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Female Genital Mutilation Leaves Women Traumatised, Barren 

By Francisca Ambe & Noela Tabot* — Female genital mutilation, FGM, which involves the removal or injury to the female genital organ, has left many women traumatised and some even barren. Following worldwide condemnation and actions by local and international bodies, the practice has drastically reduced in the Southwest, but it is still practised in Northern regions of Cameroon, especially in Manyu and Logone and Chari Divisions.

Many Moslem women and some Christian women are said to be victims of the practice, which some elderly women are unwilling to stop due to the benefits they derive from carrying out the practice. Some of these elderly women were themselves victims of the practice and so, feel cheated when they see younger generation of girls enjoying sexual life.

Some victims of FGM recounted to The Post the trauma they or their loved ones have experienced since they were circumcised. “My elder sister is now barren because she was circumcised. The circumcision was very crude that it affected her fertility,’’ says Bessem, a University of Buea student. She says her sister always has nightmares when she recalls the gruesome act. She expressed regret that she is coming from the area where female genital mutilation is practised.

However, most girls are operated before reaching puberty. Agnes Takang, a hairdresser admitted to The Post that she is a victim of FGM. According to her, the sole aim of the practice is to reduce the rate of promiscuity amongst young girls and women so that they can become faithful housewives to their husbands when they get married. “Even though I was not adversely affected, the thought of it makes me sick. Undergoing this process has left a very great scar in my mind that I will never forget,” she lamented.

A 2004 Cameroon demographic and health survey by regions shows that, the Far North and Southwest regions rank first in FGM practice with 5.4 percent and 2.4 percent respectively. In this practice, most victims have their clitoris removed, while some have their labia minora removed. The age at which FGM is performed varies according to regions. In some areas, baby girls are operated only few days after they are born; in others, girls are fifteen or older before they are subjected to the practice.

It is performed by older women in the society who use equipments like broken bottles, razor blades, knives and some traditional leaves. According to the World Health organisation, WHO, FGM is accompanied with effects like over bleeding which leads to the death of the victims in some cases due to the use of cruel equipments; recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections and pains during sexual intercourse; infertility and HIV/AIDS.

FGM also causes psychological trauma in the minds of the victims and even their close relations. While FGM is still being practiced in the extreme north, it has reduced or has completely been eradicated in Manyu Division. Delma Nso, a girl from the Ejagham tribe in Manyu Division, said the practice is no longer performed in the area. “Until now I have not undergone FGM,” she said.

It should be noted, however, that, international bodies like the WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, and some national bodies like the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Women Empowerment and the Family have been making enormous efforts to completely eradicate FGM in Cameroon and the world at large. While FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of human rights of the girls and women, Section 275 of the Cameroon Penal Code criminalises the act.

*(UB Journalism Students On Internship)

First published in The Post print edition no 01458

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