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

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    Video Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    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.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora