Female genital mutilation (FGM) continues to be a problem in Tanzania, with more than 800 girls subjected to the practice last December alone.
Millions of women are thought to have been affected by this practice in the East African country despite a police crackdown.
Twelve women, suspected to have carried out the ritual, which involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, were arrested as police investigations into the case continue.
“The police operation is still going on. We will not relent until all the perpetrators have been arrested and charged,” District Commissioner Glorious Luoga told Reuters.
Approximately 140 million females across Africa, parts of the Middle East and Asia, are affected by the practice which is deemed culturally appropriate for preserving purity prior to marriage.
However, serious health problems dog the practice as it is often carried out in unhygienic circumstances on girls aged 12 to 17, leading to numerous deaths.
Up to 7.9 million girls and women in Tanzania are thought to have undergone FGM, with the illegal procedure often carried out in secret initiation, or rite of passage, ceremonies.
Across the country there are major regional variations in the prevalence of FGM, as well as a marked urban/rural gap, the German NGO GIZ reported.
In rural areas, 18 percent of women have been subjected to FGM, while in urban areas this figure stands at seven percent.
FGM is most widespread in the Manyara (81 percent), Dodoma (68 percent), Arusha (55 percent), Singida (43 percent) and Mara (38 percent) regions.
In other parts of Tanzania, the prevalence is lower than 0.5 percent, as in Mtwara, Kagera, Zanzibar and Pemba.
The regional differences may be accounted for by the occurrence of high prevalence rates where traditions of the ethnic groups living there include FGM.
However, unlike other countries, the differences between the various religious groups in Tanzania tend to be minimal in regard to FGM.
Only eleven percent of Muslims are cut, for example, fewer than either Roman Catholics (14 percent) or Protestants (20 percent).
On Tuesday, a senior official in Tanzania’s Ministry of Health warned communities to stop embracing the harmful tradition.
“FGM should be made history in Tanzania,” the ministry’s permanent secretary Sihaba Nkinga said.
“As a government, we can’t afford to see such acts continuing to happen. It is not something to be proud of,” she said.