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Anti-FGM Campaigners Mark Progress in Egypt

We News, 23.12.2013. By Jessica Gray

After the death of 13-year-old Suhair al Bata’a this summer, an intensive awareness campaign about the hazards of FGM/C reached into 11 governorates across Egypt. But advocates say the battle against a practice dating back to the age of the Pharaohs will take time and persistence.

CAIRO, Egypt (WOMENSENEWS)– Egyptian gynecologist Dr. Randa Fakhr Eldeen still remembers the horror she felt 20 years ago at seeing a victim of female genital mutilation, or cutting, for the first time.

The girl, only about 10 years old, had been rushed to Manshiet el Bakry Hospital’s emergency room in the capital, suffering massive blood loss. Eldeen, still in training, said she was confused by the girl’s life-threatening injuries.

“I didn’t know what had happened because we don’t practice FGM/C in my family . . . It’s not taught in medical school . . . She was unconscious and we had to give her [several] blood transfusions. I think she was given six bags of blood. She was going to die and her mother [kept] crying about her hymen,” recalls Eldeen. “I couldn’t stay in the emergency room. I had to leave. I was crying.”

FGM/C, also known as female circumcision, has a long history in Egypt. She says the practice came from Ethiopia during the Pharaonic era. In 2007 the practice was outlawed after the death of a 12-year-old in Minya. Nonetheless, the vast majority of women between 15 and 49 have endured the procedure. A 2008 Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) of women married at least once puts the estimate at 91 percent. Read More

Sexual mutilations outside Africa : new report and new denial except the Iraqi case

Sisyphe, 19.12.2013. Interview with Oliver M. Piecha, researcher at Stop FGM in the Middle East

by Mirielle Vallette

The new summary report of UNICEF still does not dare to address the issue of female genital mutilation in the Middle East and South East Asia. Wadi, an German-Iraqi NGO lobbies to make things change.

UNICEF have compiled data collected during 20 years in 28 countries in Africa and Yemen. For the first time, they include Irak. They summarize their findings in a report released in July 2013 (1). In most countries, a great part of girls and women who have undergone mutilations do not see the benefit of them and believe that this practice should stop. The practice continues mainly because mothers who get their daughter mutilated think that other mothers expect them do it as well. As they never talk together about the topic, they do not know that many women are not favorable. A lot of men are also opposed to them. (more…)

The Lancet: FGM in the Middle East

13.12.2013. The renown science magazine “The Lancet” acknowledges on its editor’s page that FGM exists beyond Africa. Under the title “Female genital mutilation in the Middle East” Farrokh Habibzadeh affirms:

“FGM is mainly practised in Africa but is also done in other regions. For example, the prevalence of this procedure is very high in Iraqi Kurdistan. Saleem and colleagues reported that 23% of more than 1500 girls with a mean age of almost 14 years from Iraqi Kurdistan had had FGM, at a mean age of 5 years. FGM is also common in Iranian Kurdistan and Egypt where the procedure is prohibited by law.”
This is a good step ahead even if there are still many countries missing in the list.

Female genital mutilation on the rise among Southeast Asian Muslims

Global Post, 10.12.2013. More than 90 percent of women surveyed in Malaysia have been circumcised, and experts say increasing regional Islamic conservatism may be the reason why.

Though World Health Organization reporting in 2011 indicated a decline in the practice of female genital mutilation — also known as female circumcision — experts say it is actually being practiced at much higher rates among Southeast Asian Muslims than previously thought.

The rise, they suggest, correlates directly to increasing conservative attitudes throughout the region.

On December 20, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously accepted a resolution on the elimination of female genital mutilation, saying that the practice affects between 100 and 140 million women and girls worldwide. But nearly a full year later, it appears the ban has had little to no effect in the southernmost tip of Southeast Asia.

A 2012 study conducted by Dr. Maznah Dahlui, an associate professor in Malaysia’s University of Malaya’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, found that 93.9 percent of Muslim women surveyed had been circumcised. In Indonesia, a 2010 Population Council study of six provinces indicated that between 86 and 100 percent of teenage girls had undergone the procedure. In both studies, 90 percent of Muslim women surveyed expressed support for the practice, claiming that it fulfills a religious obligation and fosters purity in women by controlling their sexual desire.

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Iraqi Kurdistan fights female circumcision

Deutsche Welle. 9.12.2013. Female circumcision is slowly declining in Iraqi Kurdistan. Years of campaigning and a law against the practise have borne fruit. Some villages went from 100 percent of all young girls being circumcised to none.

“Circumcision brought us problems. It is much better for husband and wife when it is not happening.” The mokhtar of Twtakal, a small village in Iraqi Kurdistan is very clear about it. The practice of FGM, or female genital mutilation, should be eradicated.

The village chief is proud that his village has stopped circumcising its women, where only two years ago still every mother had it done to her daughters. It was a bad habit, Kak Sarhad told DW. “For men, who have all these layers, it is cleaner. But women don’t have that and don’t need it.”

Read more

Meeting a Circumciser: “Men suffer from it” – In Salalah facing up against FGM is almost impossible

By Stop FGM Mideast

Salalah 4.12.2013. The women at the Women’s Association call her Doctor Marzouka. With her sun glasses and gold rings on her fingers the 50 something year old lady has a modern air around her. Playing with her car keys she shows that she is an emancipated woman – women driving is not at all for granted in this conservative part of Oman. Doctor Mazouka works as a doctor’s help in a state hospital, at the side she cuts the clitoris of newborn girls.

“She is very smart. When she worked with the doctor in the surgery she watched closely what he does. This is how she learned,” explains Saida, who works since 15 years for the Salalah branch of the Women’s Association, the semi-official organization for women in Oman. The Association has arranged the meeting with the cutter.

Marzouka is proud of her skills. She stresses that she is trained and not a traditional cutter. “My mother did not do this. I trained myself in the hospital.”

Openly, she describes her job: “I use a clamp and then a knife.” She carries rubber gloves and two sprays, one anaestatic one disinfectant, in her bag. Her business runs well. She cuts two to seven girls a day, she says, making 15 riyals (30 Euros) each. Most costumers she meets in the hospital in the delivery ward. In Dhofar, the Southern province of Oman, girls are traditionally mutilated in the first two days of their lives. Marzouka also advertises her services on the internet and besides, everybody knows her in town – as the women of the association confirm. (more…)

Oman: Precise descriptions of FGM already in the 1960s

When Phillips lived in Oman people dressed like in this filmset in Mirbat. Even though an outsider and a man he seemed to have no difficulties to find out about FGM.

When Phillips lived in Oman people dressed like in this filmset in Mirbat. Even though an outsider and a man he seemed to have no difficulties to find out about FGM.

By Stop FGM Middle East

Salalah, 3.12.2013. In recent years there have merely been rumors that female genital mutilation is practiced in Oman. Some bloggers wrote about it. In UN publications, the country was mentioned occasionally in reference to FGM, but no one seemed to know more. Most people seemed to believe that it exists only in the Southern region of Dhofar bordering Yemen – and thus was a phenomenon connected to Yemeni culture.

Now, Wadi’s Stop FGM in the Middle East team is visiting the country on a fact finding mission. We are speaking with those people who reported on its existence, with journalists, potential actors and diplomats. Our findings are clear: FGM is practiced in all regions of Oman even though probably not by all ethnic and religious groups. It also varies in severity: While in Dhofar large parts of the female genitalia are supposedly cut the practice in the North seems less severe. We also heard several times that it exists in other gulf countries like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and even Saudi Arabia.

Internationally, the existence of FGM in the gulf regions was long denied. Yet, knowledge about FGM in Oman is not new at all. An archeologist and consultant to the Omani Sultan has reported on it already in the 1960s. Wendell Phillips writes in his book “Unknown Oman”: “Among the Qara (inhabitants of the mountains behind Salalah), radical clitoridectomy – or complete female circumcision (…) – is clumsily and brutally performed without ceremony at the birth of the female child. In the rest of Oman the little girl merely has the top of her clitoris, which is regarded as the prime center of sexual excitability, incised at the age of ten or soon after birth a bit of fine rock salt is placed on her clitoris which is then eliminated (rubbed away) by the insertion of a finger.” (p.174)

Phillips who lived on and off in Oman during the 1950s and 60s also analyses the social consequences of the practice: “If the truth were told a high percentage of Arab wives are among the world most embittered and frigid, while the Arab male is among the world’s unhappiest husbands. In his supreme effort to insure martial fidelity the Omani husband in numerous instances has equipped himself with up to four unresponsive ice cold mates whose genital organs have been deliberately mutilated by having the clitoris cut out along with its foreskin and in extreme cases the sanguinary ablation of the labia minora as well, thus eliminating in most instances all female pleasure and sensation during sexual intercourse and, to the self-centered male, any possible desire in his females to indulge in extra marital relations.” (p. 136)

Phillips analyses clearly a consequence long ignored in the discourse about FGM. The practice was always adressed as a medical problem. Only in recent years, sexual and social aspects came into focus, e.g. a Saudi study examines the connection of sexual dysfunction and FGM. The first thing one journalist asked us here in Oman concerned the connection of divorces and marital problems.

Our contacts here are convinced that FGM could be eliminated within few years in Oman if only a campaign was initiated. Education level is high and people are generally responsive to government campaigns, we heard.

It could be asked why international organizations have so long ignored Oman and other gulf countries when evidence was so clear and success through a campaign seems quite possible.

Field Trip to Oman: FGM is acknowledged but everyone is afraid to tackle it

Shopping in Muscat

The Sultan modernized the country but values traditions: The dishdascha is obligatory in government jobs

by Stop FGM Middle East

30.11.2013, Muscat. The activist Habiba Al Hinai has asked women in shopping malls and clinics about female genital mutilation. 78 percent reported to be circumcised – more than even the most FGM-critical Omani bloggers estimated (“Linoleum Surfer” assumed 20 percent victims). What is even more surprising about Al-Hinai’s ad-hoc-study: The women interviewed come from all regions in Oman: Muscat, the Batina, the Dakhiliya, the Sharqia. Only 2 came from Dhofar. So far, most people believed that FGM was mainly practiced in the Southern province of Dhofar.

A team of Wadi’s and Hivos’ Stop FGM Middle East campaign is currently in Oman, talking with local actors about these findings, their own assesment and ideas how to campaign against female genital mutilation.

The account of the blogger “Omani Princess” in Muscat supports Al Hinai’s finding. She tells us that it is practiced by her in-laws. They come from the mountains near Muscat, the Dakhiliya. “It is done with a hot needle”, she has heard. Her husband knows that in some cases a nail clipper is used.

At the Omani Women’s Association the women are surprised. “No, it’s not a problem here in Muscat and not in the mountains,” insists Nashia Al Kharusi, the president of the local Muscat branch. She has long heard of the practice in Dhofar and thinks the Ministry of Health should do something to stop it. “Maybe some do it in the North because they are influenced by the Emirates?” she ponders.

That FGM is practiced widely in the Emirates is well known in Oman. Also the Omani Princess tells us about it. She is well connected with other women in the region and since she believes that FGM is a crime she has talked with them about it. She can tell us: It is practiced in Bahrain, in Kuwait and also in Jordan.

But the “Omani Princess” doesn’t know how to overcome the social taboo surrounding the topic. “Unthinkable to write about it in an Arabic newspaper, only the English ones can publish articles on it.” This is also the opinion of a journalist from the Muscat Daily we meet.

Habiba Al Hinai explains to us why only the official Women’s Association can initiate a campaign. “There are no independent NGOs, you won’t get a license and you won’t be allowed to work.” She must know. As one of the main protagonists of the small Omani spring she has tried to found several groups with others, among them the Omani Human Rights’ organization.

Yet, the women at the Women Association don’t seem too confident. Al Kharusi has been trying to get an appointment at the Ministry of Health to talk about FGM. “They must do something, because in Oman things have to be official.” She is certain that FGM could be eliminated within few years “because if something comes from the government, people follow.” This may well be true. Sultan Qaboos is a popular monarch for he integrated all ethnic and religious groups, modernized the country and improved the status of women to such an extend that the Thomas Reuters Foundation recently rated Oman as the second best Arab country for women.

Even the activist Habiba says: “If it wasn’t for the Sultan we would still live imprisoned. These people (the religious) would lock us in the house not allowing us to work or even go out.”

Robert F. Kennedy Center honours Egyptian attorney Ragia Omran with human rights award

Daily News Egypt, 26.11.2013. Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy, founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center), presented Egyptian human rights attorney Ragia Omran with an award to honour her work and commitment to human rights in Egypt. Ms Omran, a cutting edge advocate for advancing women’s rights and ending the use of military tribunals against civilians, was nominated in March 2013 for her two decades of advocacy, and was selected for the award on 24 June out of a field of 111 total nominations. The ceremony was held at the Kennedy Caucus Room at the Russell Senate Building in Washington DC, with journalist Soledad O’Brien as emcee.

“With dedication and courage, Ms Omran is often the first to arrive on the scene at jails, police stations, court houses, and military and civilian prosecution offices. Hundreds of peaceful activists have her to thank for successfully securing their release and protecting their rights to freedom of speech and association,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center. “She is a beacon of hope for the women of Egypt and a champion in the global human rights movement. We are proud to honour her with our 30th annual award.”

“Robert F. Kennedy and the Kennedy family have been a lifelong inspiration for me. They are a testament to the idea that one person can make a change in the community and that this change can eventually transform the world,” said Ragia Omran, 2013 RFK Human Rights Awardee. “It is with great honour and humility that I accept this award on behalf of all the courageous Egyptians who have come before me and who have worked alongside me.”

As a leading member of a number of Egypt’s legal advocacy organisations, Ms Omran and her colleagues at the Front to Defend Egypt Protesters have represented hundreds of civilians ordered to military trial, an increasing trend in Egypt following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

Ms Omran has already achieved remarkable victories in her effort to promote equality and justice. She is a member of the No to Military Trials for Civilians Campaign, established in 2011 to provide legal support to detainees and to advocate against the use of military trials of Egyptian civilians. A year after the campaign launched, the group was recognised for raising awareness of the issue of civilian military trials under emergency law.

In addition, for over two decades, Ms Omran has worked to defend women’s rights in Egypt. In 1995, she helped lead the Egyptian Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Task Force, which successfully outlawed the practice in public hospitals in Egypt, a nation where 91 percent of women are victims of FGM.

Ms. Omran is currently a member of the New Woman Foundation (NWF) that works to defend women’s social, political, economic, and cultural rights, and was one of the first groups to speak publicly about violence against women in Egypt beginning in the 1990s. NWF has been actively advocating for increased civic participation for women and for women to have a say in the newly formed Egyptian government.

The RFK Center will provide ongoing, long-term support to Ms Omran in advocacy and strategic initiatives to help further her progress on a range of human rights issues, from women’s rights and protecting protestors, to ending the use of military trials for civilians. Source

The Jordanian town that still circumcises women

The Daily Star, 13.11.2013. By Rana Sabbagh-Gargour

RAHMAH, Jordan: Tucked away in a valley bounded by steep ridges of mountains and stretching from the Red Sea port city of Aqaba to the escarpment of the Southern Ghor of the Dead Sea, is the town of Rahmah. From the outside, the nondescript ramshackle town of over 500 residents, whose Arabic name means “mercy,” appears little different from any other, with the exception of an ancient ritual performed there: that of circumcision, a practice otherwise unheard of in the conservative Hashemite Kingdom.

The tradition is believed to have been brought to Rahmah and other villages dotting the sand swept Wadi Araba region, by tribes and nomadic Bedouins who roamed across the boundary-less region decades ago, before they were forced to settle down in areas bordering Israel after the 1967 occupation of the Sinai Peninsula, the Negev desert and the Gaza Strip. Many of these clans, including the tribe living in Rahmah, trace their origins back to the Sinai Peninsula where the tradition of female genital mutilation (FGM) endures, despite a ban imposed on it by Egypt in 1997.