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Berea girl compensated for mutilation

by Lesotho Times
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Pascalinah Kabi

A SIXTEEN year-old Berea girl has been awarded M10 000 compensation by the Berea Magistrate’s Court after she was subjected to genital mutilation as punishment for revealing initiation secrets.

The girl was mutilated by 24-year-old Pulane Sepheka early this month for allegedly revealing initiation school secrets to mathisa – a derogatory term given to those who have not gone through the female initiation school.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is internationally recognised as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.

It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

Police spokesperson, Superintendent Clifford Molefe said investigations presented in court showed that the girl was initiated two years ago, when she was 14 years old.

“Evidence before court showed that the 16-year-old girl was playing with her friends when she allegedly told them secrets of the initiation school,” Supt Molefe said, adding that this angered Ms Sepheka.

He said that Ms Sepheka mutilated the orphaned girl, saying this was a lesson to never reveal initiation secrets to mathisa.

He said the matter was reported to the police who upon investigation, found the mutilated clitoris.

“The dried mutilated clitoris was presented in court as part of evidence. The Ha Motšeremeli woman was sentenced to one year imprisonment or to pay M10 000 fine,” he said, adding that two punishments were suspended.

He added: “The woman was otherwise ordered to pay M10 000 compensation to the 16-year-old victim.”

Supt Molefe said it was unfortunate that the girl will grow up without her clitoris because someone chose to cut it off.

“This is the pain this child will live with forever. At the time she was initiated, she was only 14 and two years later she lost her clitoris,” he said.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

It says the procedure has no health benefits for girls and women and that the procedure can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.

“More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated.

“FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15 and that is a violation of the human rights of girls and women,” WHO said.

Although the 2008 Refworld  Report on FGM stated that the Lesotho Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) claimed that “FGM is reportedly not practiced in Lesotho”, WHO said the practice was mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities such as attending childbirths.

“In many settings, health care providers perform FGM due to the erroneous belief that the procedure is safer when medicalised,” WHO said, adding that it strongly urged health professionals not to perform such procedures.

FGM has four types – clitoridectomy (partial or total removal of the clitoris) and excision (partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora with or without excision of the labia majora).

Infibulation (narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal.

The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching, with or without removal of the clitoris) is referred as the third type with deinfibulation (practice of cutting open the sealed vaginal opening in a woman who has been infibulated, which is often necessary for improving health and well-being as well as to allow intercourse or to facilitate childbirth) being the fourth type.

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