Sudan has criminalised female genital mutilation (FGM), making it punishable by three years in jail, a move campaigners said ushered in a ‘new era’ for women’s rights in the African nation.
Nine out of 10 women and girls in predominately Muslim Sudan have undergone FGM, United Nations data show.
The procedure usually involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia and results in urinary tract infections, uterine infections, kidney infections, cysts, reproductive issues and pain during sex.
The Sudanese government approved an amendment to its criminal legislation on April 22, stating that anyone who performs FGM either inside a medical establishment or elsewhere faces three years’ imprisonment and a fine.
Women’s rights groups said the punishment would help to end FGM, but warned it would be difficult to change minds in communities that view the traditional practice as necessary to marry their daughters.
‘FGM prevalence in Sudan is one of the highest globally. It is now time to use punitive measures to ensure girls are protected from this torturous practice,’ said Faiza Mohamed, Africa regional director for Equality Now.
An estimated 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM, which is practised in at least 27 African countries and parts of Asia and the Middle East. Girls can bleed to death or die from infections, while FGM can also cause fatal childbirth complications later, say health experts.
In Sudan, more than three-quarters of procedures are conducted by nurses, midwives or other medical personnel, says anti-FGM campaign group 28 Too Many.
In recent years there has been a global trend towards banning the practice.
However, according to a Unicef report, the practice is still being widely carried out, despite the fact that at least 24 of these countries have legislation or some form of decrees against FGM.
FGM was already illegal in some Sudanese states but these bans were widely ignored.
BBC Sudan analyst Mohaned Hashim notes that there have been previous attempts to ban FGM across the whole country but parliament under long-time leader Omar al-Bashir rejected the recommendations.
Women were at the forefront of the movement that toppled Mr. Bashir in April 2019.
Campaigners accused the former government of discriminating against women in various ways – including preventing women from wearing trousers.
In November Sudan repealed a restrictive public order law that controlled how women acted and dressed in public.
The FGM amendment to the criminal law was approved on April 22, Reuters news agency reports. (Source: BBC)