Practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) and state protection available to those being targeted (2004 - 2006) [GHA101617.E]

Legal status and prevalence

According to GhanaHomePage, a Ghanaian online information service (GhanaHomePage n.d.), a 1994 amendment to the Criminal Code, 1960 prohibits the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Ghana (20 May 2006). More specifically, Section 69A states that FGM is illegal and carries a minimum sentence of three years imprisonment (Ghana 12 Jan. 1961, Sec. 69A; see also Freedom House July 2005). However, the practice of FGM still occurs in Ghana "where genital mutilation is still performed with the tacit approval of the community" (Mail and Guardian 20 Aug. 2004).

The United Nations (UN) Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) states that Ghana's parliament is planning to debate amendments to legislation on FGM in October 2006, including the possibility of recognizing responsibility and punishing anyone who gives their consent to performing FGM on girls (UN 5 Sept. 2006). Country Reports on Human Rights for 2005 reports that FGM "remained a serious problem" and that 15 to 30 percent of women in the northern regions between the ages of 12 and 19 were affected (US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5).

In a study published by The Lancet, Ndubuisi Eke and Kanu E.O. Nkanginieme indicate that, of the 3,094 pregnant women who went to three Ghanaian obstetrics centres to give birth, 11 percent had undergone FGM I ("removal of the prepuce or clitoris"), 28 percent FGM II ("removal of clitoris and labia minora") and 1 percent FGM III ("removal of part or all of the external genitalia with stitching or narrowing of the vaginal opening") (June 2006). According to a survey conducted in Ghana by the National Council on Women and Development which was presented at a meeting of the United Nations (UN) Division for the Advancement of Women, the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the World Health Organization (WHO),

[t]welve percent (12%) of female respondents have been circumcised and 10% said that their siblings have been circumcised. Sixty-five percent (65%) of the respondents who have been circumcised and those whose siblings have been circumcised said that it is a custom or tradition, and 12% stated it is to ensure a good marriage. In spite of these answers, 75% said it is a bad practice (Ardayfio-Schandorf 11-14 Apr. 2005).

Attitudes and beliefs

According to Afrikids, a non-governmental organization (NGO) focusing on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in Northern Ghana (n.d.a), FGM is

a destructive, invasive procedure usually performed on girls before puberty in which part or all of the clitoris is surgically removed. It is on the decline in Northern Ghana but many communities believe that it helps to prevent pregnancy and makes them more beautiful. It actually makes labour dangerous and increases the risk of infections. Since FGM is practiced when girls are young, they are unable to give informed consent. Contrary to popular belief, the origins of this ritual are in traditional societies in rural Africa and are not linked to any particular religion (n.d.b).

In a paper on FGM presented at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America in Philadelphia, the authors indicate that FGM "is an important part of gender identity, status as a respected adult woman, purification, preparation for marriage, and fulfilment of cultural responsibility" (Jackson et al. 31 Mar.-2 Apr. 2005). The authors also report that FGM is performed to restrain female sexuality, to demonstrate the courage of the female who is being circumcised and to enhance a woman's aesthetic appeal and hygiene (ibid.). In order to participate in her mother's funeral rites, the eldest daughter is required to undergo FGM (ibid.). The paper indicates that FGM continues to be practiced in Ghana because of peer pressure and the desire to be accepted (ibid.).

State protection

Information on the availability of state protection to those being targeted for FGM could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, IRIN reports that FGM is still practiced in northern Ghana and that few prosecutions of FGM occur (5 Sept. 2006). In addition, several sources report that a seventy-year old woman was sentenced to five years imprisonment in January 2004 for performing FGM on seven girls in the Upper East region (UN 2 Feb. 2004; Equality Now n.d., 19; US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). Two Ghanaian NGOs working on women's rights continued lobbying for more stringent legislation on FGM in 2006; however, one of them indicated that Ghanaian's perceptions of FGM were gradually changing due to public awareness programs and that more people were reporting cases of FGM (UN 2 Feb. 2004).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


AfriKids. N.d.a. "Introduction to AfriKids." [Accessed 24 Aug. 2006]

_____. N.d.b. "Harmful Traditional Practices and Festivals." [Accessed 24 Aug. 2006]

Ardayfio-Schandorf, Elizabeth. April 2005. University of Ghana, Family and Development Programme. Violence Against Women: The Ghanaian Case. Paper presented at the Expert Group Meeting of the United Nations (UN) Division for the Advancement of Women in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the World Health Organization (WHO) held in Geneva, Switzerland from 11-14 April 2005. [Accessed 30 June 2006]

Eke, Ndubuisi et Kanu E.O. Nkanginieme. June 2006. Vol. 367, No. 9525. "Female Genital Mutilation and Obstetric Outcome: WHO Collaborative Prospective Study in Six African Countries." The Lancet. (World Health Organization Web site). [Accessed 3 Oct. 2006]

Equality Now. N.d. Annual Report 2004. [Accessed 24 Aug. 2006]

Freedom House. July 2005. "Ghana." Freedom in the World 2005. [Accessed 22 Aug. 2006]

Ghana. 12 January 1961 (last amended 2003). Criminal Code, 1960. (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees/Refworld). [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]

GhanaHomePage. 20 May 2006. Casely Ato Coleman. "Social Responsibility and Human Resources Development in Ghana: An Ethical Perspective." [Accessed 3 Oct. 2006]

_____. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 11 Oct. 2006]

Jackson, Elizabeth et al. 31 March - 2 April 2005. "The Relationship Between Female Genital Cutting and Fertility in Kassena-Nankana District of Northern Ghana." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. [Accessed 5 Sept. 2006]

Mail and Guardian [Johannesburg]. 20 August 2004. Boureima Hama. "When I Had Finished, They Didn't Even Bleed." [Accessed 22 Aug. 2006]

United Nations (UN). 5 September 2006. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "Ghana: Increased Penalties for Female Genital Cutting Proposed." [Accessed 11 Sep. 2006]

_____. 2 February 2004. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "Ghana: Women Call for Stiffer Female Circumcision Law." [22 Aug. 2006]

United States (US). 8 March 2006. Department of State. "Ghana." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. [Accessed 22 Aug. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Equality Now, Women in Law and Development Africa-Ghana, the Navrongo Health Research Centre and the International Federation of Women Lawyers-Ghana did not provide information within time constraints.

Attempts to contact LAWA-Ghana and the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre were unsuccessful.

AfriKids did not have information on the subject.

Internet sites, including: Accra Daily Mail; African Women's Organization in Vienna; Amnesty International; The Ark Foundation, Ghana; Centre for Development and Population Activities; Euronet FGM; Factiva; the Female Genital Cutting Education and Networking Project; Freedom House; Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre; Ghana Police Service, Women and Juvenile Unit; The Ghanaian Chronicle; Human Rights Watch; INDEPTH Network; Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children; International Center for Research on Women; International Centre for Reproductive Health; International Federation of Women Lawyers-Ghana; LAWA-Ghana; Navrongo Health Research Centre; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; PeaceWomen; Republic of Ghana; Research Action and Information Network for the Bodily Integrity of Women (RAINBO); United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women; Women in Law and Development in Africa-Ghana; World Health Organization.

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