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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

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

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora