— By Alexandrine from Burkina Faso
Early in December 2016, UNFPA organized a press tour in the north central region of Burkina Faso, to observe compliance with measures prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM). The report is bitter.
Despite the multitude of information and awareness campaigns, and the adoption of the law prohibiting female genital mutilation in Burkina Faso, the practice still persists. It is estimated that more than 70% of women are circumcised in Burkina Faso. The excision rate for women between the ages of 15 and 49 is 76% and 13% for girls between 0 and 14 years. According to a report by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, female circumcision affects almost all ethnic groups in Burkina Faso throughout the country.
During our tour, in one of the public schools we visited, we met Rokiatou, a 10-year-old girl with a smile on her lips and sad eyes. She experienced the sad and harsh reality of excision. Rokiatou was excised at the age of 6 years. It was her grandmother who accompanied her to the matron. Rokiatou was lucky because she did not have any complications, but what does the life of woman, bride and young mother reserve to her?
Excision involves serious physical and psychological consequences for women. It is very painful because it is done without anesthesia. Moreover, it is made in precarious hygienic conditions, which promote infections and the proliferation of the transmission of the AIDS virus.
Like this girl, there are many women and girl victims of female genital mutilation in the Kaya region and throughout Burkina Faso.
A midwife told us that several girls are admitted weekly to the health center due to aggravated cases of excisions.
“This week we received a six-year-old girl, a type two excision. For the second also, excision of type two with a large beacon, she will need a repair.”
There are three types of excision, two of them are frequent in Burkina Faso. This is the removal of all or part of the clitoris and removal of the clitoris plus the labia minora.
The complicit silence of parents
The actors of the practice of excision cite several reasons, including tradition and religion. These arguments are based on popular beliefs such as:
– The removal of the clitoris makes it possible to make a sexual differentiation. The girl must renounce to her potential rod, the clitoris, to become “a real woman”.
– From a certain age the little girls have itching in the area due to the presence of worms in the clitoris. So we have to extract the clitoris.
– Female not excised = Clears an odor due to the presence of the clitoris.
– At the time of delivery, if the head of the newborn touches the clitoris, it follows the death of the latter. It is therefore necessary for the survival of the newborn.
– The circumcised girl will remain faithful to her future husband.
Since 1995, article 380 of the Penal Code of Burkina Faso punishable by imprisonment of six to three years and a fine of 150 000 to 900 000 F CFA, anyone who attacks the integrity of the genital organ of the woman.
Despite the existence of this law and the number 80 00 11 12 to denounce the cases of excision in Burkina Faso, few people are still quick to do so, especially when it involves their relatives, for fear of tearing the family fabric. Many girls are thus circumcised in the knowledge and appreciation of the parents who, even if they are aware of the harmful consequences, prefer to remain silent rather than surrender the culprits and other accomplices to the police and / or judicial authorities.
Studies have reported 31 cases of excision, including 5 deaths in 2015.
What to do ?
Several international organizations have condemned FGM as a violation of human rights, the rights of the child, and the right to health and physical integrity. Burkina Faso, by joining these various conventions, has made fighting female circumcision one of its priorities. There is hope, however, of abandoning the practice of FGM in Burkina Faso.
The need especially is to dare to talk about sexuality to teenagers, because the presence of the clitoris has nothing to do with sexual debauchery.