Women's rights advocacy groups in Sierra Leone are piling up pressure on authorities for the speedy eradication of female circumcision prevalent in the country, one campaigner said on Wednesday.
Finda Fraser, coordinator of the Advocacy Network, said a coalition of 16 women organisations had launched a campaign to gather views on the harmful practice commonly referred to as female genital mutilation (FGM) "on how to forge ahead and advocate for its eradication from our community."
Herself a victim of FGM Fraser said, "It but it is against our human rights and should not be practised in Sierra Leone. It is an issue which the government and women's organisations should work to stop quickly."
Social Welfare Minister Haja Musu Kandeh on Monday expressed her government's commitment to ban the practice but did not state when it would take effect.
Sudanese-born Enshore Ahmed, a UN advisor on gender issues in the west African country, noted that Sierra Leone and Sudan top the list of countries in terms of prevalence of female genital mutilation in Africa.
"We have a lot to do to eradicate the practice. I am appealing to the government to engage in the process of having a law endorsed against the practice," she urged.
The country's gender and children's rights law passed by parliament last year does fall shy of explicit mention of the the practice.
An estimated between 35 and 40 percent of women in the country undergo circumcision, traditionally believed to control female sexuality and make girls more "marriageable."
Still carried out in 28 African countries according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), FGM often causes infection and sometimes death.
Overall, between 100-140 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation worldwide, the WHO reports. Some three million girls yearly are at risk of infection, the agency says.