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Burkina Faso Activists Fight Against Female Circumcision


Activists in Burkina Faso are marking the 16th anniversary of their campaign to end the practice of female genital mutilation. Though progress has been made, many young girls still undergo the dangerous operation, which is banned by law.

A rap song by the Burkinabe group Sofa tells the story of a young girl who has undergone the practice of female genital mutilation.

She suffers. She cries, the song says. It hurts when she makes love.

Activists and health officials gathered Monday in the town of Yako for Burkina Faso's national day against female genital mutilation (FGM).

The practice involves the cutting away of young girls external genitalia. Risks include bleeding to death, infection, stunted growth, and complications during childbirth.

In 1996, Burkina Faso passed a law banning female genital mutilation. An anonymous hot line was set up to report incidents and hundreds of practitioners have been successfully prosecuted.

Burkina Faso's first lady, Chantal Compaore, says much progress against FGM has been made in her country.

We have arrived at a stage where we can actually carry out surgery to repair some of the harmful effects of the FGM, she says. This is something we must encourage.

UNICEF representative in Burkina Faso Joan French says campaigners must fight deeply rooted traditional beliefs. But, she says she is pleased with the country's progressive stance against a practice considered to be a human-rights violation by the United Nations.

"It is a very deep cultural practice, which many people in Burkina still practice," she said. "However for over 10 years now there has been a committee which fights against this practice, which has defined strategies so that populations will abandon this practice."

French says an unfortunate side effect of the legal ban on female genital mutilation in Burkina Faso has been that it is now being carried out underground.

"While it is true that we have made progress in Burkina Faso, and we can see that there is some success, the practice is very much alive," she added. "And in fact, its beginning to be hidden, more hidden than before, since there is a law, which makes this illegal."

A study carried out by the National Committee Against Female Genital Mutilation with the help of the World Health Organization last year discovered that around 70 percent of female circumcisions are performed on girls under the age of seven, because it is harder to detect by authorities.

French says many girls are also taken to neighboring countries where female genital mutilation is still legal.

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