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technology 25 Nov 2019

Women’s rights groups take Malian Government to court over failure to criminalize FGM

By Waiswa Wafula

A number of women’s rights groups have moved forward to file a case against the Mali Government at the ECOWAS regional court. This comes after years of unsuccessfully campaigning for an anti-FGM law in Mali.

The rights groups have accused the country of failing to protect girls and women from a “grave and systematic violation.” The initiative could set a legal precedent and have wider implications on the continent.

According to the UN, nine out of ten girls in Mali have been exposed and undergone FGM, a ritual that can cause serious health problems and has no benefit to the individual

A women’s rights NGO Equality Now said it has jointly filed a case on Monday with two other partner organizations, at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice in Abuja Nigeria, after their endless plea for laws against FGM were ignored.

 “We have made several calls to Mali for the past 18 years urging it to honour its national, regional and international obligations to protect girls and women from this harmful practice,” said Faiza Mohamed, Equality Now’s Africa director.

“However, this remains to be done and we can no longer sit still as thousands of girls and women in Mali continue being subjected to FGM,” she added in a statement.

Although FGM is seen as a necessary need for social acceptance and improving marriage prospects, health experts say a girl can bleed to death or die from infections after undergoing the cut. The girls can also cause fatal childbirth complications in future.

The UN committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) said in June 2020, Mali’s failure to decriminalize FGM puts the lives of girls and women in Mali and neighboring countries at risk. Reports show that girls from Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Guinea are taken to Mali for the cut.

There have been many governments in place in Mali, so we can’t wait any longer,” said Uwizeye, a consultant for the non-governmental organization, referring to various governments in power before the current military junta who have also not acted.

Another partner organization in filling the case, The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) says the case would establish a landmark in women and girl’s rights jurisprudence in Africa.

“This case would not only prompt the ECOWAS court to make binding pronouncement on the situation of FGM in Mali, but would also establish legal precedent and standard applicable not only in Mali and West Africa, but across Africa as a whole,” said Gaye Sowe, IHRDA’s executive director.

Also read: Tanzania: Still in the fight against FGM

Equality Now has partnered with the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), the Malian Association for the Monitoring and Orientation of Traditional Practices and the Association for the Progress and Defense of Women’s Rights in the legal challenge.

A majority of men and women believe the practice is required by religion but education has enlightened more people on the need to stop the practice.

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