Ministers urge religious chiefs to oppose genital mutilation

Mon Feb 4, 2013 3:17pm EST
 
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By Catherine Hornby

ROME (Reuters) - Religious leaders must convince women carrying out female genital mutilation that it is not required by scripture and it can cause infection, infertility or even death in young girls, African ministers said on Monday.

The practice is prevalent in 28 African countries and parts of the Middle East and Asia, notably Yemen, Iraqi Kurdistan and Indonesia. There are several types including partial or total removal of the genitalia and narrowing of the vaginal opening.

It is usually arranged by other women in the family for girls between infancy and 15, and performed by traditional cutters who use anything from razor blades to scissors or tin can lids.

The United Nations passed a resolution in December urging countries to ban the practice that an estimated 100 to 140 million girls worldwide have been subjected to, putting them at risk of serious physical and psychological problems.

But participants at an international meeting in Rome said new laws needed to be accompanied by education and discussion in traditional communities to help dispel misleading myths.

"Religious leaders have to be involved, primarily Muslims and those from traditional religions. Opinion leaders have to be on board in this fight," Benin's Family and Social Affairs Minister Fatouma Amadou Djibril said.

"We can uphold traditions but we have to find ways to replace this kind of practice with different rituals," she said.

People often believe the practice is required by religion, but it is not mentioned in the Koran or any other religious text.   Continued...