The Africa Union on Friday urged its member states to put an end to the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), saying the ritual traumatised millions of girls and women on the continent.
"We should take a moment to reflect on the traumatic experience of women and girls who have gone through this atrocity of the FGM," said Alpha Oumar Konare, chairman of the AU commission, in a message on the Day of the African Child, which is observed on 16 June every year. "We need to mobilise our communities, religious leaders, traditional leaders, women and men - through education and information - to change their mindset and involve them in combating FGM."
The practice is a violation of the human rights and dignity of girls and women, he said. Expressing the AU's concern over the social and psychological effects of the practice on the health of girls and women, Konare emphasised that the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child condemns child abuse and harmful traditional and cultural practices, including FGM.
FGM involves the cutting and/or removal of the clitoris and other vaginal tissue, often under unsanitary conditions, from the genitals of girls and women. It is practised in at least 28 countries globally. The United Nations Children's Fund estimates that up to 140 million girls and women around the world have undergone some form of FGM. It is practised extensively in Africa, and also found in parts of the Middle East and among immigrant communities around the world.
Human rights activists have put pressure on governments to legislate against FGM. At least 16 African countries have banned the practice, and the Maputo Protocol, an African regional document that explicitly prohibits and condemns FGM, came into force in November 2005.