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03 October 2014

FGM rife in Mali

FGM rife in Mali

New research by charity 28 Too Many shows that around 91 per cent of girls and women in Mali have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) and that the average age of girls experiencing is below five.

Ann-Marie Wilson, chief executive of the charity, said: "I hope that this new report will lead to action and encourage support for local community-based projects to end FGM. Our research shows that progress will only be made effectively through inter-generational dialogue and engaging with all members of communities where FGM is practised."

FGM involves the partial or complete removal of the outer parts of the female genitalia and often involves significant short and long term health risks –even risk to life. It's carried out in many developing countries around the world where it is viewed as a rite of passage.

The Evangelical Alliance is a signatory to the campaign on behalf of the African Nation Alliances, whose countries face the threat of FGM.

In 2006, a Malian woman said: "Women don't make any decisions in our village. If you refuse to get your daughters cut, the elders will dismiss you from the village for breaking with tradition. My mother advised me not to have my daughters cut because she is a midwife and is aware of the harm.

"However, I did not follow her advice because I did not want to be the first person in my family to break with the tradition. During the vacation I took my five girls to Bamako to get them cut by medical staff. When I told my mother her answer was: 'One day you will regret your act', and now that day has arrived."

A further complication in Mali is the unrest resulting from the 2012 coup, which has disrupted programmes to combat FGM and other health and human rights issues. Many have had to flee the conflict, escaping into southern Mali and areas of northern Niger and Burkina Faso, where they live in marginalised positions. 

There is evidence that they have started to adopt the social norms of their new neighbours and that families who did not formerly do so are now cutting their daughters.

There is currently no law specifically criminalising FGM in Mali. 

The National Plan for the Eradication of FGM declared that FGM should be prohibited under the Penal Code and the 2011 Personal and Family Code should also cover harmful traditional practices. However, enforcement remains an issue and NGOs are working to produce petitions for new legislation.

The majority of Malians living outside their home country are located in neighbouring countries in West Africa with the largest populations in Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Burkina Faso. Outside of Africa, there are approximately 69,000 Malians in France with smaller groups in other European countries, the Americas and Australia

There are more than 66 organisations campaigning for the rights of women and girls and to end FGM in Mali using a variety of approaches

28 Too Many is a charity working to end FGM. The charity's primary focus is on research and enabling local initiatives to end FGM in the 28 African countries where it is practised and across the diaspora. It also networks and advocates for the global eradication of FGM, working closely with other charities and NGOs in the violence against women sector.