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Sudan and Ethiopia lead in FGM prevalence

KAMAU MAICHUHIEBy KAMAU MAICHUHIE
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Sudan has the highest Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) prevalence in Africa, according to the latest survey by 28 Too Many, a values-based charity working to end the vice in Africa.

The survey says Sudan’s national FGM prevalence stands at 87 per cent, with more than 12 million women and girls believed to have undergone the rite.

The states with the highest FGM prevalence are North Kordofan (97.7 per cent of women aged 15-49), North Darfur (97.6 per cent) and Northern (97.5 per cent).

FGM PREVALENCE

The state with the lowest prevalence is Central Darfur at 45.4 per cent.

The report says women aged 15-49 who live in rural areas are slightly more likely to undergo FGM (87.2 per cent) than those who live in urban areas (85.5 per cent).

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FGM is least prevalent among women aged 14-59 with ‘no education’, at 76.8 per cent, compared to 52.8 per cent of women aged 15-49 who have heard of FGM and believe it should be discontinued.

The survey also shows the prevalence for women aged 45-49 is 91.8 per cent, while for the youngest age group this has fallen to 81.7 per cent.

It is, however, not all gloom. Despite the fact that a small proportion of women may be cut after the age of 15, the data suggests a trend towards lower prevalence among younger women.

Lack of a national law against FGM covering the whole country is given as one major reason that is hampering the fight against the menace.

Currently, only four states have attempted to address it.

One law that has been enacted to fight the scourge is Prevention of Female Genital Mutilation Act (2008), which protects girls up to 18 years of age in South Kordofan state.

In South Darfur, Article 11 of the Child Law 2013 prohibits all forms of FGM while in Gadaref, Article 13 of the Child Law 2009 prohibits all harmful traditional practices, including FGM.

In Red Sea state, Article 10 of the Child Law 2011 also prohibits FGM but is yet to be fully enacted by the Health minister.

IMPLEMENTATION OF LAWS

“Implementation and enforcement of these state laws is weak, and there is no protection from the increasing medicalisation of FGM in Sudan. It is also reported that an agreement exists with religious and traditional leaders in each of these states to allow sunna cuts, which is a type of FGM,” reads part of the report.

Dr Nafisa Mohamed Bedri, a lecturer in Women and Reproductive Health at Ahfad University, believes women hold the key to ending FGM in the country.

“Women, particularly young women, hold in their hands the keys to success in achieving social change. The time is now opportune in Sudan to harvest the fruits of decades’ worth of advocacy and activism and endorse a national law criminalising FGM,” said Prof Bedri.