MIDRAND, SOUTH AFRICA.
Women legislators have been urged to step up advocacy and oversight efforts to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation in Africa. Given their representative, legislative and oversight roles, legislators are seen as better placed to mobilise communities to stop the vice.
Statistics indicate that more than 200 million girls and women have undergone FGM and an estimated 86 million girls worldwide are at risk of undergoing the practice by 2030.
“As elected leaders, we are at the forefront of finding solutions that afflict the continent, in particular those related to peace, security and female genital mutilation,” said Baleka Mbete, the Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa. Baleka said FGM is a form of gender based violence that infringes on rights and freedom of girls and women from injury, torture and degrading treatment.
She tasked legislators to hold their governments to account so that they take up measures to eliminate FGM. Baleka was the guest of honour at the 10th Pan African Parliament Annual Women’s Conference taking place in Midrand, South Africa from 12-13 October 2017. The women’s conference is running under the theme: “The role of parliamentarians in promoting international and regional human rights instruments relating to women and youth, peace and security, and female genital mutilation, to achieve the demographic dividend.”
In his opening remarks, PAP President Roger Nkodo Dang said various instruments have been put in place to address human rights and gender equality for example the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child among others.
Nkodo said engaging men and boys in the elimination of FGM is key. He was glad to note that 24 African countries had adopted national laws that penalise the practice of FGM.
He was quick to highlight however, the challenges the continent has to grapple with in regard to enforcement of laws.
“Gender based discrimination and violence continues to plague most societies and too often laws are not enforced or fail to protect women and girls from harmful practices such as child marriages and FGM,”Nkodo said.
According to Hon. Anifa Kawooya, who is also the Deputy Chairperson of the PAP Women’s Caucus, while Uganda is one of the 29 African countries where FGM is practiced, it has enacted a law criminalizing FGM.
“The only concern now is the low levels of implementation. There is need to involve everybody including our cultural leaders to stop this vice and we should complement this through advocacy and raising awareness about this vice,” she said, adding that “Men are still the decision makers in most of the African communities and play a big role in ending this negative cultural practice against women.”
The annual women’s conference brought together national and regional women parliamentarians, civil society groups and other stakeholders to deliberate and identify possible strategies and measures to fast track the ratification and domestication of the African Union legal instruments, particularly the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.