Female Genital Mutilation, a Vision for Change

Sudan is the First Country in Africa to Outlaw the Practice of (FGM)

Haffiya Abdalla

Sudan was the first country in Africa to outlaw the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) known as “Pharaonic circumcision” back in the 1940s. Although the 1946 Penal Code prohibited infibulation, it permitted a lesser radical form of mutilation known as “Sunna circumcision”. In 1957, one year after independence, the law was ratified again. In 1991, the government reaffirmed its commitment to outlawing the “Pharaonic infibulation”, but no mention was made of this commitment in the 1993 Penal Code where the matter was left unclear. The outcome of the committee was a proposal to amend the Criminal Act 1991 to include an article prohibiting FGM/C. The committee and stakeholders from different organizations have discussed the proposed amendment widely with members of the National Assembly, legal counsels (employees) from the Ministry of Justice, and different Sudanese human rights activists.

Secretary-General of the Council of Child Welfare in Khartoum State, Sarah Hassan Mustafa, confirmed that the celebration Launch of the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation in Khartoum is the fruits of efforts being exerted since 2017.

She explained that the Saleema campaign is one of the national mechanisms that began in the year 2008 and adopts a positive approach and positive messages and saluted all partners from UNICEF, departments, and community leaders.

This came while addressing yesterday’s celebration of declaring Al-Awda and Al-Kalakla area in Jabal Al-Awliya locality free from female genital mutilation which was organized by the Child Welfare Council in Khartoum State in cooperation with UNICEF in the presence and participation of Adela Abdullah, responsible for the file of abandoning female genital mutilation in the Child Welfare Council in Khartoum State.

Sara pointed to the efforts being exerted to issue the Criminal Code in the year 2020 Article (141) criminalizing female genital mutilation to reach Sudan free of female genital mutilation( FGM). Sara stressed the readiness of the administration to cooperate and support community awareness in all childhood programs in the locality.

Representative of the facilitators in the locality, Faiza Saeed confirmed that the celebration is the result of official and community efforts that were crowned with success by declaring the area free of FGM and appreciating the efforts of the Child Welfare Council and its cooperation with the grassroots committees in the community.

It is worth noting that UNICEF welcomes the landmark move by the transitional government to criminalize female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in Sudan.

The amendment to the Criminal Law Article 141 was endorsed by both the Sovereign and Ministerial Councils on 22 April. All amendments proposed by National Council for Child Welfare (NCCW) in line with UNICEF’s vision to promote child rights were also endorsed.

This comes following years of persistent and forceful advocacy by all stakeholders; the NCCW, women and child advocates, donors including UK aid and the Swedish government, UN agencies, international and national organizations, community-based organizations, and community members, especially those who came together and publicly declared to join the ‘Saleema’ movement.

Sudan is considered one of the countries where the FGM/C prevalence rate is very high.

According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) 2014, the FGM/C rate is 86.6 percent. There is also evidence of decline among the younger age group 14-0 years from 37 percent in 2010 to 31.5 in 2014.

“This practice is not only a violation of every girl child’s rights, but it also is harmful and has serious consequences for a girl’s physical and mental health,” says Abdullah Fadil, UNICEF Representative in Sudan. “This is why governments and communities alike must take immediate action to put an end to this practice. Every girl deserves to be ‘Saleema’, he added.

Abandonment is not only about legal reform, or about legalization or criminalization. We need to work very hard with the communities to help enforce this law. The intention is not to criminalize parents, and we need to exert more effort to raise awareness among the different groups, including midwives, health providers, parents, a youth about the amendment and promote acceptance of it, said Abdullah Fadil.

UNICEF is committed to eliminating all forms of FGM/C. The organization’s work focuses on building a protective environment for children that safeguards them from abuse and exploitation.

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