Judy Mandelbaum

Judy Mandelbaum
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June 01
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Editor’s Pick
JANUARY 18, 2010 11:24AM

Good news from Africa: Mauritania bans female circumcision

Rate: 12 Flag

Mauritanian women
Mauritanian women have other problems to deal with as well,
including a literacy rate of just 43.4%

There’s finally some more good news in the struggle against female genital mutilation (FGM) in Africa: Just weeks after Uganda banned the procedure, the thirty-four member Forum for Islamic Thought in the West African nation of Mauritania has issued a statement outlawing it as well. After convening in the capital, Nouakchott, early last week, the Forum announced that FGM had no basis in Islam and "has been proven by experts to be detrimental, immediately or subsequently. Hence, such a practice, as is performed domestically, is hereby prohibited, on account of the harm it gives rise to." From now on, it said, Mauritanian clerics will denounce female circumcision in their mosques.


This step is long overdue, but all the more welcome. FGM rates vary in Mauritania, reaching up to seventy-two percent in some areas. It is performed for religious reasons and also out of a belief that it makes women more sexually attractive and fertile. The social pressure to conform is overwhelming. Mauritanians practice Type I and Type II FGM,* thus inflicting disease and both physical and emotional pain on their women. "Using religion to justify harm is nothing but systematic ideological terrorism,” one twenty-four year-old student told magharebia.com.

The new ban is the result of a grassroots movement among Mauritanian women and health professionals and steady pressure from Unesco and other NGOs. Will it have any effect? Sad to say, there is little reason to be optimistic. After all, many African governments have formally banned FGM, only for it to continue on as before. Nor is this the first such fatwa to be issued by Mauritanian clerics. The ruling provides neither enforcement nor sanctions. But supporters are hoping that this time, the collective reputation of thirty-four leading Muslim religious leaders will at least begin changing attitudes towards this barbaric practice, leading to a total, verifiable ban in the near future.

Note: I have already written about FGM here and here.

* Type I and type II FGM as classified by the World Health Organization.

 1. Type I (commonly referred to as clitoridectomy)

Excision (removal) of the clitoral hood, with or without removal of all or part of the clitoris.

2. Type II (commonly referred to as excision)

Excision (removal) of the clitoris, together with part or all of the labia minora (the inner vaginal lips). This is the most widely practised form.

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Let's hope that ban is effective. Many times it is done by women.
Male circumcision is the equivalent of Type I female circumcision. Let's ban it, too!
I agree, Spyro, that male circumcision seems cruel and unnecessary, but let's see if it is the same as Female Circumcision I:
"Removal of the [penile] hood, with or without removal of all or part of the [penis]."
Feel any difference?
Banning the practice is one thing, but charging, prosecuting and punishing offenders is quite another. There's a long way to go before law enforcement will ever overcome tradition.
You're right, of course. That is the fate of most such "bans" in Africa. But people keep trying, and I say more power to them.
it's still progress. thanks for posting this.
Usually nothing is conceded without a struggle so the fact that the clerics are making this particular fatwa is a tiny step in the right direction. More power to the Mauritanian women and their suppporters who are walking the clerics in the right direrction.

Thanks for sharing the info.