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Historic: Sudan criminalises FGM

Now anyone in Sudan who performs female genital mutilation (FGM) will face a possible three-year prison term as well as a fine.

The statement made by the Sudanese Foreign Ministry this week is remarkable.

"No doubt this article will contribute in addressing one of the most dangerous social practices, which constitutes a clear violation against women and a crime against women's rights... The amendment of this law is a positive mark in creating a society where women enjoy all their rights including exercising their rights and duties."

For one thing, it condemned and criminalised a harmful social practice that affects 88% of woman in the North African country. It also brought the nation's attention to a topic that campaigners have been fighting for years to highlight within the country.

FGM isn't often discussed within or across African households. This makes changing attitudes to the practice difficult, as Insaf Abbas described while reporting for BBC News.

"Although I know how widespread the practice is in Sudan, it's also very taboo. I've never spoken to female relatives about FGM, and I don't even know which of them have gone through it."

The practice remains enmeshed with traditional ideas of marriage and womanhood for many men and even for women. So what will stop FGM from persisting underground, as it has in Egypt?

There are reasons to be optimistic. Five government ministries under the new administration are lead by women. Laws from the Bashir-era that controlled women's behaviour and movement have been repealed.

Campaigners hope that this public condemnation by the Foreign Ministry and the criminalisation of FGM will spark conversations both within and beyond Sudanese homes. With luck it could begin a chain reaction that could see this practice disappear not just from North Africa, but from the entire world.

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