Cameroon: Female Genital Mutilation Persists

«When I gave birth to my first child eight years ago, my mother told me one morning that I am a woman now but I did not understand what she meant. Suddenly, some women came into our house and took me behind the house. They pinned me on the ground and I could not move. In a short time I felt a sharp pain. I shouted and shorted to no avail. After the circumcision I was given no treatment. I was asked to use but hot water as treatment". This is the story of a woman who went through the ordeal of female circumcision in the South West region of Cameroon. Female Genital Mutilation is an age-old tradition which continues to be a source of controversy, pain and discord within the communities where it is practised. Men have used it to enhance their dominance over the women. Despite efforts to abolish such traditional practices, some communities continue the practice in the name of tradition.

The regions where such practices are common in the country are the Centre, Far North, East and South West regions. According to official statistics from the Ministry of Women's Empowerment and the Family, the phenomenon affects more than 20 percent of the female population in Cameroon. Three types of Female Genital Mutilations are practised in Cameroon. There is the type of excision called "Sunna", which refers to the removal of part of the clitoris, then the "Clitoridectomy", which is a complete removal of the clitoris with labia minora and finally the "infibulation", that is an excision combined with removal of the labia majora with suturing of the two stumps. This practice is dangerous as it goes with many complications. Apart from psychological torture, women who go through such hideous practices are exposed to many risks such as STDs/AIDS contamination, tetanus, including death itself. The International Women's Day celebration will equally be an opportunity for women to reflect on such practices which continue to persist despite efforts to eradicate them.