The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is February 6 . Commemorated globally, the day advocates for the end of female genital mutilation practices – a human rights violation. This year’s theme Partnership with men & boys to transform social and gender norms to end FGM, seeks to translate political decisions into concrete actions at the national and grassroots level to reach the goal of zero tolerance to female genital mutilation by 2030.
The day is a call to action to end FGM and to continue raising awareness of the physical, emotional, and psychological harm that it causes to girls. It is a day to honor survivors and to recognize their courage in speaking out against FGM. The practice violates women’s rights to health, security, and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and their right to life when the procedure results in death.
FGM is among the challenges that many girls around Tanzania face. FGM is a deep-rooted in cultural practice in Tanzania, with a high prevalence rate of 86%. The practice has been a part of the local culture for centuries. FGM is a violation of human rights, as it causes physical and psychological harm to the victim. FGM can lead to a variety of health complications, including severe pain, infection, shock, death and can lead to long-term psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
To promote the abandonment of FGM, coordinated and systematic efforts are needed, and they must engage whole communities and focus on human rights and gender equality. These efforts should emphasize societal dialogue and the empowerment of communities to act collectively to end the practice. They must also address the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences.
The prevalence of FGM in Tanzania remains high, with about two-thirds of women and girls in the country having been subjected to the practice according to UNFPA report. The practice is practiced secretly by the Ngaribas because they believe it is part of their culture and they do not want to lose their culture. It is important that the government and civil society organizations continue to work together to create an environment that is safe and supportive for those who have been subjected to FGM and to ensure that the practice is no longer accepted in Tanzania.
Foundation for Civil Society (FCS) has long been at the forefront of the fight against FGM cultural practice through interventions and policy reforms at national level. FGM is a harmful traditional practice that has been practiced for centuries in Tanzania and is still being perpetuated in certain communities. FCS supports interventions to end FGM in highly practiced in different areas including Arusha, Dodoma, Manyara, Mara, and Singida regions. According to UNFPA Tanzania report, 1 in 10 women has been circumcised.
It is estimated that 7.9 million women and girls in the country have undergone FGM (UNICEF, 2013). According to the Tanzania Demographic Health Survey (DHS, 2010), the estimated prevalence of FGM in girls and women (15-49 years) is 14.6% .The overall rate has not changed from the 2004-05 DHS which recorded the same rate, but has decreased by 3.3% from 17.9% in 1996 (DHS, 1996).
Tanzania criminalized female genital mutilation in 1998 in the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act (SOSPA) which amended the Penal Code.The country also adopted a National Plan of Action to end Violence against Women and Children and is committed to ending violence against women and children in all its forms, including female genital mutilation, by 2030. The law provides that anyone having custody, charge or care of a girl under eighteen years of age and who causes her to undergo FGM, commits the offence of cruelty to children. The penalty for this offence is a term of imprisonment from five to fifteen years, a fine of up to 300,000 shillings or both. The law also provides for the payment of compensation by the perpetrator to the person against whom the offence was committed.
In Tanzania, FCS is working hand in hand with more than 20 CSOs, and government initiatives to fight against FGM and other violence practices amongst girls and women in Tanzania. In 2022, FCS supported 4 organizations- Community Initiative promotion, Empower Society Transform Lives and Pastoralist economic and social advancement with a total of TZS 129, 698,668 to implement project interventions on ending FGM communities.
The Tanzanian government has already made strides in tackling FGM, with a ban on the practice already in place. This has had a significant effect on reducing the number of cases of FGM, with the practice now believed to be uncommon in the country.
While the government and civil society have taken steps to address the problem, there is still much work to be done in order to reduce the prevalence of FGM in Tanzania and create a culture of acceptance of women and girls who have not been subjected to the practice.