Published on Ayyaantuu News Online (first on Los Angeles Times), February 14, 2012.
Eight thousand communities in Africa have sworn off female genital excision, including almost 2,000 that abandoned the practice in the last year, the United Nations Population Fund and UNICEF announced Monday.
In some northern and eastern stretches of Africa and the Middle East, cutting the female genitals is seen as a coming-of-age ritual that ensures chastity and makes a woman marriageable. U.N. agencies have pushed to end practices that cut away all or part of female genitalia, saying they have no health benefits and cause severe pain.
There are also long-term risks for women who undergo cutting: The World Health Organization says female circumcision can increase the risk of childbirth complications, cause recurring infections orcreate the need for later surgeries to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth.
Over the last year, Kenya and Guinea-Bissau passed laws banning female genital excision. In Ethiopia, Senegal and other African countries, thousands of villages have publicly declared that they were against it. U.N. agencies spent more than $6.1 million last year to combat the practice … (full text).