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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.