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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid