Yemen to reduce the practice of FGM by 30 percent by 2012 [Archives:2008/1213/Local News]

December 4 2008

By: Ibrahim Al-Wadi'ee
For the Yemen Times

SANA'A, Dec. 3 ) Assisted by a regional expert, Yemen aims to implement a five-year plan to achieve progress in fighting the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision, still highly prevalent in the country's coastal areas.

According to Dr. Nafissah Al-Jaifi, Secretary General of the High Council Motherhood and Childhood, both the government and civil society organizations will be involved in carrying out the five-year plan to focus on extensive social education to raise awareness about FGM within society. Social and religious leaders will be vital to the project's success.

Over the next five years, the plan aims to reduce the practice of FGM in the target areas by 30 percent by 2012. It will be implemented with the help of the United Nations Childhood Fund (UNICEF) which has offered assistance in both the implementation and assessment stages of the project, as soon as it is accredited by the government.

Ali Hashim Al-Seraj, a Sudanese expert in the field of family and reproductive health who has just finished an assessment report on FGM, said that Yemen is the last among Arab countries in terms of practicing FGM. However, he said that, in some areas, the rate of practice is as high as in countries such as those of the Horn of Africa, Sudan and Egypt, where the practice is the most prevalent in the region.

“In some areas of Yemen such as Hodeidah, Hadramout, Aden and Sayoun, the rate of FGM practice is similar to Sudan and Egypt”, said Al-Seraj. “In Hodeida, the rate has reached 92 percent, maybe because this area is close to the Horn of Africa and has seen the integration of people from there through trade,” he added.

Al-Seraj explained that the Yemeni plan came in the context of international efforts to limit of FGM worldwide, and considered the fact that the practice is restricted to only certain areas in Yemen as encouraging.

Nour Al-Kasadi, director of the Childhood Protection Program in UNICEF, maintained that out of Yemen's 21 governorates, FGM was only prevalent in five. These are Hodeidah with 97 percent, Hadramout with 79 percent, Al-Maharah with 96 percent, Aden with 82 percent and Sana'a with 45 percent.

“Efforts to fight FGM have come up against many obstacles, notably the prevalence of illiteracy and a lack of public awareness of the negative effects of this bad practice,” said Al-Kasadi.

FGM is attributed to religious beliefs and traditions of the society, according to Huseneya Al-Qaderi, executive manager of the Gender and Development Studies and Research Center in Sana'a. “Although FGM is not mentioned in the Holy Quran, some people think that this practice protects girls from deviation,” she said, noting that a great majority of girls are mutilated during the first ten days of their life, like boys.

The Ministry of Public Health and Population issued a resolution in 2001 to ban FGM in all hospitals and health centers in Yemen and health personnel are forbidden from carrying out any related operation.

However, despite the Ministry of Health's good step in issuing such a resolution, the rate of FGM is still high in Yemen, according to UNICEF. The resolution has not deterred people from the practice who instead circumcise their girls at home with no sterilized tools or medical experts to supervise, often leading to further complications.

The Ministry of Education will also participate in the plan's implementation through excluding any information that promotes FGM from the curriculum. The media will also play a major role in raising the people's awareness about the effects of FGM and religious scholars will clarify the issue to society.