The government of Senegal officially ended the practice of female genital mutilation on Wednesday, thanks to years of struggle by women's rights activists, educators, doctors, and politicians. Violators of the new ban will face a maximum prison term of 5 years.
Last February, Senegal President Abdou Diouf called for an end to female genital mutilation, and asked government officials to formulate a law banning the practice. One month later, fourteen individual Senegal villages banned the practice after many local women took a course which described the health risks caused by female genital mutilation.
UNICEF director Carol Bellamy commented that the ban "reflects the resolve of African women to end a cruel and unacceptable practice which violates the right of all girls to free, safe and healthy lives."
Female genital mutilation is an often crude operation in which the genitalia of pre-pubescent girls is cut off. Health professionals testify that it limits normal bodily functions, robs girls of sexual pleasure, causes horrible scarring, and can lead to infections and long-term health complications, especially when unsterile health instruments are used.
Supporters of the practice argue that it is necessary to guarantee women's sexual chastity and faithfulness to their husbands. There is no doubt that the practice achieves this goal, since the operation makes sex uncomfortable at best, and extremely painful at worst.
The countries of Burkino Faso, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Ghana, Guinea and Togo also outlaw female genital mutilation, or its euphemism, "female circumcision."
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .