Eritrea, a small East African nation and very poor, has banned the life-threatening practice of female circumcision, the country’s information ministry has said//.
Anybody involved in female genital mutilation (FGM) would be punished with a fine and imprisonment, it said.
The move follows a campaign against the practice by the National Union of Eritrean Women, which says more than 90% of Eritrean women are circumcised.
'Female circumcision is a procedure that seriously endangers the health of women, causes them considerable pain and suffering besides threatening their lives,' the government proclamation said.
'Whosoever requests, incites or promotes female circumcision by providing tools or any other means and whosoever, knowing that female circumcision is to take place or has taken place, fails without good cause, to warn or inform the proper authorities promptly, shall be punishable with a fine and imprisonment,' it continued.
The ban came into force on 31 March, the information ministry said.
FGM is outlawed in a number of African countries, but laws are rarely enforced.
In total it is estimated that two million a year are subjected to genital mutilation.
There are three main types of circumcision:
· The removal of the tip of the clitoris;
· Total removal of the clitoris and surrounding labia;
· The removal of the clitoris and labia and the sewing up of the vagina, leaving only a small opening for urine and menstrual blood - a process known as infibulation.
So drastic is the mutilation involved in the latter operation that young brides have to be cut open to allow penetration on their wedding night and are customarily sewn up afterwards.
The aim of the process is to ensure the woman is faithful to her future husband. Some communities consider girls ineligible for marriage if they have not been circumcised.
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