A 10-year-old girl has died after undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) during an initiation into a secret women's society in Sierra Leone, police said on Wednesday, sparking renewed calls for the practice to be banned.
Authorities have arrested the woman in charge of initiations as investigations continue, said Amadu Turay, unit commander of the Mile 91 police division, in Sierra Leone's northern Tonkolili district about 240 km (145 miles) east of Freetown.
"She died of blood loss," Turay told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that it was assumed that FGM was the cause.
Female genital cutting is widely practised in the West African nation as part of girls' initiation into secret societies which wield significant political clout.
Nine in 10 women have been cut in Sierra Leone which has one of the highest rates of FGM in Africa, according to United Nations data. It is one of only a handful of African countries which has not outlawed the internationally condemned practice.
The ritual typically involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia and can cause serious health problems. The last death was reported about two years ago, activists said.
"FGM is killing our women and girls. We need to get enough publicity on this incident to draw the attention of government," said anti-FGM campaigner Rugiatu Turay, formerly the deputy minister of social welfare, gender and children's affairs.
Turay said 67 more girls were reported to have taken part in the initiation and she was arranging for a medical worker to go see them. (Reporting by Nellie Peyto, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
(With inputs from agencies.)