Yemen: Government body moves to stem female genital mutilation

IRIN Middle East
The Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood (SCMC), a government body, has drawn up a national action plan to end the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in Yemen.
As a first step, the plan - the first of its kind in Yemen - aims to reduce FGM/C prevalence by 30 percent by 2012. The plan has yet to be presented to Cabinet for approval, but was discussed at a workshop on 24 June, with the 65 participants representing UN agencies, the government, donors and civil society.
According to a new, unpublished, study on FGM/C presented at the workshop, FGM/C is practised in five of Yemen’s 21 governorates, with prevalence rates of 97.3 percent in al-Hudeidah Governorate; 97.3 percent in Hadhramaut; 96.5 percent in al-Mahrah; 82.2 percent in Aden; and 45.5 percent in Sanaa.

Prepared jointly by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Sanaa University's Gender Development Research Centre (GDRSC) and the Yemeni Women’s Union, the study identified four types of FGM/C, as per the World Health Organization classification.

The most common was Type 2 - partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision) - found in 83 percent of the cases studied.

Type 1 - partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce - represented 13 percent of cases.

A 1997 demographic survey found that 23 percent of girls and women had been subjected to FGM/C, including 69 percent in coastal areas; 15 percent in mountainous areas; and 5 percent in desert and highland areas.

New policies

According to the plan, the Health Ministry would introduce bylaws, codes of conduct and anti-FGM/C policies: all forms of FGM/C would be banned; FGM/C would be covered in the school curriculum; media and community leaders would spread anti-FGM/C messages; and religious leaders would de-link FGM/C from religion.

Health professionals would take an oath not to practice FGM/C; adolescents and children would participate in spreading awareness of the dangers of FGM/C, and community leaders would discourage it. Media campaigns would be carried out in communities still practising FGM/C, and focal points would be established at governorate level.

Husniah al-Qaderi, executive director of GDRSC, said FGM/C was attributed to religious and cultural traditions in most cases. "But FGM/C was not mentioned in the holy Koran. They think FGM/C will ensure a woman's chastity and keep her from perversion," she told IRIN.

She said 99 percent of FGM/C cases were carried out 7-10 days after birth - the same for male circumcision - but that there were often health complications: "FGM/C leads to bleeding as the genital organs contain many blood vessels. A lot of women said they had lost their daughters during circumcision. But deaths at home are not registered.”

In 2001 the Ministry of Health banned FGM/C from being carried out in private and public health facilities.

1 July 2008

Source: IRIN Middle East