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Sudan

Activists hail criminalisation of female genital mutilation in Sudan

A woman shows a homemade tool previously used for FGM in north east Uganda, 31 January 2018.
A woman shows a homemade tool previously used for FGM in north east Uganda, 31 January 2018. © AFP - Yasuyoshi Chiba

Activists have welcomed the Sudanese government’s move to criminalise Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The transitional government amended the criminal code in an effort to protect women and girls from the traditional practice that is considered a violation of human rights. 

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“There is so much that women’s groups are pushing for and the criminalization of FGM is something to celebrate as an important step on the road to gender equality,” said Flavia Mwangovya from Equality Now, a non-governmental organisation promoting the human rights of women and girls. 

“We look forward to seeing many more positive advances in women’s legal rights in Sudan,” Mwangovya added. 

Sudan’s transitional government approved an amendment on 22 April, making it illegal for anyone to carry out FGM, according to the UN. Those breaking the law face three years in prison and a fine. 

A statement from Sudan’s foreign affairs ministry said the change to the law was “an important positive development” and part of the country’s commitment to international human rights agreements. 

“Sudan has amended its law to set out penalties for those who subject women and girls to FGM. It provides protection for those at risk and gives survivors a means of accessing justice,” said Equality Now’s Mwangovya, who leads the US-based organisation’s End Harmful Practices programme

“Criminalizing FGM may not put a stop to all cases but it has a central role to play in reducing numbers,” Mwangovya added. 

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says the prevalence of FGM in Sudan is especially high with more than 86 per cent of women or girls being injured. 

“It is harmful and has serious consequences for a girl’s physical and mental health,” said Abdullah Fadil, UNICEF’s representative in Sudan. UNICEF said it now needed to raise awareness of the change with midwives, health providers, parents and the youth. 

“The law alone is not sufficient to end FGM in Sudan, where the practice is rooted in gender inequality and deeply embedded in culture and social norms – as it is in other countries where FGM occurs,” said Mwangovya. 

FGM involves the total or partial removal of external female genitalia, according to the World Health Organisation. The practice, which is mainly carried out on young girls, has no health benefits and can lead to severe complications including death. 

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