Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is female circumcision – a ritual practice practiced in several countries as a rite of passage for women, in which a woman’s external genitalia are removed. FGM is most prevalent in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. More than 200 million women have undergone this procedure today.
Togo, a West African nation on the Gulf of Guinea, is composed of at least 30 ethnic groups, most of whom are immigrants from other parts of West Africa. The majority of the population lives in small villages in rural areas. For economic planning purposes, the country is divided into five regions: Maritime, Plateaux, Centrale, Kara, and Savanes.
𝗧𝗼𝗴𝗼 𝗪𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗙𝗚𝗠 𝗣𝗿𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗲
Women in Togo have struggled with inequality for years. Recently, they have been given more opportunities and inequality has improved. Women in Togo have also become more involved in politics. However, these women usually come from ruling tribal families or are successful businesswomen. Women in Togo have also received much better education, and literacy rates have increased. These improvements bring knowledge and awareness of the health problems that FGM brings. Support for abolishing FGM is higher among women whose mothers are more educated.
Some women in Togo still support the practice of circumcision. Therefore, they persist in having their daughters perform circumcision. Women are the main perpetrators of this puberty rite, which is closely linked to women’s status and power. Anesthesia is not commonly used during the procedure.
In Togo, female genital mutilation is most common in the Centrale region. 13.5% of women aged 15 to 49 have experienced it. Savanes is the second highest region with 7.6%. The southern regions of Maritime and Plateaux have the lowest incidence of FGM at less than 2%. The most common form of genital mutilation practiced in Togo is circumcision and removal of the flesh.
The most common age range for female genital mutilation in Togo is between 4 and 14 years. However, FGM can also affect young children and women preparing for marriage. Sometimes FGM is also performed on women who are pregnant with their first child or have just given birth. According to a survey by 28 Too Many, 73% of Togolese women aged 15 to 49 have heard of FGM. 94.5% of them believe that the practice must end.
𝗟𝗮𝘄𝘀 𝗔𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘁 𝗙𝗚𝗠
Law No. 98-016 of November 17, 1998, is the main law related to female genital mutilation in Togo. This law does not address FGM performed by health professionals or cross-border FGM procedures. According to 28 Too Many’s September 2018 Togo Legal Report, “Law No. 98-016 prohibits all forms of female genital mutilation in Togo and defines FGM as the total or partial removal of the external genital organs of infant girls, young girls, or women and/or any other procedure performed on these organs.” In November 2015, Togo unveiled a new penal code that further criminalizes the practice of FGM.
However, Togolese citizens have rarely enforced these new laws. Moreover, only a limited number of court cases on the issue are known. This is because most cases have occurred in rural areas where awareness of the law is limited, or because traditional customs often take precedence over the legal system among certain ethnic groups,” the report states.
Many are still very concerned about what will be done about female genital mutilation in Togo. The practice, still considered a rite of passage for women, continues in rural areas. Several have pointed out the urgent need for the government to enforce the law and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.
As in many other countries, female genital mutilation is still a massive threat in Togo. Women are at risk of physical and psychological harm from the procedure. More strategies are ideal, and proper implementation of the laws that Togo has put in place will help women in the country.