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Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation; Action in Asia is needed

By HIVOS and WADI; The Hague, Suleimania, 5 February, 2014.


On the fourth official International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female genital mutilation (FGM), the practice is far from being eradicated. While the numbers of mutilated girls are decreasing in Africa after decades of concerted efforts, large regions where FGM is practiced are entirely neglected in this worldwide battle. This is particularly true for Asia. The practice is widespread in Indonesia and Malaysia, it exists in Iran, Iraq,  and Jordan. In several countries of the Arabian peninsula FGM is practiced by relevant parts of the population.

These countries need to make an effort to fight FGM among their population. We also call upon Indonesia and Malaysia, where the practice is legally carried out in hospitals, to ban FGM and initiate a strong campaign against it. In some Arab countries and Iran the practice is not legal in hospitals, yet governments shy away from tackling the issue. As a first step reliable studies must be conducted and a campaign initiated. In some countries  authorities must stop censuring voices that talk about FGM. (more…)

The Organization for Islamic Cooperation calls to end FGM

An OIC Statement dating March 11, 2013:
The FGM is unfortunately only one of many cultural practices that are disguised as part of religious tradition. Child marriage, violence against women as well as other negative acts perpetuated are often misidentified as being part of Islamic tradition, whereas they are part of the local tradition and we should raise awareness at the local level to de-link these practices from religion. (…)
One activity that we can all take part in is to organize public awareness campaigns about the FGM, and other issue-specific campaigns to ensure that all people receive information regarding the negative impacts of violence against women. This can happen through community gatherings, radio, television, social media, mass text messaging, social media and other forms of media.

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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.

Resisting FGM in Malaysia: One fathers story

The Milla Project

When my daughter was born, I remember there being a huge rush of nurses, doctors, students and various other medical attendants swirling around the doors of the delivery room. On a whiteboard next to the entrance was a hastily drawn-up list of all the various expecting mothers who were delivering at the time. Drawn in smaller fonts right next to the name of the mothers were the words indicating whether the mother was Muslim or not, the expected sex of the baby, and if the baby was a girl born to a Muslim mother, whether she would be circumcised or not. Before long a medical attendant came rushing up to me and asked me whether I wanted my daughter to be circumcised. Before I share with you my decision, let us consider the facts, myths and issues surrounding female circumcision.

Female circumcision is probably one of the least well-known facts about the Malay community. Some non-Malay men who have married Malay women are not even aware of this fact. But it’s there, it happens, and it is even conducted by medical professionals. There has been a general effort by WHO and various other medical and women’s NGOs to eliminate the practice of Female Circumcision (or Female Genital Mutilation as some quarters call it) around the world. These efforts often meet with strong resistance from the local populace due to the strong connection the practice has with local cultures and traditions.

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UNICEF research on FGM reason for concern


This week, UNICEF issued a report on female genital mutilation (FGM). It stresses the importance of continuous data gathering to inform policymakers and programmes, as a vital part of all efforts to eliminate FGM. German NGO Wadi and Hivos welcome the amount of exposure this report has received and fully endorse the need, amongst others, for further research on the prevalence of FGM, particularly in the Middle East. This is the more pressing in the light of a discrepancy between the findings of UNICEF and Wadi.

In Kirkuk for example, Wadi and its partner Pana documented in 2012 that FGM exists in areas outside Kurdish communities of Iraq. Surveying 1212 women in Kirkuk, field workers obtained the first empirical proof that women in the Arab and Turkmen communities of Kirkuk practiced FGM, proving that this is an issue the entire nation needs to confront.  38.2% of interviewees reported they have been mutilated. 118 of these victims were Arabs. A further 56 were Turkmen.

UNICEF stated that ‘data from Iraq show that FGM is only practised in a few northern regions, including Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, where the majority of girls and women have undergone the procedure’, concluding that ‘it is practically non-existent in other areas of the country.’ This observation stands in contrast with findings in Kirkuk from Hivos partners Wadi and Pana.

“Studies by Wadi as well as interviews with medical professionals indicate that the practice is much more prevalent than previously thought, including in non-Kurdish areas”, says Wadi director Thomas von der Osten-Sacken.

The UNICEF surveys in 29 countries show that girls are less likely to be cut than they were some 30 years ago. On the other hand they show that the practice remains almost universal in Sudan and Egypt. “This underlines the fact that we should remain very concerned and continue to step up efforts to eradicate FGM”, says von der Osten-Sacken.

Download the Open Letter Wadi has sent to the UN in March 2013 questioning some of the the results of their MICS research in Iraq.

FGM Debate Continues in Muslim Lands

Gatestone Institute 18.07.2013, by Irfan Al-Alawi

While overshadowed apparently by the general civil conflict over the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) regime in Egypt, the spreading problem of female genital mutilation (FGM) has recently shaken the land of the Nile.

Yet the mass upsurge against the tyrannical fundamentalism of the MB is related, however obscurely, to the protests against FGM.

Late in June, British media reported that Suhair Al-Ba’ta, an Egyptian girl aged 13, died during an FGM “operation.” She reportedly perished from blood loss while subjected to FGM in a village north of Cairo. The latest terrible “death by FGM” of a girl in early adolescence provoked widespread outrage at the practice. Disregarding public opinion, representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), defended FGM as “Islamic.”

FGM has been illegal in Egypt since 2007, after the death in an anesthesia overdose during the mutilation of a 12-year-old girl, Budour Ahmad Shaker. The Egyptian government previously attempted to suppress FGM in 1996, and to reinforce the injunction against it in 1997. Egyptian officials affirmed in 1997 that FGM was not justified by Islam, and were supported in condemning it by scholars from the Al-Azhar Supreme Council of Islamic Research, based in Al-Azhar, the preeminent university in Sunni Islam. The Al-Azhar authorities stated that cutting female sexual organs — even partially– has no foundation in Islam, is medically harmful, and should not be carried out.

Dr. Naglaa El-Adly, research director for Egypt’s National Council for Women, has argued that the Muslim Brotherhood used its influence to prevent enforcement of the laws against FGM. Dr. El-Adly, like other experts, asserts that FGM is an ancient pagan custom in the region, with no basis in Islam. She noted the existence of the problem among Egyptian Christians, and has called on media and religious leaders “to tell people it is not related to Islam or Christianity.”

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