In 2003, The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation was introduced; it is a United Nations-sponsored annual awareness that takes place every 6th of February as part of UN’s efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), female genital mutilation (FGM) is “All procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons’’.
Reports from WHO reveals that about 200 million women and girls worldwide have undergone FGM. The practice according to the report is found mostly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In Africa it is prevalent in countries like Ethiopia and Egypt.
FGM is also present in Cameroon. According to a survey on FGM in 2004 by UNICEF, FGM prevalence rate was at 1.4%. Although the national rate is low, there are regions with high prevalence rate which is still a call for concern. In the extreme north of Cameroon the prevalence rate is 13% for the Fulbe people. While this varies with religions; FGM is prevalent in 6% of Muslim women, less than 1% of Christians, and 0% for Animist women. Gender Based Activist in Cameroon have expressed worries on how FGM is treated in the Penal Code; the Cameroon Penal code according to them does not classify genital mutilation as a criminal offence. It is however worthy to note that; article 277 criminalizes aggravated assault, including aggravated assault to organs.
Most women who practice FGM do so out of ignorance, others for commercial reasons or traditional belief. Some practitioners belief it makes a woman faithful to her husband but, currently no empirical evidence to validate the belief. According to health specialist, FGM has many adverse health impacts; which include infection (mainly urinary or vaginal), pain, infertility, bleeding that may lead to loss of life, transmission of HIV/AIDS and complications during childbirth for survivors.
As an advocate for peace and Human Rights, LUKMEF Cameroon is totally committed to the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls. During the 11th edition of Zero tolerance for FGM, LUKMEF Cameroon saw the need of taking different initiatives to stop such harmful practices through sensitization campaigns. Local committees were set up to fight against this practice in areas of high prevalence such as in the South West and Northern Region of Cameroon. This according to LUKMEF will help ensure proximity surveillance. Targeted studies are also carried out to update the National Action plan to fight against FGM.
While some practitioners still hold to their rights of traditional practices, activists are hopeful FGM will end in the near future in Cameroon.