20 November 2007

Cameroon: Law Against Female Circumcision

Actions against the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Cameroon will soon be legalised and reinforced.

Yesterday, during a Female Genital Mutilation advocacy workshop at the United States Embassy in Cameroon, the Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seal, Amadou Ali, said the practice of FGM is prohibited in Cameroon and that during the revision of the Penal Code, all will be done to make sure that a law against FGM is put in place and enforced. Organised by the Cameroon Young Jurist Legal Resource Centre (CYJULERC), the workshop was sponsored by the US embassy through its Democracy and Human Rights Fund.

Minister Amadou Ali said the practice of female circumcision is recurrent in Cameroon particularly in the South West, East and Far North Provinces of the country. He stressed that Muslim culture does not accept Female Genital Mutilation but that of the Arab-Choa communities in the Far North Province. Although the practice seems to be dwindling, the Vice Prime Minister said it is something that still takes place in certain regions that are not yet open to the world. This is why all parliamentarians present during the workshop stood for a law against FGM. From Honourables Rose Abunaw Agbor to Pauline Ndoumou and Ayah Paul Abine, the remark was the same. "We are ready to vote a law against FGM which is a practice that compounds unspeakable violence and pains against women and young girls in Cameroon", the parliamentarians stressed. Honourable Ayah Paul Abine went further to say that he wishes the law will not only be limited to the practice of FGM but will also include cases of early marriages as some children are given out for marriage as early as seven years.

Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that worldwide, 150 million women and girls have been subjected to FGM and an additional two million girls are at risk each year. The US Ambassador to Cameroon Janet Garvey, the Deputy British High Commissioner at the British High Commissioner in Cameroon, Gillian Edwards, and other speakers stressed on the importance of Cameroon to be part of the fifteen other African countries that enacted laws criminalising FGM. Janet Garvey said it is their (interest to see that everybody in Cameroon is protected under the law.

Ayuk Esther of CYJULERC said they are lobbying for a law against FGM and an amendment of section 277 of the Penal Code is very urgent so that it can cover all types of FGM in Cameroon. "Adopting a specific law to punish those who practice FGM is the best thing the government can do to ensure that the practice is eradicated in Cameroon." Ayuk Esther noted.

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