News / Africa

FGM Repair Hospital Stirs Controversy in Burkina Faso

Jennifer Lazuta
The world's first hospital built to help victims of Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM, is creating a controversy in Burkina Faso.  The hospital was due to open Friday but the government now says it won't allow the clinic to open because of licensing issues.  The American NGO behind the hospital says the government revoked permission for the clinic in response to pressure from the Catholic Church. 

Burkina Faso's first lady, Chantal Compaoré, was scheduled to inaugurate the world's first hospital to reconstruct the clitoris of women who have suffered from female genital mutilation (FGM).  The hospital has been under construction in Bobo-Dioulasso since 2011.

But earlier this week, the Ministry of Health said it would not allow the hospital to open its doors.

Lene Sebgo, the minister of health, gave the reason.

"The Ministry of Health can't give permission for the hospital to open on March 7 because there was never any authorization to create it. There are clear rules and regulations for opening a medical clinic, and the government cannot allow the hospital to open now because it has not followed these rules or listed its health workers," he said.

The hospital was created by Clitoraid, a Las Vegas-based non-profit organization, which works to "restore a sense of pleasure" to women who underwent FGM.  It was backed by the founder of the International Raelian Movement, a UFO religious sect that promotes sexuality and sensuality.

The surgery, which rebuilds the anatomy of the clitoris, not only repairs the physical damage of FGM, but can also restore sexual sensation.

Abibata Sanon is Clitoraid's Burkina Faso representative and the head of the Association of Female Fulfillment, a local NGO that collaborated with Clitoraid on the hospital.  She said she didn't understand why the government wouldn't allow the hospital to open.

"We submitted all the paperwork in 2011, but now the Minister of Health is saying there was a problem of deadline with the files and has asked us to delay the opening of the hospital," she said.

Sanon said the building was complete, the equipment was in place and volunteer surgeons were ready to work.

Clitoraid released a statement on Tuesday saying the government revoked its authorization following pressure from the Catholic Church, which they said was against the restoration of a woman's pleasure.

The Realian Movement and the Catholic Church have butted heads in the past, particularly when it comes to the issue of condoms.

The spokesperson for a national conference of Catholic bishops in Ouagadougou declined to comment.

This is not the first time clitoral repair surgery is being offered to victims of FGM.  Doctors have been performing the surgery in private clinics in Burkina Faso since 2006.

Doctors usually present the surgery as a way to relieve health problems caused by FGM, such as burning during urination, painful scar tissue or complications during childbirth.

It remains, however, controversial, as many people in West Africa still view the removal of a girl's clitoris as a rite of passage.  Many NGOs working to end the practice of FGM said the surgery could undermine their efforts, if people viewed it as a "quick fix."

Burkina Faso's Minister of the Promotion of Women, Nestorine Sangare, said there were other ways to help a woman find pleasure besides the surgical reconstruction of the clitoris.

She said, "Sex education courses for women can teach them how to discover their body and learn how to have a sex life that is satisfying.  The presence or absence of a clitoris isn't the end of the world."

She said when she first heard about plans to open a "pleasure hospital," she was insulted, because such a campaign stigmatized women on account of their sex life.

Clitoraid said that more than 300 women have already signed up for the surgery, which will be offered free of charge.

Sanon said the volunteer surgeons would go ahead and perform the surgeries in other, private clinics over the coming weeks.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs