African women, as women in all societies, must be fully emancipated in order for the society to reach its full potential.
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UN CALLS FOR "ZERO TOLERANCE" OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has urged the
international community to back its "zero tolerance" attitude to the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).
A statement issued during a conference on the issue being held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa from July 30 to August 3 said that although considerable progress had been made in some countries, worrying trends were beginning to emerge.
Such trends included the increasing medicalization of the practice as parents seek to have their daughters cut by health providers so as to minimize health effects of FGM/C, the statement said.
The practice, which is defined by WHO, UNFPA and UNICEF as "the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons," affects 2 to 3 million girls yearly.
Between 100 and 140 million women and girls have been subjected to this practice across the world, predominantly in 28 countries in Africa and the Middle East and also among immigrant communities in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand as well as in some communities in India, Indonesia, Iraq and Malaysia.
In remarks to the conference Fama Hane Ba, the Director of Africa Division at UNFPA, commended organizations that are achieving high levels of success in combatting the practice through strategies based on dialogue with community leaders.
Genital mutilation infringes on the rights of women and girls to reproductive health and bodily integrity and subjects them to torturous and degrading practices, the UNFPA statement said.
"The practice of FGM/C is deeply rooted in some of our cultures, and its eradication must also come from changes within those cultures," said Benson Morah, Director of UNFPA's Country Support Team Office in Addis Ababa.
The Addis Ababa meeting brings together 70 experts from across the globe, including participants from UN agencies, faith-based and non-governmental organizations, law enforcement agencies, governments and research institutions to discuss strategies and adopt a "road map" for ending FGM/C.
JOHANNESBURG 31 July 2007 Sapa
TRAFFICKING "SMALL PERCENTAGE" OF SEX INDUSTRY: REPORT
Preliminary research suggests that human trafficking in the sex industry in Cape Town might not be as prevalent as first thought, a seminar on trafficking and "sexploitation" heard on Tuesday.
"The numbers probably aren't as high as we initially assessed them to be but we still need to do something about it," said Chandre Gould, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) at a seminar at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
Gould was speaking on the early indications of research by the ISS and the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) to determine the nature and extent of human trafficking in Cape Town's sex industry.
The number of victims of trafficking who required assistance from the state were suggested to be "relatively few" and to form a "small percentage" of the population of the sex work industry.
While estimates of trafficking numbers were "huge", Gould said that four cases involving more than four people of trafficking or trafficking-like practices had been identified through interviews.
Preliminary findings also found that the illegal nature of
prostitution allowed for unchecked exploitation of women and limited recourse.
"We need to address the criminalisation of sex work to limit
opportunities for trafficking and increase reporting and access to information," said Gould.
Decriminalisation would mean that sex work would become regulated like other work, she said.
A focus on trafficking was also said to distract from more complex broader social issues as presented by sex workers.
Gould argued that sex workers who were in similar exploitative situations were not considered worthy of assistance and support that was offered to the trafficking victims.
Focusing on brothels and sex workers advertised in the media, the ISS-Sweat research identified 103 brothels and nearly 1000 sex workers. Nearly 250 outdoor workers were identified.
To date, 123 people in the industry had been interviewed including brothel owners and prostitutes and plans to interview 11 agencies employing foreign women were underway.
Sex workers were found to be isolated from authorities and services and that the "fluid industry" provided an important resource on abuse, exploitation and trafficking.
A guest at the seminar disputed the low prevalence of trafficking, saying that the issue was "much larger" than the report suggested.
Last month the International Organisation for Migration said its Southern African Counter-Trafficking Assistance Programme had found human trafficking was thriving in Southern Africa.
South Africa and its expanding sex industry were the main regional destination, the organisation said in a media report.
The ISS-Sweat research is focusing on 140 Cape Town suburbs with a 54km radius of the city centre.