Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It has no health benefits and harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and therefore interferes with the natural function of girls’ and women’s bodies.
The practice causes severe pain and has several immediate and long-term health consequences, including difficulties in childbirth also causing dangers to the child. FGM is known by a number of names, including “female genital cutting”, “circumcision” or “initiation”. The age at which girls or women undergo FGM varies from country to country.
FGM is a violation of human right and developmental issue and as a result the United Nations has declared 6th February every year to highlight the dangers of FGM and to urge stakeholders to suggest ways and means to completely eradicate FGM around the world.
Sustainable development demands full human rights for all women and girls. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises an end to this practice by 2030.” — UN Secretary-General António Guterres
FGM is not peculiar to the developing world as it is being practised in the developed world as well. Despite the robust and effective protection systems in the UK, England’s National Health Service recorded close to 5,500 cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) in 2016, but the first conviction for FGM was secured on 2nd February 2019 – albeit the practice was banned in the UK over 30 years ago.
The nil or low conviction rate for FGM cases is because the victims and their relatives are not willing to come forward to give evidence since the culprits are either family members or have been instructed by the family to perform the act on the victims.
There is an empirical evidence to suggest FGM is still a “cultural practice” in Ghana although we have made strides in our efforts to eradicate FGM in Ghana.
As I previously stated, there are more effective and best practices elsewhere on how to fight FGM, and Ghana needs to be emulating these Best Practices.
For instance, in 2003, the UK government expanded law on FGM by enacting more preventative laws to tackle FGM: The Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders (FGMPOs) offer a legal means to protect and safeguard victims and potential victims of FGM.
FGMPOs are granted by a court and are unique to each case. They contain conditions and directions to protect a victim or potential victim from FGM.
Those who can apply for an order are:
▪️The person who is to be protected by the order
▪️A relevant third party; or
▪️ Any other person with the permission of the court.
▪️A Relevant Third Party is someone specified by the Lord Chancellor to make applications on behalf of others.
▪️ Adults or children (under 18) can apply for a FGM Protection Order.
Children may have a ‘next friend’ or someone to assist them but do not have to if they have a legal representative or if the court agrees.
In the light of the above, I would like to point out that punitive measures such as threats to prosecute culprits of FGM in Ghana is not enough to completely eliminate the practice. We ought to be combining preventative measures with punitive measures.
Therefore, I would like to humbly suggest to Ghana government and other stakeholders to endeavour to learn from other countries in our collective efforts to eradicate FGM in Ghana.
Enacting laws similar to the UK’s Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders might contribute immensely to our collective efforts in achieving Zero Tolerance for FGM by 2030.
Alhaji Alhassan A Mbalba
Social Protection Expert