Women's rights groups praised the move saying it would help to end FGM but warned about the difficulty of changing mentalities as the practice is deeply entrenched in Sudanese culture.
In a significant victory for women and girls’ rights in Sudan, the country’s transitional government banned on April 22 and reported by The Guardian on Friday, the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), making it punishable by three years in jail and a fine.
Women's rights groups praised the move saying it would help to end FGM but warned about the difficulty of changing mentalities as the practice is deeply entrenched in Sudanese culture. Now the bill still needs to be passed by members of the sovereign council, which was created following the ousting of former dictator Omar al-Bashir.
“There is so much work to be done. This is a start, a good start,” communication officer of the United Nations Children’s agency (Unicef) in Sudan, Fatma Naib, said.
“The crucial step will be to ensure there are consequences for those who perform the cut on their girls.”
Sudan is one of the world’s countries with the highest FGM rates. Eighty-seven percent of Sudanese women have endured the practice, according to the U.N. Girls are usually cut between the ages of five and 14.
“Sudanese women along with the Egyptians and Somalis have been leading the fight against FGM,” leading anti-FGM activist Nimco Ali who heads up the Five Foundation, a global partnership to end the practice, said.
“Sudanese women have always wanted to end FGM. Sudan took the same path as Egypt politically – and that means women can also lead and be part of the transitional government.”
FGM, also known as "cutting," involves the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons. Girls can bleed to death or die from infections, while FGM can also cause fatal childbirth complications later, according to health experts.
The U.N. raises the number of women and girls who suffered from the practice to 200 million worldwide.
The traditional ritual is prevalent in at least 27 African countries. But a report published in March said the number could be much higher as FGM is carried out in more than 90 countries, many of which do not collect data.
Unlinked to any particular religious faith, the procedure is also practiced in parts of Asia and the Middle East, as well as in Europe, the United States, and Latin America.
"This practice is not only a violation of every girl child’s rights, but it also is harmful and has serious consequences for a girl's physical and mental health," Unicef Representative in Sudan Abdullah Fadil said.
"This is why governments and communities alike must take immediate action to put an end to this practice."