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Gale Julius Dada-Radio Bhakita
Friday, December 14, 2018 - 15:17
Some women in South Sudan are suffering in silence due to Female Genital Mutilation, also known as FGM. 
 
It’s a traditional practice associated with some cultures in South Sudan and is often a taboo subject among communities.
 
And there are no records in the country to track the number of girls or women who have gone through FGM, making many of the victims suffer in silence.
 
Globally, it is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women have undergone Female Genital Mutilation or FGM, according the World Health Organization.
 
The practice is also referred to as female circumcision. And involves cutting and removing the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. Often performed by people with no medical background. 
 
Though there are currently no concrete figures to support the practice of FGM in South Sudan, there are survivors who continue to live in silence because of the fear of stigma associated with discussing female circumcision.
 
One such survivor, who agreed to break the silence, is a 26-old lady named Rose. We have changed her name to protect her identity due to the sensitivity of this issue.
Rose says she was forced into FGM thirteen years ago while in Primary school.
 
She says she was lured by a Muslim cleric who told her the surgery would reduce her sexual desire and enable her to focus on her education.
 
‘‘I was circumcised when I was still a young girl in 2005. That was when the Muslims were occupying Juba. But I cannot remember the name of the Imam who performed the circumcision. The Imam told us that circumcision will help us succeed in school because it reduces a girl’s desire for sex and enable her to complete her studies.  We were a group of five girls who accepted to be circumcised due to ignorance’’.
 
 According to the World Health Organization, women who have had FGM are more likely to experience difficulties during childbirth. 
Serious complications during childbirth include the need to have a caesarean section and dangerously heavy bleeding after the birth.
 
Rose says although she did not suffer complications during childbirth, she admits to having a reduced sexual desire compared to her uncircumcised friends.
 
 ‘’The circumcision has reduced my sexual desire because I do not have feelings for sex. For instance after my menstruation periods, I normally fell sexual urge once. But when that day passes, my urge for sex also disappears’’
 
FGM is prohibited under two laws in South Sudan’s transitional constitution.
 
The Child Act of 2008 and Penal Code criminalizes all forms of FGM on children as well as the failure to report the practice.
 
Article 11, and Article 18 of the transitional constitution states that no person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
 
Adhiue Malual, Acting Executive Director of the National Alliance of Women Lawyers says female circumcision is punishable by law:
 
 ‘‘FGM is one of the acts of violence against women which is specifically prohibited by law and the penal code provides that whoever carries out FGM on a girl or a woman shall be sentenced to ten years imprisonment. So it is completely prohibited and whoever does that must be brought to book’’.
 
Malual calls on survivors of female circumcision to come forward and report perpetrators to authorities.
 
 ‘’The women of South Sudan should never shy away, it is their right to be protected by the law. Any woman who goes through this act must report. Please don’t shy away, help us to eradicate this kind of practice in South Sudan’’.
 
Apart from being illegal, health experts also say FGM can have devastating effects on the health of women and girls as Doctor Adau Monytuil, a resident health worker in the department of Gynecology at Juba Teaching Hospital puts it.
 
‘‘The immediate complications may start with hymnologic shock due to a lot of bleeding during the cutting of the organ. Severe pain is also experienced because some people are doing (FGM) without anesthesia. We also have obstetric complications like the risk of caesarean section will be very high for people who have been through female genital mutilation. Then there is also genital swelling, this swelling happens due to infections’’.
 
The doctor also added that women who undergo FGM have an increased risk of chronic genital infections, urinary tract infection and painful urination.
 
Esther Ikere, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Gender and Social Welfare admits that female circumcision is still practiced by some, but since there is no data and information on the prevalence in South Sudan, it’s hard to prevent.
 
 ‘‘Female Genital Mutilation is not good health wise for women and girls but also it has consequences for their reproductive health. It has no adequate statistics but at the same time it is an issue because few communities are the ones practicing it’’.
 
Ikere says the government is working to enact a law to stop FGM and other forms of violence against women.
 
 ‘‘Currently we are working on drafting a legislation of GBV (Gender based Violence) law, that will help the country to put an end to most of these practices. So until the law is out, we can comprehensively ensure that it is addressed’’.
 
Mohamed Kual, secretary for Da’wah in the Islamic Council of South Sudan admitted that some Muslim communities used to perform FGM before the independence of South Sudan from Sudan.
 
Kual claims that the practice of FGM has been abolished across the country, and anyone found doing it will be apprehended.
 
 ‘‘No, no, female circumcision does not exist at present. There is no official place for female circumcision except those who may be doing it in hidden places. But in hospitals and Muslim houses, Female Circumcision is not practiced any more.But before the independence of South Sudan, some of our South Sudanese girls now aged 20 or 18 years old maybe got circumcised when they were in Sudan, but as South Sudanese, female circumcision does not exist in our culture any more.
If we see any place still carrying out female circumcision, we will close it down’’.
 
I also went to a school in Juba to ask some girls about what they think about female genital mutilation, and this is what they told me.
 
 ‘’I don’t want to be circumcised because sometimes it will cause diseases and affect my health and sometimes lead to death, so I don’t want to be circumcised’’.
 
‘’When girls are circumcised, they bleed a lot and it may lead to death, but boys they can just bleed for some days or weeks.
It is written in the Bible that girls or women should not be circumcised because it was written that only Abraham and boys should be circumcised’’.
 
Rose is just one women who has openly come out to discuss her ordeal with female circumcision, but she says many other survivors of FGM in South Sudan are suffering in silence.
 
So, the question remains, will justice prevail for survivors of FGM in South Sudan? And is a cultural really more important than a woman’s health?
For Bakhita Radio, I’m Gale Julius Dada, in Juba.
 
This story was produced with support from Journalists for Human Rights strengthening media in South Sudan.
 

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