African religious leaders called on to help tackle genital mutilation

2019-06-19 13:26
First ever African Summit on female genital mutilations and child marriages under way in Dakar, Senegal. (Supplied, Twitter)

First ever African Summit on female genital mutilations and child marriages under way in Dakar, Senegal. (Supplied, Twitter)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Religious leaders in Africa must speak up against the practice of female genital mutilation, which affects millions of children across the continent, an international conference in Dakar said on Tuesday.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision, is generally carried out on girls under seven years of age and "constitutes a danger and a physical attack on the physical integrity of women," Senegalese imam Abdou Aziz Kane told AFP on the sidelines of the three-day conference.

Participants agreed that religious leaders have a central role in eliminating both genital mutilation and arranged marriages for child brides - traditional practices which affect millions of children in Africa.

Religious and traditional leaders were invited to "promote dialogue within their communities to challenge the ideas handed down from long ago according to which the marriage of children and genital mutilation are acceptable practices," said the final declaration from the meeting organised by Senegal, Gambia and the Safe Hands for Girls NGO.

The conference gathered some 500 members of NGOs, victims' associations and government officials from a dozen countries as well as international institutions such as the World Bank.

'Religion still a big problem'

"Religion is still a big problem on the ground because people believe those practices are a religious obligation. I believe this summit will bring changes and make our cause advance," said Lisa Camara, Gambia coordinator for Safe Hands for Girls.

Rates of female genital mutilation among girls under 14 have fallen sharply in most regions of Africa over three decades, according to a report published in November.

The age-old ritual of cutting or removing the clitoris of young females has been decried by human and women's rights advocates and can lead to a host of physical, psychological and sexual complications.

And yet it remains widespread in parts of Africa and the Middle East.

Also read: How practices, and meaning, of genital cutting are changing in Tanzania

Historically, rates of FGM have been high in East Africa. In 2016, for example, the UN children's agency said 98% of women and girls in Somalia had been cut.

But the research suggested the practice has been falling over time in younger children, the most at-risk group.

While still endemic in many societies there is a growing stigma attached to the practice, making it hard for researchers to get a good idea of whether FGM has remained stable or is in decline.

According to UNICEF, 39% of girls in Africa are married off before their 18th birthday.

The participants in the Dakar conference also called on governments to "reinforce the promotion of equality between the sexes".

Read more on:    senegal  |  west africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.