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Sierra Leone has banned female genital mutilation (FGM) until after its March elections to stop candidates buying votes by paying for cutting ceremonies, the government said Monday.FGM in the West African nation is widely practiced as part of girls' initiation into powerful secret societies -- led by women -- which wield significant political clout.The government last month banned initiations to prevent the societies from intimidating people during campaigning ahead of elections on March 7, and to stop candidates swaying voters by paying for ceremonies, state spokesman Cornelius Deveaux said.The ban is the first of its kind during an election season and applies until March 31, according to Maya Kaikai, Sierra Leone's minister of local government and rural development.
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