Sub-Regional Conference on Female Genital Mutilation, "Towards a political and religious consensus against FGM" - Media Coverage

Sudan tribune - Djibouti, 2-3 February 2005

Sudan Tribune
25 January 2005

    Governmental and non-governmental organisations in the Horn of Africa countries will hold a twoday conference in Djibouti next week on how to end the practice of female genital mutilation.
    UNICEF, the Government of Djibouti and an international non- profit organisation 'No Peace without Justice' are organising the meeting under the theme: "Towards a political and religious consensus against Female Genital Mutilation."
    Other partners in this effort include the World Bank, UNFPA, WHO and Italian Association for Women in Development.
    Theologians from Al-Azhar University of Cairo, Egypt, will join Imams and sheikhs in the subregion at the conference to disavow any Koranic backing of the FGM practice, according to an official announcement circulated here Monday.
    During the meeting, the Government of Djibouti said it would hand over to the African Union (AU) its ratification of the Protocol on Women's Rights to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights in Africa.
    Organised under the auspices of Djibouti First Lady and president of the National Union of Djibouti Women, Kadra Mahamoud Haid, the conference will also bring together the highest religious authorities from Djibouti and from bordering countries.
    According to its organisers, the conference will be an opportunity to celebrate the will and consensus of the Government and religious authorities in favour of  abandoning harmful traditional practices, which still affect around 98 percent of the female population in Djibouti.
    Emma Bonino, Member of the European Parliament and founder of No Peace without Justice, representatives of the AU as well as African and European countries are expected to take part in the meeting.
    The conference will be conducted in two parallel sessions, with the first reserved for debate between religious authorities and the second on the Maputo Protocol and its implementation. Conclusions of both sessions will be presented at the plenary closing session, where the Government of Djibouti will present its instrument of ratification of the Protocol on Women's Rights to the AU.
    The Protocol, which the AU Heads of State and Government adopted on 11 July 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique, stipulates in Article 5 that FGM should be prohibited and condemned. It requires ratification by 15 State parties to enter into force, but as of 7 January 2005, only five States had ratified the Protocol.
    The conference pursues two crucial goals. At the political level, it would make Djibouti the first country in the sub-region with a dominant tradition of FGM to commit itself to the application of the principles of the Maputo Protocol.
    At the religious level, the conference would be a success by gathering the highest religious authorities from Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, to deny any justification that FGM could be based on the Koran.