Senegal: Six months' jail for female circumcisers

A Senegalese court sentenced two women to six months in jail Thursday for circumcising a baby girl, rights watchdog Raddho said of a case that sparked clashes between religious protesters and police.
The court in Matam, 680 kilometres (425 miles) north of Dakar, handed down the sentences to a traditional female circumciser and the 16-month-old girl's grandmother while her parents were given six-month suspended sentences, Raddho's local representative said. The grandmother got a harsher sentence than the parents as she was the one who took the girl to be circumcised, he added.
The practice has been forbidden in Senegal since 1999, when Senegal adopted a law to ban female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM).

Since then many villages have signed pledges to ban female circumcision, but the Matam case stirred controversy with local Muslim religious leaders defending female circumcision as part of their tradition.

On Thursday morning, clashes broke out between religious protesters and local police, according to the RFM radio station.

The demonstrators threw rocks at the police who used teargas to break up the protest, the station added.

The circumcision of the girl, from the village of Ourossogui close to Matam, was reported to the police by a Raddho representative. The women who carried out the circumcision and the girl's family were arrested in May and detained.

The ruling marks the first time a court in the Matam region has handed down a convicion for a circumcision, the non-governmental organisation said.

"Raddho wanted to give off a strong signal to show that circumcision is banned," local Raddho spokesman David Diagne said.

"We will continue our awareness campaign in the region to make it known that female circumcision can cause great harm especially in health terms with the risks of infection with the girls," he added.

According to Tostan, another NGO working to eradicate female circumcision said the practice had been "massively abandoned" in Senegal over the last decade.

"Some 3,548 villages have pledged to collectively abandon female circumcision since 1997" in Senegal, a Tostan spokesman told AFP Thursday.

27 May 2009

Source: AFP