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Anti-FGM/C fatwa, a major leap for campaign in Guinea-Bissau

13 September 2013
Religious leader, an Imam, signing theNational Islamic Conference Resolution

Bissau (Guinea-Bissau) After several years of campaigning to end one of the most harmful traditional practices affecting women in Guinea Bissau i.e. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), the West African nation received a major boost in 2013 when the country’s Muslim authorities, through the National Islamic Conference, passed a “ fatwa ” (religious decree) to reject FGM/C as it has no Islamic  justifications, just two year after a law was passed to ban the practice. 

The practice persevered because of long-held cultural beliefs that cut across religions in country where 45% of the 1.6million inhabitants are Muslims and 13% are Christians while the rests believe in traditional religions.

The FGM/C prevalence rate is between 45% to 50% women in the 15 and 49 age bracket. FGM/C is among the causes of maternal death.

The formal adoption of the fatwa, signed during the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM in February 2013, is likely to lead to a significant decrease in the practice of FGM, and its impact may even be greater than the adoption of the Law against FGM/C in July 2011.

This is because most people who continue to practice FGM/C, which seriously jeopardizes women’s health, justify it as a practice that has the blessing of Islam.

 

Thanks to the hard work of the National committee for the abandonment of harmful practices (CNPN), the Islamic Council and Religious Leaders’ Association, with the support of the United Nations and civil society organizations, major religious leaders, including 150 imams, all condemned the practice of FGM/C.

The imams publicly acknowledged and signed the resolution together with the President of the National Committee for the abandonment of harmful practices (CNPN), and the President of the National Assembly Mr Ibraima Sori Djalo.

The signatories to the Resolution spoke individually about their commitment to eradicating this harmful practice, and declared that it “not part of Islamic faith”. 

The approval of the Law against FGM in 2011, and recent public declarations of abandonment of the practice by communities in Cambadju, and Mansore Pirada have all contributed to reducing the practice in the country.

These declarations took place in December 2012 and January 2013 as a result of efforts made by national partners and the activities of the four year UNFPA-UNICEF joint programme on FGM/C. Overall, some 157 communities, representing 40,856 pople, pledged to abandon harmful cultural and social practices.

The formal adoption of this resolution by the National Islamic Conference is yet another significant step that will further discourage communities from this practice, and hopefully one day in the near future, abandon it! 

Bamba Gning&Muniro Conté