News / Africa

In Senegal, Reconstructive Surgery for FGM Victims

A marching campaign against female genital mutilation, Trans Mara District, Kenya, April 21, 2007.
A marching campaign against female genital mutilation, Trans Mara District, Kenya, April 21, 2007.
Jennifer Lazuta
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution last week that calls on member countries to pass and enforce laws banning female genital mutilation (FGM), which it deems a violation of human rights.
 
The World Health Organization says there are still as many as 140 million women and girls living with effects of FGM, and the group estimates that 92 million of them, aged 10 and older, live in Africa.
 
In Senegal, the latest African country to offer victims free reconstructive surgery, seven physicians were recently trained on a technique that repairs the physical damage of FGM and can restore sensation.
 
“The surgery is very effective in terms of rebuilding the anatomy," says Dr. Abdoul Aziz Kassé, a Dakar-based surgical oncologist. "It’s very effective in terms of sexuality. More than 80 percent of patients are totally satisfied. So to my point of view, [there are] no complications, [it is] very effective in terms of function and anatomy, and so really this is just great.”
 
But not everyone, he says, is praising the surgery.
 
“Sometimes, in some populations, people can think we are trying to reverse something important for women," he says, explaining that some consider genital mutilation a necessary rite of passage or social norm related to cleanliness and fidelity.
 
"If they think that mutilation is something good in terms of their culture, and if you try and reverse it, people can think that what we are doing is having some kind of confrontation with the culture," says Kassé.
 
Banned by Senegalese officials 1999, FGM entails partial or full removal of external female genitalia.
 
Although many people believe it has no health benefits and even causes numerous short- and long-term problems, such as chronic pain, urinary problems, and life-threatening childbirth-related complications, the practice persists in parts of Africa.
 
Malick Gueye, communications manager for Tostan, a Dakar-based rights group that has prompted up to 6,000 communities across Africa to abandon the practice, is concerned that free reconstructive surgery could undermine efforts to eradicate FGM.
 
"Reconstructive surgery has many benefits," says Gueye. "But knowing that women can repair the damage later, if needed, could be used as an argument in favor of continuing the practice on a broader scale."
 
But some members of Tostan and the Rome-based No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) say this is unlikely.
 
Alvilda Jablonko, FGM program coordinator for NPWJ, which was a key force behind the campaign to get the U.N. General Assembly resolution against FGM, says nothing can undo all the damage of FGM.
 
“I think there’s a problem, certainly, that if people think by repair, we can return to the state prior to the initial mutilation," says Jablonko. "Obviously, if you cut something off, you’re not going to be able to bring it back.”
 
According to Khady Koita, president of La Palabre, a Dakar-based women’s rights group, reconstructive surgery is merely a tool, not the solution.
 
“If you say, ‘Okay, we can do [the FGM] because we can make the surgery after,’ it’s not fine," says Koita, who herself was mutilated as a girl. "It’s good to make the surgery now for the people who had FGM, but for the new people, no FGM. Not any kind, any form of FGM.”
 
Koita, who has not had the reconstructive operation and is not sure that she ever will, says she has heard good reviews from women who elected to do it.
 
In Burkina Faso, which began offering reconstructive surgery in 2006, and where women frequently decline to speak publicly about such intimate topics, gynecologist Michel Akotionga says several patients have been so happy with the results that they have named their children after him.
 
"The women are happy to regain feeling in their vagina, to be able to urinate properly and to have sex without pain," he says of the procedure, which re-exposes nerves and grafts new tissue.
 
In Senegal, where only a handful of women have received the medical procedure, surgeons say they plan to integrate counseling and sex therapy into their treatment plans to help women deal with the psychological trauma associated with FGM.
 
The surgery is being offered in Senegal free of charge through the end of the year, and then at a minimal cost starting in 2013.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid