The law prohibiting FGM passed from the Sudanese council of ministers and is expected to also pass in the sovereign council. This will enact it as law, with a punishment of up to three years imprisonment for those caught performing the procedure. The practice is rampant in the country, with approximately 87% of women having been subjected to it, according to UN figures. It is usually performed on girls between the ages of five and nine, although it is common for children under the age of four. At the same time, a large number of the population -slightly less than half- support the practice. In other words, this is by no means a definitive and once-and-for-all solution. However, it is an impressive step towards eradicating the tradition.
The move has been applauded by human rights activists as well as health workers and women. Amira Azhary, of the council for Children Welfare and prominent supporter of the Saleema campaign, a preexisting project aiming to reduce the prevalence of FGM, has characterised the law as “an expression of the political will in this country.” An anti-FGM activist Nimco Ali, head of the Five Foundation, has praised the development by stating “Sudanese women have always wanted to end FGM.” The message is also seen in a positive light by women in the community. Aziza, speaking to UNICEF workers in 2014 said, “I myself am convinced that cutting is bad – I have suffered its consequences when giving birth.”
This is a truly remarkable move that will make a massive difference in the lives of millions. It is the first step in helping an entire generation of women to rid themselves of the stigma associated with sex, in addition to empowering them to take a proactive stance in their lives and by extension, the governance of their country. Without getting into the political aspects of the issue, this is an incredible effort to democratise, follow the will of the majority, as well as modernise the country to better initiate change when it comes to eliminating brutal and unnecessary practices.
Female Genital Mutilation, also known as female circumcision, refers to a procedure that is extremely common in parts of Africa. It is mainly the removal of the clitoris, oftentimes accompanied with the removal of all other external reproductive organs. In the case of Sudan, the most extreme method is normally used, with the majority of organs removed and the remaining ones “sewn shut.” This approach carries the most risks of all versions of the medically unnecessary procedure and yet, its prevalence remains high in the country, with many mothers supporting it for their daughters.
In summary, the Sudanese lawmakers, campaigners, health professionals, and community should be congratulated for the collective push to end FGM. The momentum ought to be taken into advantage to actually enforce the penalties and continue to campaign and raise awareness on all the health issues that will arise from it. Through this, it is very possible that the next generation of women will be far less affected and impacted by FGM.