Sierra Leone temporarily bans FGM for election purposes

Sierra Leone is one of the African countries which has not outlawed the internationally condemned practice.

This move has been effected to stop candidates buying votes by paying for cutting ceremonies.

FGM in the West African nation is widely practiced as part of girls' initiation into powerful secret societies led by women with significant political clout.


The government last month banned initiations to prevent the societies from intimidating people during campaigning ahead of elections on March 7.

"So many politicians use initiation into secret society during campaigns to gain votes, especially those of women," said anti-FGM campaigner Rugiatu Neneh Turay, formerly the deputy minister of social welfare, gender and children's affairs.

The cutting ceremonies often cost up to $200 including food, music and the cutter’s fee, Aminata Koroma, secretary of Sierra Leone’s Forum Against Harmful Practices said.

The ban on the ritual which involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia is the first of its kind during an election season. The government of Sierra Leone said the ban applies until after March 31.


Many are hoping that the ban would enable the practice to be permanently eliminated.

With nine in 10 girls cut, the West African country has one of the highest rates of FGM in Africa, according to U.N. data.

The ban is the first of its kind during an election season and applies until March 31, according to Maya Kaikai, Sierra Leone's minister of local government and rural development.

Last month neighboring Liberia banned FGM for a year under an executive order signed by outgoing president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Activists have urged new President George Weah to push for a permanent law against the practice.


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