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Tanzania: Over 60 Percent of Women Circumcised

TOMRIC Agency, 8 May 2000

Dar Es Salaam - About 60 percent of women whose ages range between 15 and 49 years in Dodoma Region central Tanzania have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

According to Jennifer Chiute, the Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practice Program Officer, FGM was becoming a common in Dodoma. She said late last week that the 60 percent of the circumcised women were equivalent to 600,000 whose age ranged between 15 and 49 years. In fact FGM is a common among various tribes in Dodoma, she said, noting, these women are in high risk of being affected by sexual transmitted diseases including the deadly, killer HIV/AIDS. Explaining on the Committee's role was to create awareness among the people on the side effect of FGM, adding that about 99 facilitators were in the region facilitating the move. She said the program started in 1993. FGM is common in other areas of the country although condemned these days. More than 1.5 million Tanzanian women are already circumcised, and practice is said to be on increase.

Researchers including Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) have established that in some regions, about 81 percent of women undergo the ritual. Tanzania is among over 28 African countries which practice female circumcision. According to the UNICEF, about 130 million women and girls had the genital exercised in 1997. In East Africa, Kenya is leading with 50 percent of Kenyans' women practicing the exercise.

Tanzania's Minister for Community Development, Women and Children, Ms Mary Nagu has once called upon organizations to help in fighting FGM on the reasons that it was contributing to various chronic problems to women. Among others, the effects of FGM haemorrhage and suffering from severe pain which may lead to shock infection and on occasion to death.

They also include prolonged breeding which can lead to anaemia, increase the risk of having difficulty delivery or dying in childbirth. Supporters of FGM believe that it lowers the sexual desire of women, thereby curbing prostitution.