Source: Daily News
HUMAN rights activitists have urged the government to designate an International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) so as to send a stronger message to communities that practice it.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Speaking at a workshop on Wednesday, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) Director of Empowerment and Advocacy, Ms Imelda Urio said more action was needed in the fight against the repugnant practice.

"Apart from recognizing the day at national level, the government should amend the Penal Code and insert a clause protecting women over 18," she said. Section 169A(1) of the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act provides that anyone having custody, charge or care of a girl under eighteen years of age who causes her to undergo FGM commits the offence of cruelty to children.

Ms Urio said that at present the regions leading in the practice of FGM are Manyara, Arusha, Dodoma, Kilimanjaro, Singida, Tanga, Morogoro, Iringa and Mara and this ranges between 13.3 and 70.8 per cent. Activists comprising of members of NGOS and civil society organizations hailing from the regions mostly affected by the practice have been meeting to share experiences on how best to fight this problem.

"This year's theme is involving the government to quicken the process of eliminating FGM worldwide and we want the vice to be among the government's agenda in the meetings of different levels," she said. The Kilimanjaro Network Against Female Genital Mutilation (NAFGEM) Executive Coordinator, Mr Francis Selasini said that the only way the efforts currently being implemented can be effective if there is talk at the grassroots.

Mr Selasini agreed with the views of one of the journalists of utilizing the local government authority saying that local councillors would be good tools but added that many were afraid to bring up the issue because it is closely associated with traditions and customs. "At the moment education and raising awareness on the side effects of FGM is what we are relying on. The problem is that many parents are not looking at the bigger picture and only worried about getting their children wed and obtaining dowry," he said.

The Dodoma Inter African Committee Chairperson, Ms Columba Mapembe said that there was need for a collection action to do away with the vice especially when you take into consideration that in some places, the tradition is very well embedded in their societies. Ms Mapembe said that there were places where woman demand to be cut to avoid being married in the family that doesn't accept you as an equal from not having been cut, can't serve food to your in laws, can't milk the cow and many other exclusions.

The activists also want the government to ensure that there is always an adequate budget towards its control and for there to be enough resources in the different ministries including the police such that they are ready to help those fleeing away from prosecuting. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) website FGM is affecting about 140 million girls and women, and more than 3 million girls are at risk every year.

A special focus for WHO this year, is the troubling trend of health-care providers increasingly being the ones performing female genital mutilation, and thereby contributing to legitimize and maintain the practice.

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