A five-day meeting on female genital cutting has ended in Addis Ababa with a call on traditional and religious leaders to help end the practice. A declaration calls on them to help dispel myths and misconceptions about the procedure.
George Ngwa is the regional information advisor for the UN Population Fund. From the Ethiopian capital, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about why religious and traditional leaders are being asked to help.
“Essentially because female genital mutilation and cutting have been justified on the basis of religion and culture. So it was agreed by participants that the onus of fighting this scourge would fall heavily on those leaders, who allow the use of culture and religion to justify the continuation of the practice. It cuts across religion…. It’s not only about Muslims or Jews or orthodox Christians. It’s practiced across all these religions,” he says.
The UNFPA spokesman adds, “They’re being urged to educate their constituency on the rights of women and girls to bodily integrity and their rights to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.
Ngwa says that there were many representatives from religion, but fewer among traditional leaders. Those who attended the conference supported the final declaration.
“Everybody was on board with this declaration because most of the traditional leaders have come around to understanding, thanks to the work of sensitization that is being done in the field…that there’s no legal or no cultural, religious grounds for the continuation for female genital cutting and female genital mutilation.”