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

    Greenpeace Leak: US-EU Trade Deal Would Favor Corporations

    Activist group leaks classified documents to 'shine a light' on talks that could create the world's largest bilateral trade and investment pact

    Video Ethiopia's Drought Takes Toll on Children

    East African country’s crops failed in 2015, creating food shortages for 10 million – including 6 million children whose development may be compromised

    What Your First Name Reveals About Who You Vote For

    People named Chad are more likely to be Republicans and Jonathans are usually Democrats

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora