The Eritrean government has announced that all practices of female genital mutilation are banned. In a proclamation that went into effect on the last day of March, jail sentences will now be mandated for those who perform, provide tools for, or request the procedure, as well as for anyone who fails to report any cases of female genital mutilation (FGM).
Government officials and women’s rights activists are hopeful that the ban will change the culture around FGM, which often results in health complications ranging from infection to infertility and pregnancy complications to death. Said Luul Ghereab the president of the National Union of Eritrean Women, of the move, “FGM is a deep rooted culture and it needs a persistent continuous effort (to halt it). We do not believe (this ban) will automatically eradicate circumcision, but it surely will play a role,” Reuters reports.
FGM is a common tradition in parts of Africa and the Middle East. The procedures vary, but often involves the excision of parts of the female genitalia, most commonly the clitoris. Supporters of the practice argue that it prepares the girl for womanhood and discourages promiscuity. According to Reuters, over 140 million women and girls worldwide are estimated to have undergone the procedure, which is very rarely performed by a trained health professional or with correct medical tools.