CAIRO — Egyptian activists are concerned that the rise of Islamist politicians could undermine years of work to discourage female genital mutilation. The practice, and the movement against it, however, have far deeper roots in the country.
To its supporters, it is a sign of purity, community and religious devotion. To its opponents, it marks the physical manifestation of a woman’s degradation. Read more
WNN SOAPBOX 17.4.2013
By Faiza Jama Mohamed
(WNN) Nairobi, KENYA: Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a severe form of discrimination against girls. It is an extremely violent act of control and an utterly invasive and destructive assault of the female sexual organs. It promotes the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with girls, which needs to be changed. It is often carried out for cultural or supposedly religious reasons, even though it is not referred to in any major religious text. FGM is most prevalent in parts of Africa and the Middle East. However, it is a global problem, which has already affected 100 – 140 million women and girls around the world.
One of the most worrying recent developments relating to FGM is the shift towards permitting it to be performed by medical professionals in a supposedly ‘safe’ environment. We have recently been calling for urgent action in Indonesia, one of the first countries in the world to attempt to ‘legitimize’ FGM in this way. As Indonesian girls are usually less than six weeks old when this is carried out, they have absolutely no say in this decision, which transforms their entire future. We are also concerned about recent development in Malaysia, which could see something similar happening there. The Malay Minister for Health is keen to formalize and legitimize the ‘medicalization’ of FGM, despite the fact that there is absolutely no benefit or necessity to do so. This ignores both UN and WHO guidelines, which recognize it as a severe form of violence and child abuse against girls. Read more.
17.4.2013. Hivos and our partner WADI proudly announce the launch of the ‘Stop FGM Middle East’ campaign’s website to break the silence about female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Middle East and to contribute to its full elimination.
Girls and women all over the Middle East face the practice of FGM, which constitutes a gross violation of their rights and is often condoned by various cultural, traditional and religious excuses. Credible data and statistics on the prevalence of FGM are essential if we are to break the silence and taboos surrounding the practice of FGM in the Middle East. Hivos and WADI started collecting evidence on FGM and reporting on activism against FGM in Middle Eastern countries in 2011. In January 2012, WADI and Hivos organised a conference on FGM in the Middle East in Beirut. It was the first of its kind. Experts and activists from Iraq, Yemen, Indonesia and Egypt took part laying the foundation of a region-wide network to fight FGM.
In Iraq and Yemen, FGM is known to be practised. In Iraqi Kurdistan a law criminalising FGM was adopted in 2012. In other countries in the Middle East there is only anecdotal evidence of the existence of FGM. In the Gulf region so far, only a few individuals have come forward to address the issue. In the United Arab Emirates, a student conducted a survey for her graduation project and found 34 percent of the questioned women had been circumcised. In Oman, bloggers demanded the government take action against the practice. In Saudi Arabia, a clinical study about the possible connection between female sexual dysfunction and FGM, conducted in 2007-08, found that of 260 women interviewed at a Jeddah clinic, half had been mutilated. A study in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia found 38 percent of FGM-cases among 4800 pregnant women. There is also circumstantial evidence that it is carried out in Syria and Qatar.
Although more solid data and statistics must become available, it can be said with certainty that FGM exists in the Middle East and is threatening the lives of millions of girls in the region in as much as it causes medical, psychological and sexual problems for adult women. Hivos and WADI will continue their work to break the silence shrouding these crimes against girls and women in the Middle East.