TUESDAY marked the International Day against Female Genital Mutilation under the theme ‘Her voice, Her future’.
In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly designated February 6 as the day of zero tolerance to female genital mutilation, with the aim to amplify and direct the efforts on the elimination of this practice.
Female genital mutilation, widely referred to as female circumcision, comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognised internationally, Zimbabwe included, as a violation of human rights, health and integrity of girls and women.
Girls who undergo female genital mutilation face short-term complications such as severe pain, shock, excessive bleeding, infections and difficulty in passing urine, as well as long-term consequences on their sexual and reproductive health and mental health.
Research has revealed that although primarily concentrated in 30 countries in Africa, Zimbabwe included,as well as some countries in Asia and Latin America, female genital mutilation is a universal issue.
Former Chipinge South legislator, Mr Enock Porusingazi said the practice is persisting in some parts of the constituency.
“We still have areas where female genital mutilation is being practiced. This covers areas under Ward 29, including villages such as Maparadze and Mahenye.
“We call it komba. It is a tradition that has been there since way, way back. Normally, they say it is meant to prepare the girl for womanhood when she is eventually expected to give the best to her partner in marriage,” he said.
Apart from the perceived traditional value of this practice, there is also a religious dimension to it.
Sheikh Saukani Ibrahim, an Islamic scholar, researcher, tutor and propagator said circumcision is highly encouraged in Islam.
He said some scholars have even made it compulsory, with the majority seeing it as desirable.
“Circumcision is not an inherited custom as some people claim, rather it is prescribed in Islam and scholars unanimously agree that it is prescribed. Not a single Muslim scholar — as far as we know — has said that circumcision is not prescribed.
“Circumcision is obligatory for men and is good and desirable for women.”
However, Christians have a different perspective.
Christ Embassy’s Dangamvura church pastor, Pastor Nelson Mhlanga said Christians do not support female genital mutilation.
“Mark 7:13 says ‘Thus, you nullify the word of God by your tradition . . .
“First of all, we need to understand that Christianity is divinity at work in humanity. People introduced what we call cultures depending on their ethnic groupings, with their different practices, traditions and customs based on their beliefs streaming down generations.
“From the scripture I gave, the Bible says you have nullified the word of God because of your culture. As Christians, we do not support female genital mutilation. The reason is that everything made by God is perfect.
“If God did not want anything on us, He would not have made it. The Bible further states that He made man in His own image, meaning it was perfect, it was good.
“So this practice is based on ethnic belief and culture and it has nothing to do with the Christian culture. It is actually a sin against your own body. The Bible says your body is a temple of God, it should never be violated.
“As Christians, we do not promote it because it has no spiritual benefit for you. If you notice, it is done on children and young people who are not capable of deciding on their own.
“This is why when people grow up they start suing traditional leaders because they would have realised the human rights violations done against them when they were young,” said Pastor Mhlanga.
Pastor Davies English, the founder of Shield of Victory Ministries weighed in: “When you read 1 Corinthians 6:15-19, from different versions, it is clear that God said our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and does not want us, in any way, to temper with them.
“From the above-mentioned scripture, Christian values cannot promote female genital mutilation because it is a slap in God’s face. By doing it, one will be challenging God and saying He made a mistake by creating the genitalia the way it is.
“In his infinite wisdom, God saw it fit to create females as they are, tampering with that for non-medical reasons is an outright denial of God’s wisdom,” said Pastor English.
In Zimbabwe, female genital mutilation is outlawed under the Domestic Violence Act.
Part of the legislation reads: “ . . . abuse derived from the following cultural or customary rites or practices that discriminate against or degrade women – (i) forced virginity testing; or (ii) female genital mutilation; or (iii) pledging of women or girls for purposes of appeasing spirits; or (iv) forced marriage; or (v) child marriage; or (vi) forced wife inheritance; or (vii) sexual intercourse between fathers-in-law and newly married daughters-in-law;”
Mutare-based legal practitioner, Ms Dorothy Mutungura of Maunga, Maanda and Associates said: “The societies that practice female genital mutilation have for long been concealing these cases.
“The police have difficulty pursuing this crime because of the close knit nature of the societies that practice it, and this is primarily due to a lack of education about the implications of this conduct.
“As Zimbabweans, we should join forces to launch a widespread education campaign against this practice. Education will help as more crimes will be reported and subsequently prosecuted,” said Ms Mutungura.
From a traditional perspective, it appears the traditional leaders are also against the practice.
Zimbabwe Chiefs Council Manicaland chairman, Chief Mapungwana said: “Yes, this is a practice that was mainly common in Tshangani communities in Chipinge South, Chiredzi and other communities. It appears the practice has declined. It is a danger to women and we as traditional leader do not encourage that.”
UN also acknowledges that over the last three decades, the prevalence of female genital mutilation has declined globally.
Today, a girl is one-third less likely to undergo female genital mutilation than 30 years ago.
However, sustaining these achievements in the face of humanitarian crises such as disease outbreaks, climate change, armed conflicts and more could cause a rollback of progress toward achieving gender equality and the elimination of female genital mutilation.
Globally, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation.
This year, nearly 4.4 million girls are at risk of this harmful practice. This equates to more than 12 000 cases every day.
The UN Secretary-General António Guterres is of the opinion that: “We need urgent investments to reach the target set in the Sustainable Development Goals of eliminating female genital mutilation by 2030. We need to amplify the voices of survivors and support their efforts to reclaim their lives.”