Africa

Sierra Leone’s first lady criticized over FGM comments

Fatima Bio says there are other more important issues to discuss regarding wellbeing of women

25.02.2019
Sierra Leone’s first lady criticized over FGM comments FILE PHOTO

By Alpha Kamara

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone

Activists in Sierra Leone and the Gambia have criticized recent comments by Sierra Leone's first lady on female genital mutilation (FGM).

First Lady Fatima Bio in a television interview on Sunday in Banjul, the Gambia said that there are other more important issues to discuss on women rights, in response to a question on the cultural practice rooted in Africa.

“I am a circumcised woman. I have had three successful deliveries without complications," she said, adding that she had not faced any complication due to FGM.

"The campaigners need to show me convincing statistics of women and girls who have been affected by the practice especially in The Gambia and Sierra Leone.

"I think there should be focus to reduce rape and promote girl child education not FGM,” she told Gambian online media The Fatu Network.

FGM is widespread in Sierra Leone especially among women outside of the capital, Freetown.

Sierra Leone's regional neighbors such as Senegal, Nigeria and the Gambia have banned the practice, which according to the World Health Organization (WHO), causes extreme pain, excessive bleeding or haemorrhage, and may spread infections including HIV.

Many activists took to social media to condemn what they called insensitive remarks by Bio.

“I have so many issues with her statement. You are a First Lady and can’t just sit and say things like this and expect no consequence. It’s such a shame that smart women like her put politics before girls. I am very disappointed," Jaha Dukureh, a Gambian anti-FGM campaigner, wrote on her Facebook page.

Kadie Sannoh Harris, a Sierra Leonean anti-FGM campaigner, also condemned her remarks.

“I can’t begin to voice how disappointed I am by reading this. As an educated and well exposed individual who claim to stand with women, how can women’s suffering be justified by embracing female genital mutilation?

"I personally have lots of evidence to show how female genital mutilation has affected me. To physically take a knife to a woman’s body that creates lifetime complications both physically and mentally cannot be justified in anyway,” she wrote on Facebook.

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