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Eritrea bans female circumcision

10th April 2007

The Eritrean government has outlawed the practice of female circumcision, saying it seriously endangers the health of women.

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The information ministry said the life-threatening practice was banned, and that anybody found involved in it would be punished with a fine and imprisonment.

Female circumcision, or female genital mutilition (FGM), is widespread in many parts of Africa in the Middle East, and can involve removing the clitoris, or large parts of the vulva. Girls who do not undergo the procedure are regarded as less marriageable.

The government's announcement follows a long campaign by women's rights groups in Eritrea, who say that more than 90% of Eritrean women have undergone the painful and often dangerous procedure.

Women carry out the surgery as part of an initiation rite to adulthood.

It is known to be a very painful practice that sometimes leads to excessive bleeding, infection, trauma and difficulties in childbirth.

"Female circumcision is a procedure that seriously endangers the health of women, causes them considerable pain and suffering besides threatening their lives," the government proclamation said.

"Whosoever requests, incites or promotes female circumcision by providing tools or any other means and whosoever, knowing that female circumcision is to take place or has taken place, fails without good cause, to warn or inform the proper authorities promptly, shall be punishable with a fine and imprisonment," it continued.

The ban came into force on March 31, the information ministry said. Bans in other African countries exist, but are rarely enforced.

 

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