldwide, this is not the case in Guinea, where this practice is widespread in every region and among every ethnic, religious and social group,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
The report shows that, in recent years, female genital mutilation and/or excision (FGM/E) has been inflicted on girls at a younger age than was previously the case. According to a recent study, 69 percent of women aged 20 to 24 were excised before the age of 10.
In Guinea, FGM/E is mostly seen as an initiation rite and groups of girls from multiple families are often excised together, either at home or in camps. However the report shows an increasing trend towards individual excisions, due to financial constraints and out of fear of legal sanctions, especially when it comes to excising infants or very young girls.
Although FGM/E is usually carried out by traditional excision practitioners, there is also a growing trend towards its medicalization, despite a 2010 decree specifically prohibiting public or private health institutions from practising it.
Whereas in most countries where FGM/E is still occurring, women and girls seem to be largely in favour of its abolition, in Guinea the number of women supporting it has increased. A study by the Institut national de la statistique showed that the proportion of women and girls in favour of it rose from 65 percent in 1999 to 76 percent in 2012.
“Broadly speaking, non-excision of girls is considered dishonourable in Guinean society,” the report says. “Social pressure is such that girls may request excision for fear of being excluded or forced to remain unmarried if they do not suffer the practice.”
The report acknowledges that the Guinean government has adopted many legislative texts and regulations to prevent and sanction FGM/E and organized training for judicial, security and medical personnel. However these efforts have so far not resulted in any decrease, due to the support of some political and religious leaders for this harmful practice.
According to the report, the persistence of FGM/E is in large part due to the lack of action by the judicial authorities. “Generally speaking, legal texts prohibiting FGM/E are not respected. Thousands of young girls are excised across the country every year, during school vacations, with the full knowledge of judicial personnel, including prosecutors and instructing magistrates,” it says.
Excision practitioners are rarely subjected to legal proceedings and no medical professionals have been sanctioned for carrying out FGM/E. However, the report also notes that when justice personnel have tried to address FGM/E issues, they have frequently been subjected to severe pressure and threats. Since 2014, only eight people have been convicted in connection with FGM/E and all of them received suspended sentences and/or small fines.
“Female genital mutilation is not only an extremely detrimental to women and girls’ health and well-being, it is also an atrocious act of violence. There is no possible justification for this practice — no cultural, religious or medical reason whatsoever,” Zeid said, noting that Guinea had the second highest rate of FGM in the world, after Somalia, and far higher rates than immediate neighbours Senegal (25 percent), Côte d’Ivoire (38 percent) and Liberia (50 percent)*.
The report warns that, paradoxically, awareness campaigns launched by the Government and national and international organizations, which have been focusing on associated health risks, seem to have contributed to the medicalization of FGM/E, rather than to its reduction.
The report makes several recommendations to the Government, NGOs and the international community to enhance the fight against FGM/E. In particular, it calls on the authorities to ensure the full respect and enforcement of all relevant legislation, with independent and impartial investigation of every suspected case of FGM/E, and the prosecution of perpetrators and their accomplices.
Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Source:: Female Genital Mutilation in Guinea on the rise – Zeid