30 July 2016
The Pan African Parliament (PAP), the legislative organ of the African Union, began a two- day meeting on Friday with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to explore ways to end female genital mutilation and child marriages.
Roger Dang, PAP president, said during the opening of the meeting in Johannesburg, that all members were in support of the move to end female genital mutilation and child marriages.
“PAP is determined to help and be part of stakeholders to come up with solutions to these practices.
“This is in line with the mandate of PAP to defend and promote gender balance and protect people living with disability,” he said.
Dang called on men to join in the fight, stressing that they have double responsibility to defend girls against human rights violations.
“It’s the common practices in some countries to partially or totally remove parts of the female genitalia for cultural or non-medical reasons.
“In some African countries, children are forced to get married at an early age of 15 or even earlier,’’ he said.
The president highlighted the fact that early female genital mutilation exposed girls to diseases like sexually transmitted infections and HIV.
“It also affects their health and education,’’ he added.
Dang said women should be given the opportunity to show their skills and quality, and their rights must not be violated with these practices.
He challenged African governments to put into place policies and laws that prohibited female genital mutilation and early child marriages.
“We want governments to put in place strong instruments and treaties that guarantee people a better life.
“States should also come up with sustainable solutions to these practices which are against the fundamental women’s right to life, health and education,” he said.
Justine Coulson, UNFPA Deputy Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, said it had become very important for parliamentarians to take the message to the grassroots to help to fight the practices.
“We want to influence governments to change legislation and national programmes that end female genital mutilation and child marriages.
“Parliamentarians are close to the communities, so we want this message to go beyond the capital cities, to religious, community leaders and to parents. We want strong advocacy at the family level,’’ she stressed.
Coulson said the UNFPA had trained 100, 000 healthcare workers on how to assist victims of female genital mutilation.
“Over 20,000 religious and traditional leaders have signed a pledge not to practice female genital mutilation,’’ she added.
She said the programme had also reached 12,000 community members.
At the two-day meeting, participants are expected to develop an action-plan to strengthen PAP and UNFPA partnership to eliminate female genital mutilation and girls’ early marriages.
According to UNFPA, 100 million to 140 million girls and women are victims of female genital mutilation, especially in sub-Sahara Africa and Arab states.
Countries like Kenya and Gambia now have a legislation outlawing the practice.