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Northern Region tops FGM activities

...2013 DHS reveals

By Mohamed Massaquoi

Much of the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) prevalence data currently available is based on verbal surveys and self-reporting. Clinical examinations are uncommon. The assumption is that women respond truthfully when asked about their FGM status and that they know the type and extent of FGM that was performed on their genitalia. However, many FGM procedures are performed at a very young age; many cultures feel a taboo about such discussions, and a number of such factors raise the possibility that the validity of survey responses might be incorrect, potentially underreported.

Recent Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) conducted by Statistics Sierra Leone in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation puts the northern region of Sierra Leone at the top of FGM activities in the country.

The survey indicates that information from all women aged 15-49 on knowledge, attitudes and experience of FGM was very remarkable as 100% of women and 99% of men have heard of the practice. But more importantly, knowledge about FGM is universal as the prevalence rate shows that 90% have undergone some forms of circumcision.

“75% had some flesh cut and removed, 9% were sewn closed, and less than 1% was cut without any skin removal,” the survey noted. “In 15% of the cases, women did not provide details as to what type of circumcision they had. More women in rural areas (94%) had been circumcised than in urban areas (81%). The results also show that FGM was highest in the Northern Region with 96% and lowest in the Western Region with 76%.”

The report added that circumcision was more prevalent among older women as 98% as of women aged 45-49 as compared to 74% of women aged 15-19.

In an interview with Concord Times, a senior member of the Bondo society, who preferred to be anonymous, disclosed that a lot of Sierra Leonean women are still involved in the practice because of its commercial benefit.

She said government must ensure that children are not allowed to be initiated as the practice varies from one region to another with adverse medical consequences.

“I am part of it because I am making money out of it. We don’t have alternative [means of livelihood], so we depend on initiation fees being paid by parents for their children to be initiated. We also benefit from gifts being brought to the ‘Bondo bush’ for us the initiators,” she explained.

The Sierra Leone government is yet to commit itself to proscribing the practice despite being part of so many international conferences seeking support for FGM to be banned.