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Sudanese activists slam government position on female genital cutting

February 7, 2009 (KHARTOUM) — Right activists slammed a decision by the Sudanese cabinet to drop an article banning the practice of female genital cutting in the country. The government took its decision in accordance with an Islamic fatwa on the issue.

The Council of Ministers on February 5 dropped the article (13) of the draft Children’s Act of 2009, which provides for the ban of female genital mutilation as part of other customs and traditions harmful to the health of the child, and after approval of the draft Children’s Act 2009.

The cabinet decided to drop the article (13), which deals with female circumcision, taking into account the advisory opinion of the Islamic Fiqh Academy, which distinguish between harmful circumcision or infibulation (Pharaonic circumcision) and the circumcision of Sunna, a less extensive procedure.

The government decided to allow the Sunna practice allowed by the Figh Academy and prohibit the infibulation with its introduction in the Penal Code which is currently under preparation.

In Sudan where socio-economic security is provided for women primarily through the institution of marriage, the requirement that women must be virgins to be considered eligible for marriage contributes to a continuation of the practice of female cutting.

Human Rights Defenders in Sudan called in a statement issued today to support their efforts to stop the legislation for any type of FGM. They said such move is a clear violation of human rights, violence against the girl -child and against Sudan’s international legal commitments and against the Sudanese constitution.

The activists also say that this decision breaches article (32) of the interim constitution which requires to ensure the "equal rights of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights and all social, cultural and economic rights"

While the government seems adopting a gradual approach to end these harmful practices, the rights activists say the legalization of Sunna practice would open the door for maintaining all the forms of female genital mutilation and also would complicate ongoing efforts to eradicate it.

Coordinator for the network against genital mutilation, Nahid Jabrallah, confirmed in a report issued by Landinfo in May 2008 that the South Sudanese refugees in North Sudan have, for instance, started practising genital mutilation, and the custom has gradually spread to various ethnic groups in the western and southern parts of the country.

Religious affiliation is one of the factors determining which type of genital mutilation is to be performed. According to to a report issued by UNICEF in 2000, infibulation is most common among Muslim women (83 percent compared to 27 percent of Christians).
Sunna is mainly practiced by Christians (46 percent).

(ST)