Senegal outlaws female genital mutilation

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 06 February 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:348
  1. James Ciment
  1. New York

    The Senegalese parliament has voted to ban female genital mutilation, making the west African country the latest to outlaw the painful, dangerous, and widely condemned procedure. The new law includes prison sentences of up to five years for those who order or perform the procedure.

    Unicef's director, Carol Bellamy, praised the parliament's decision: “Senegal's action is of great significance because it reflects the resolve of African women to end a cruel and unacceptable practice which violates the right of all girls to free, safe, and healthy lives.”

    About 20%of Senegalese women have undergone genital mutilation, a procedure that involves the excision of all or part of the clitoris. Intended to ensure fidelity (by eliminating sexual pleasure for women), genital mutilation is often performed with unsterile or rusty instruments, leading to infection and a host of health problems.

    Large numbers of girls are said to die annually from the procedure, which is widespread throughout rural Africa and Asia. Unicef estimates that about 130 million females in Africa alone have been subjected to some form of genital mutilation.

    So far, Senegal, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Djibouti, Ghana, and Togo have banned female genital mutilation. Unicef and other agencies of the United Nations have made their opposition to the practice clear, even going as far as arguing that refugee and asylum status should be granted to women fleeing to escape the procedure. Photo caption:A ban should stop the genital mutilation of 20%of Senegalese women

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