The lawmakers in 27 African countries have gathered in Dakar for a two-day conference to discuss a ban on female circumcision.
The practice of female circumcision, which is genital mutilation of the female’s clitoris and/or labia, is performed in over 28 countries and reportedly affects more than 140 million women in Africa and the Middle East.
The World Health Organization states that the practice not only leads to infections and urinary tract problems, but it also increases risk during child birth, causing many women to die due to hemorrhaging.
Often carried out for deep-seated religious or cultural reasons, it is reported that in Africa, around 91 million girls aged nine and under have undergone the practice, with three million operated on each year.
Although it is widely practiced in Africa, many European countries are starting to see an influx in practice, due to the migration of African immigrants. A migration that now enables the western world to play a part in the ceasing of the practice, according to the African Union’s envoy Yetunda Teriba.
“Migrants have exported the practice,” Teriba states. “Although most of the victims are in Africa, the problem is growing in Europe among migrant and refugee communities.”
Although lawmakers are fighting hard to abolish the practice, Senegal’s parliament speaker Mamadou Seck states that the key to fighting genital mutilation is “education and persuasion, to convince but not coerce.”
Senegal is one of 19 African countries that have banned the practice and its Families Minister Ndeye Khady Diop said a nationwide campaign between 2000 and 2005 managed to reduce the number of mutilations by over 70 percent.
Diop is hoping that the efforts planned for a second campaign in Dakar will eliminate the practice completely by 2015.