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Wednesday, November 10, 1999 Published at 12:20 GMT

World: Africa

Handover of circumcision tools praised

Many women and children in Africa still face circumcision

Opponents of female circumcision in Guinea have welcomed the decision by hundreds of women who circumcised young girls to hand in their special ceremonial knives.

State radio said the handing-in took place at a weekend ceremony in Korosa, a town in the east of the former French colony.

A spokeswoman for the campaign to end female circumcision in Guinea, Haja Wudu Barrie, told state radio, monitored by the Reuters news agency, that the gesture was a breakthrough after 14 years of campaigning.

The campaign in Guinea against the practice, seen by many West African families as a rite of passage on the way to womanhood, is one of many in the region.

Some of the Guinean women, using financial help from opponents of the practice, have turned themselves from a secret society keeping the practice alive into a group dedicated to its abolition.

Opponents denounce the practice as a health risk and a violation of human rights.

Senegal has banned the practice outright and at least one case has gone to court.

Common practice

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision is practised in many parts of Africa.

[ image: Supporters of circumcision say it is a rite of passage]
Supporters of circumcision say it is a rite of passage
It is known to be a very painful practice that sometimes leads to excessive bleeding, infection, trauma and difficulties in childbirth.

But campaigners are finding it difficult to stamp out.

A human rights group in Tanzania says the practice is on the increase in that country despite government attempts to ban it.

The Tanzanian group is now trying to promote a compromise experiment amongst the Maasai, where the circumcision ceremony is celebrated but the actual circumcision is not carried out.

As well as Kenya and Tanzania, female circumcision is said to be prevalent in Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.

Some traditionalists are adamant about the practice saying it is a custom that is part of their cultures - despite evidence about its negative and dangerous effects.

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