Sunday, March 8, 2009

GM in Sierra Leone

From The Independent:
"The female journalist was snatched by members of a secret society, forcibly stripped and made to parade naked through the streets. It might sound like an atrocity from the time when Sierra Leone was ripped apart by a bloody civil war, but in fact the public humiliation was exacted in the diamond-rich eastern town of Kenema just this month. The woman's alleged crime was reporting on female genital mutilation.

Her organisation, the Amazonian Initiative Movement, tries to protect young girls from the knife. "I picked the name because I am trying to talk about strong, powerful women," she says Ms Turay, who works with her 20-strong staff in and around the northern town of Lunsar. So far, she has persuaded about 400 practitioners of female genital mutiliation (FGM), who are often called soweis, to lay down their blades and stop their role in the traditional bondo ceremony.

Ms Turay hopes her struggle will help break such taboos of talking about the cutting in public, although it may also spur more reactionary moves, such as this month's punishment meted out to the journalist in Kenema. And it is no easy task persuading the practitioners to abandon what they see as a rite of passage. Girls as young as five are trained to become circumcisers and it is an income-generator in a poverty-stricken country, still struggling to shrug off the legacy of the 1991-2002 civil war."

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