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Date: Mon, 29 Jun 98 16:23:50 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: RIGHTS-SUDAN: Muslim Clerics Fight Moves to Eradicate FGM
Article: 37928
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.12192.19980630181524@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 488.0 **/
** Topic: RIGHTS-SUDAN: Muslim Clerics Fight Moves to Eradicate FGM **
** Written 4:08 PM Jun 28, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Muslim Clerics Fight Moves to Eradicate FGM

By Nhial Bol, IPS, 25 June 1998

KHARTOUM, Jun 25 (IPS)—Sudan’s Islamic clerics have urged the people to resist a new campaign by a group of non-governmental organisations in the country to challenge the age-old practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

About 65 percent of the women in the Sudan have undergone FGM, also referred to as female circumcision, placing the Northeast African country in the international spotlight as a violator of women’s human rights.

In my view, the debate on the eradication of female circumcision is a waste of time and money, says Sheikh Mohamed Abbas, a respected Moslem cleric in Maigoma Thura, a surburb in the east of the capital Khartoum.

The clergyman urged Sudan’s 60 percent Moslem community to resist Western culture and to uphold their traditional practices, like FGM.

Abbas’ strong view is, however, unlikely to discourage a group of 10 ngos that have vowed to challenge the practice. The ngos, which include, among others, the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), Mutawinat Para-legal Aid Group (MPLAG), Amal Children Society (ACS) and Munar Consultant Group, say they will target politicians, journalists and religious leaders in a bid to enlighten them so that these key opinion leaders can help spread the message on the health risks posed by the ancient practice to young girls and women.

The predominantly male Sudanese journalists and politicians often keep silent about the deadly FGM practice and tradition, which harms women’s health and their well-being, says a 21-paged document issued recently by the ngos.

The document, made available to IPS this week, says FGM often puts the lives of girls under the age of 18 at risk, especially girls who bear their first child at an early age.

Freelance journalist Awaida Salim believes that the fight against FGM can only be won if influential Islamic leaders like Abbas are involved in the campaign.

...In the past, all debate related to circumcision was confined to women’s groups, she says. She urged the 10 NGOs to create a forum involving Islamic leaders, because she says without their participation, the campaign will crumble.

A recent workshop to end the harmful practice, organised by the United Nations Fund For Population Activities (UNPFA) in collaboration with a local Family Planning Association, was denounced by a group of Muslims in the Nile State where the parley was held.

According to Abdel Haffar Ali, head of family planning in the Nile State, the anti-FGM programme aims to empower women in 40 communities in the state, and seeks to increase the distribution and use of contraceptions. The programme will focus on women’s health and income generating projects to improve their economic status, he added.

Ali’s remark about family planning and the need to provide contraception prompted a walk out by Muslims attending the gathering. One participant told IPS that the use of contraceptives by unmarried women and girls as a means of birth control would encourage prostitution.

How can you give or allow your daughter to use contraceptives? queried the visibly angry vice chancellor of the University of Shendi, Ali Mohamed Abdel Beri. Morally, this practice cannot be allowed by parents.

Beri, a practicing Moslem, said the campaign by the ngos to abolish circumcision or introduce birth control should not be entertained in the Sudan.

But a survey conducted by his university indicates that 80 percent of the girls in Shendi town, the capital of the Nile River State, support the campaign to eradicate FGM.