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An amazing case of informed ignorance

29.10.2013. UNFPA und UNICEF just organized a high-level conference on female genital mutilation in Rome from October 21st to 25th. We took this as an opportunity to search for UNFPA statements on FGM in the Middle East and found this amazing piece in the Muscat Daily. In the article under the headline “FGM practiced in Oman; cases not ‘alarmingly’ high“, UNFPA representative of the sub-regional office for GCC-states, Asr Ahmed Toson, takes a wild guess: “Even though we have no data about Oman yet, I think FGM/C is not a serious issue compared to other countries and for that reason, it is not on our radar at this point of time. As an example, FGM/C is practiced much more in Egypt than in Oman.”

You can’t contest his facts. He is right: There is no reliable data about Oman, only a lot of evidence, some anecdotal, some quite profound – among them a Five-Year-Plan by the Ministry of Health which mentions the elimination of FGM as a target. Mr. Toson is most probably also right when pointing out that FGM is practiced much more in Egypt.

But you wonder how serious an issue must become to be on UNFPA’s radar. Egypt has one of the highest FGM rates in the world with 97 percent of women being cut. Since Oman is a multi-cultural society with people originating from India, Iran, Africa, Yemen and many Omanis having lived abroad, it would be very unlikely that all these different groups practice FGM. However, some do as Dr Nafissatou J Diop, coordinator of the joint UNFPA-UNICEF programme on FGM/C told the Muscat Daily. If these groups who practice FGM only make up 50 percent of the population in Oman would this not be alarming? (by Stop FGM Middle East)

How Kurdistan ended female genital mutilation

Gulf News 24.10.13. By Shaimaa Khalil

Toutkhal: Kurdistan is one of Iraq’s rare success stories; autonomous from Baghdad since 1991, the region has recently enjoyed an oil boom that’s fuelled foreign investment unknown elsewhere in the country.

And recently Iraqi Kurdistan has been looking closely at its human rights record. Two years ago Female Genital Mutilation was banned, as part of a wide-ranging law to improve women’s rights, and since then the rate of FGM has fallen dramatically.

But how have they achieved this? Kurdistan is very much the exception.

Many other countries in the Middle East and Africa still suffer from high rates of FGM. According to Unicef the countries where FGM is most prevalent is Somalia and Guinea, while Egypt is in the top five.

However according to Unicef the practice is ‘practically non-existent’ in the rest of Iraq. In a special report that is part of the BBC’s 100 Women Season, I found out more about the grass roots campaign that led to this practice being outlawed. I wanted to know if enough is being done to enforce the law, and end FGM in Kurdistan altogether.

One leg of my journey was to the sleepy village of Toutkhal — in a remote and mountainous area in Iraqi Kurdistan. At first glance, life seems untouched by the modern world. The small mud houses, surrounded by farm animals and people living off the land make it hard to imagine why this village would make the news.

Read full article

FGM: BBC/ Guardian Film about the campaign to stop FGM in Iraqi-Kurdistan

Foto: Female genital mutilation: the film that changed the law in Kurdistan</p><br /> <p>Two filmmakers spent almost a decade reporting the greatest taboo subject in Kurdish society. Watch their story http://gu.com/p/3jz6tToday Guardian Films present a short version of a co-production with the BBC  about the decade long fight against female genital mutilation (FGM) in Iraqi-Kurdistan. The BBC-Guardian team has followed two filmmakers who spend almost a decade reporting the greatest taboo subject in Kurdish society. Nabaz Ahmed and Shara Amin persuaded people to talk about the effects of FGM. Their film became an important tool in a capmpaign the grassroots organisation WADI launched to combat FGM and get the practice outlawed in 2011. Latest figures by WADI show that in some regions of Iraqi Kurdistan the number of girls being mutilated  has fallen by over 60% in the last few years.

Hivos and Wadi Call for Action on FGM in the Middle East/ West Asia

For Download: Leaflet on FGM in the Middle East
http://www.wadinet.de/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/fgm-call.jpg

Significant decrease of FGM in Iraqi-Kurdistan – new survey data

Kurdistan Tribune. 21.10.2013. In several Iraqi Kurdish regions female genital mutilation (FGM) has declined significantly within a decade.

During the last six months, the Iraqi-German NGO Wadi has collected data on the prevalence of female genital mutilation in the areas of Suleimaniyah, Halabja, Raniya, Goptata and Garmyan. Having discovered in 2004 that FGM was practiced widely, Wadi’s mobile teams developed a village-by-village approach in their campaign to raise awareness among women about the medical and psychological consequences of the practice.

The new data is based on interviews with 5,000 women and girls and indicates that this approach has led to a steep decrease in the practice. While 66 – 99% of women aged 25 and older were found to be mutilated, the percentage in the pertinent age group 6 – 10 was close to zero in Halabja and Garmyan. In both areas FGM was previously practiced widely and where the awareness campaign began first. In Suleimaniyah the rate of mutilation among 6-10 years old girls is at 11%, in Goptapa 21% and in Raniya – Wadi’s most recent operation area where the rate used to be close to 100% – has now dropped to 48%. The usual age for the cuttings is between 4 and 8 years in this region. Read more

Significant Decrease of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Iraqi-Kurdistan, New Survey Data Shows

20.10.2013 By Wadi

Significant Decrease of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Iraqi-Kurdistan, New Survey Data Shows

 In several Iraqi Kurdish regions female genital mutilation (FGM) has declined significantly within a decade.

During the last six months, the Iraqi-German NGO Wadi has collected data on the prevalence of female genital mutilation in the areas of Suleimaniyah, Halabja, Raniya, Goptata and Garmyan. Having discovered in 2004 that FGM was practiced widely, Wadi’s mobile teams developed a village-by-village approach in their campaign to raise awareness among women about the medical and psychological consequences of the practice.

The new data is based on interviews with 5,000 women and girls and indicates that this approach has led to a steep decrease in the practice. While 66 – 99% of women aged 25 and older were found to be mutilated, the percentage in the pertinent age group 6 – 10 was close to zero in Halabja and Garmyan. In both areas FGM was previously practiced widely and where the awareness campaign began first. In Suleimaniyah the rate of mutilation among 6-10 years old girls is at 11%, in Goptapa 21% and in Raniya – Wadi’s most recent operation area where the rate used to be close to 100% – has now dropped to 48%. The usual age for the cuttings is between 4 and 8 years in this region.

In past years Wadi has conducted a comprehensive statistical survey on the overall prevalence of FGM in the Iraqi Kurdish region and found 72% of the adult women to be affected. Since then Wadi’s research has been focusing more on young girls because they provide indications on the current trends. A decrease in FGM among young girls is a strong evidence for FGM being practiced less now. This important information gets blurred when measuring only the overall prevalence.

The new survey is based on oral accounts, not on medical checkups. It should be noted that FGM is now legally banned and women might be inclined to conceal the practice. At the same time, the teams that conducted the interviews are in long-term and close connections to the communities in which they work and have intimate knowledge of the conditions on the ground. The survey, therefore, provides a genuine indication of significant decline in the practice of FGM.

Wadi’s teams visit the villages in their respective operation areas on a regular basis. They gather the women and discuss various issues – be it social conflicts, women’s rights, female and baby health care, and also FGM. Wadi’s approach is to gradually build up relationships of trust by long-term work within each community and by providing support to the women in their day-to-day problems. FGM is addressed by showing a documentary on FGM in Kurdistan in which a doctor, a mullah and other respected persons speak out against the practice. The film is followed by a discussion and an exchange of opinions. In most cases the discussion will continue for weeks and months.

In addition to face-to-face awareness Wadi is also engaging in advocacy and public mobilization efforts in order to give people a voice, initiate necessary discussions and strive for adaptation of the legal framework. Public action is backing the individual approach.

In 2011, after years of campaigning, the Kurdish regional parliament finally passed a ground-breaking law banning many forms of violence against women and children, including FGM. Since then Wadi, supported by the Dutch Hivos and the German Foreign Ministry, has concentrated on informing the public about the existence of this law and raising awareness about its implications. Wadi trained police officers, conducted midwife trainings, established the first FGM-free villages in Iraq, and consulted for  the government on  implementation of the law. Public events drew the attention of the media and spread the word about the law.

In their daily work in the villages, Wadi’s mobile teams are telling the people about the law and explain its purpose. In Halabja and Garmyan, the places where Wadi provided the most intensive awareness on the ground, 58% and 39% of the interviewed women respectively report that they know a lot about the law, whereas in Raniya only 8% said so.

The combination of individual and public action has proven effective in bringing substantial change in people’s behaviors within a fairly short time. If applied in the rest of the region, FGM can become history within a few years. To achieve this aim cooperation of both local government and international actors is required, including the pertinent UN agencies. At present, nearly a decade after the prevalence of FGM in the region was first made publicly known Wadi continues to work to raise awareness and to reduce the practice on the ground in the rural areas.

Source

Exploration of pathways related to the decline in female circumcision in Egypt

19.10.2013 A research about the decline of FGM in Egypt

By Sepideh Modrek and Jenny X Liu, published in BMC Public Health

Background

There has been a large decline in female genital circumcision (FGC) in Egypt in recent decades. Understanding how this change has occurred so rapidly has been an area of particular interest to policymakers and public health officials alike who seek to further discourage the practice elsewhere.

Methods

We document the trends in this decline in the newest cohorts of young girls and explore the influences of three pathways—socioeconomic development, social media messages, and women’s empowerment—for explaining the observed trends. Using the 2005 and 2008 Egypt Demographic and Health Surveys, we estimate several logistic regression models to (1) examine individual and household determinants of circumcision, (2) assess the contributions of different pathways through which these changes may have occurred, and (3) assess the robustness of different pathways when unobserved community differences are accounted for.

Results

Across all communities, socioeconomic status, social media messages, and women’s empowerment all have significant independent effects on the risk of circumcision. However, after accounting for unobserved differences across communities, only mother’s education and household wealth significantly predict circumcision outcomes. Additional analyses of maternal education suggest that increases in women’s education may be causally related to the reduction in FGC prevalence.

Conclusions

Women’s empowerment and social media appear to be more important in explaining differences across communities; within communities, socioeconomic status is a key driver of girls’ circumcision risk. Further investigation of community-level women’s educational attainment for mothers suggests that investments made in female education a generation ago may have had echo effects on girls’ FGC risk a generation later.

The complete article is available as a provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.

New Publication by Unicef and Al Azhar

14.10.2013. UNICEF and Al-Azhar International Islamic Center for Population Studies released a book entitled FGM/C: Between the Incorrect Use of Science and the Misunderstood Doctrine, which is the second edition of a former publication from 2005, now reviewed by the Former President of Al Azhar University Dr. Ahmad Omar Hashim, the Former Minister of Waqfs Abdullah Al Hussaini Hilal and the Former-Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa Mohamed.

The book explains the religious background of FGM in Islam and refutes the idea of female circumcision being Sunna. It points to the sexual and reproductive funtions of female external genitalia and the Islamic demand for sexual fullfillment for both sexes. It also discusses common misbeliefs such as the idea that a clitoris would grow as large as a man’s organ. The book is a usefull collection of arguments against FGM within an Islamic context. Yet, it errs when claiming that “within the Islamic World, FGM/C is practiced only in Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Djibouti, and some parts of Yemen and Oman.” This leaves out a large number of countries where FGM is practiced such as Iraq, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia and several African countries where Islam is the majority religion or the religion of a large minority.

Female Circumcision Widely Practiced in Malaysia

11.10.2013. Asia Calling reports from Malaysia where female genital mutilation is legal. In 2009 the countries highest Islamic body the Department for Islamic development has declared it mandatory.

And as Nabila Ali reports in June 2013 from KL recent surveys by the University of Malaya are showing practice is on the rise. Yet, not without critics. The organization Sisters in Islam are putting all their efforts into raising awareness about FGM.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpVwOb7A2Ms&w=420&h=315]

Questions about campaigns and data

4.10.2013. How can it be expained that rates of female genital mutilation are not dropping in one country despite campaigns to eliminate the practice while they decrease in another where no campaign has targeted the issue? How robust are figures when out of the same group of women 94 percent answer to have undergone FGM in one year, but only 84 percent say this when surveyed ten years later? These questions are posed by Henrietta L Moore and William Wyse in the medical journal BMJ referring to the recent Unicef report on FGM.

Read article: Female genital Mutilation/Cutting in BMJ 2013;347:f5603