By Ijeoma Ukazu |
The Chairperson, Sonke Gender Justice, MenEngage Africa (MEA) Steering Committee, Hassan Sekajoolo has said that in order to root Female Genital Mutilation, (FGM) from the society, men must be involved.
According to him, “it is important that all efforts aimed at rooting out FGM must involve men and boys, not only as the primary intended beneficiaries of this practice, but also as agents of change”
Making this statement to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, Sekajoolo said, women and girls are mutilated ostensibly for the benefit of men, because of a belief that FGM will increase their chances of getting married, adding that it is also a belief that women who have had FGM are clean, better at pleasing men sexually and are not promiscuous.
He said “in many countries, FGM is considered a rite of passage, therefore, shortly after the procedure girls are married off usually to older men and often before the legal age of marriage,18. Thus, FGM is closely linked to early and forced marriage, another violation of human rights, depriving girls the right to enjoy their childhood and access to education.”
He said that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that about 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to FGM.
The global practice is a problem and, in Africa alone, 50 million girls are at risk of FGM if political leaders don’t take decisive action to ensure its demise.
He said, Africa is home to 29 of the world’s FGM practicing countries, according to UNFPA, of these countries, 10 are members of the MenEngage Africa Alliance – Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Cameroon.
Sekajoolo said that the practice is steeped in archaic cultural and religious beliefs, adding that, “as an alliance that believes that men and boys are crucial in efforts to make gender equality a reality, we also believe that there must be an increased mobilisation of men and boys against this practice.
“FGM is a procedure that partially or totally removes a female’s external genitalia, causing irreparable and irreversible harm, as well as life long health and psychological complications.”
He added that the alliance is geared towards accelerating advocacy efforts in collaboration with women’s rights organisations to advance the aims of the African Union “Saleema” campaign to end FGM.
Beyond this, he said, ending FGM requires a multi-sectoral approach that brings together law enforcement agencies, child protection professionals, educators, physicians, traditional and religious leaders, governments and government agencies, activists and survivors.
According to Sekajoolo, governments have a crucial role to play in rooting out FGM in the continent. They have made commitments under Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to eliminate FGM.
MenEngage Africa Alliance, therefore, calls on African governments to take their commitments seriously and follow through on their intent to make FGM a thing of the past.