Country Profile: FGM in Sierra Leone
This Country Profile provides comprehensive information on FGM in Sierra Leone. The report details the current research on FGM and provides information on the political, anthropological and sociological contexts of FGM. It also includes an analysis of the current situation in Sierra Leone and reflects on how to improve anti-FGM programmes and accelerate the eradication of this harmful practice. The purpose of this report is to enable those committed to ending FGM to shape their own policies and practice to create positive, sustainable change. In Sierra Leone the percentage of girls and women who have undergone FGM is 89.6% (DHS, 2013) or 88.3% according to MICS (2010). These rates are lower than the reported 91.3% in the 2008 DHS. Prevalence of FGM is higher among those residing in rural areas (94.3%) than urban areas (80.9%) (DHS, 2013). Northern districts have the highest rates, whereas the West has the lowest and these correspond to rural and urban trends. Further data will be available in the forthcoming full DHS 2013 report. FGM in Sierra Leone is part of initiation into secret women’s societies, known as Bondo (Sande). 90% of women are members of Bondo and these women’s societies exist in all ethnic groups, except the Krio. Membership to these societies marks a girl’s transition into womanhood and becoming a community member. Girls receive training for their roles as wives and mothers, but this training has decreased in some communities as parents want their girls to return to school before marriage, or they live in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, which were created during the civil war, and have limited resources. FGM is therefore seen as a social norm tradition that is heavily enforced by community pressure. As part of this social norm rationale, cutting is considered anatomically necessary for a girl to become an unambiguous gendered female. Uncut women are also often labelled as unclean. There is furthermore a common belief that FGM is more aesthetically acceptable. Other reasons FGM is practised include it being necessary to preserve a girl’s virginity, and a small minority (of Mende ethnicity) believe that it is a religious requirement. Finally, in a survey discussed in this report, 39.3% of Mende men stated that there was no benefit to FGM.