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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ghanaian Women To Know More About Genital Mutilation

September 25, 2009 In remote villages in Ghana, Florence Ali sees firsthand the side effects of female genital mutilation. Although banned by Ghana's laws, it's a cultural tradition still practiced in some villages, said Ali. "We see the side effects particularly when women come in to deliver their babies,'' said Ali, president of the Ghanaian Association for Women's Welfare. A World Health Organization study showed that women who have suffered the most serious form of genital mutilation have a higher chance of suffering from a post childbirth hemorrhage. She said when some of the women return to their communities they isolate themselves because they're ashamed of their wounds. Saturday night at a Ghanaian function in Lauderhill, Ali will speak about female circumcision, or genital mutilation, and her work to bring more awareness to this issue. Ghanamma, a group of South Florida women, many with ties to Ghana, meets monthly to find ways to help women living in Ghana with health issues. "We formed this as a sisterhood and out of friendships,'' said Adiiza Bucary, of Wellington, president of Ghanamaa. Burcary, who has lived in South Florida since the mid-80s, said she grew up in the city and was spared the cultural tradition. But she said she knew of several cases, including her great grandmother. "I never saw it, but I knew it was being practiced,'' said Bucary, a local dietitian. Formed only three years ago, Ghanamaa members said they were able to raise a modest $1,500 last year to send to the Ghanaian Association of Women Welfare to assist with education. At their function Saturday, they hope to raise more. She event is at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the Inverrary Country Club in Lauderhill, where tickets go for $50 and include music and dance. Ali, a retired nurse and midwife, said her association is looking to eventually purchase a sturdier vehicle to spread their message in areas that are hard to get to now because of the poorly built dirt roads. Sometimes when they don't reach women with genital mutilation until they already are in child birth it's too late, she said. "We have got to get to a grassroots levels to push this type of education,'' she said.

Asylum denied in female circumcision case

Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer
September 23, 2009 8:03 PM

The full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will not review the asylum case of a woman whose father has said he will bring her back to Senegal, circumcise her and marry her off to a much older man.

The court, which is authorized to have 15 judges but currently has only 10, split 5-5 Monday on whether to rehear the case en banc. The tie means Francoise A. Gomis, whose asylum petition was denied by three-judge panel in July, will not get a rehearing.

Gomis, who came here on a work visa that expired in April 2003, filed an asylum petition in 2005. She testified that she did so after learning that her 15-year-old sister had been forcibly circumcised, suffering blood loss and infection, and that when their brother complained to the police, he was told to go home.

Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, who penned the majority opinion in July, also wrote Monday’s opinion. He called female circumcision “abhorrent” but said the court must defer to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which found that Gomis failed to prove it was “more likely than not” she would be circumcised.

Judge Roger L. Gregory, the vehement but sole dissenter in July, requested the rehearing and objected to its denial as contrary to settled law.

“There is…one basis for asylum that is clearly established in both this Circuit and the other federal courts: protection from female genital mutilation,” Gregory wrote Monday.

“Gomis’s family made it clear that were she to return to Senegal, there is no chance that she could escape circumcision at their hands,” he added. “Neither invocation of sympathy nor innovation in the law of asylum was necessary to grant Ms. Gomis’s petition; it merely required the application of our precedent — simple justice.”

Seeking high court review

Even before the denial of rehearing en banc, Gomis had petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari to examine the 4th Circuit panel’s decision on procedural grounds. Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s National Immigrants’ Rights Project, which filed the cert petition, said he was heartened by the 5-5 vote.

“It’s disappointing that the 4th Circuit decided not to rehear the case, but we take some comfort in the fact that five of the 10 judges believed there was more than 50 percent likelihood she would be subject to FGM — female genital mutilation,” Gelernt said. “That is a far higher burden than she faces with her asylum application, which is what is at issue in the Supreme Court petition.”

The Department of Justice declined to comment on the result.

Gomis has asked for both asylum and withholding of removal. Asylum requires the claimant to show a 10 percent chance of harm if she is returned to her own country, but withholding requires a 50 percent chance.

While asylum claims must be filed within one year of unauthorized entry, there is no deadline for filing a withholding claim.

There are exceptions to the one-year asylum filing deadline, including for refugees whose circumstances change after the deadline has passed.

Gomis testified that her sister’s forcible circumcision constituted a change in circumstances.

According to her 2005 asylum petition and testimony, she had fled Senegal because her family wanted her to undergo circumcision and get married to a man in his 60s.

Female circumcision was made illegal in Senegal in 1999, the same year Gomis’ parents allegedly took her out of school to arrange her marriage. She was 21.

With the help of an uncle in France, Gomis left home and obtained the visa to work as a domestic servant for a friend of her uncle.

Gomis presented the Immigration Court with what Gregory called “a mountain of evidence” that she would be circumcised if she returned to Senegal, including a letter from her father saying that she had embarrassed the family and that he would use “all means” to get her back and circumcise her.

Immigration Judge Thomas G. Snow denied Gomis’ petition for withholding, finding that a State Department report on female circumcision in Senegal indicates that she probably would not be forced to undergo the procedure.

Most Senegalese women, especially in big cities like Gomis’ native Dakar, have not been circumcised, he wrote. Circumcision is typically performed on young girls or at puberty, not on grown women, he found.

Snow also denied Gomis’ petition for asylum, ruling that Gomis had missed the deadline and that her sister’s circumcision was not enough to constitute changed circumstances.

The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the denial, as did the 4th Circuit panel in July.

Gregory’s dissent took the majority to task for “focus[ing] on general statistics” and not considering the circumstances specific to Gomis’ case.

Gomis’ family has said she will be circumcised and, in her small ethnic group, almost all women are circumcised, many right before marriage, he noted.

“To deny her withholding of removal and send her back to Senegal, to virtually certain circumcision, would be a great miscarriage of justice,” Gregory wrote. “If we choose to ignore the blatant evidence before us of her specific situation by shielding our eyes with general statistics, then we will be sending her to a torturous future of which I shudder to imagine.”

Jurisdictional point

Gomis’ Supreme Court petition focuses on whether the appellate court had jurisdiction to review the ruling on her claim of changed circumstances.

All three judges on the July panel agreed that they lacked such jurisdiction. However, Gomis’ lawyers argue that the circuits are split on that point, since the 9th Circuit has gone the other way.

“We’re very concerned that people who are legitimate refugees are being denied asylum in this country because of the one-year filing deadline,” said Eleanor Acer, director of the refugee protection program at Human Rights First, which filed an amicus curiae brief urging the Supreme Court to take Gomis’ case.

“Because of the fact that there hasn’t been judicial review in some circumstances, there’s no doubt that some individuals who would be entitled to asylum have been deported back to places where they would face persecution,” she said.

The government’s response to Gomis’ Supreme Court petition is due Oct. 14.

Huge support for Kenyan fugitives

YUKO NARUSHIMA September 23, 2009 OUTRAGE at Australia's plan to deport two women possibly facing genital mutilation in Kenya has triggered an alliance between political adversaries, lawyers and refugee groups who want the Immigration Minister to intervene. Independent senator Nick Xenophon joined the Opposition and the Greens in urging the minister, Chris Evans, to use his intervention powers to grant the women visas. Grace Gichuhi, 22, and Teresia Ndikaru Muturi, 21, fear deportation from Sydney would force them into female circumcision. The pair were rejected as refugees by the immigration department, an independent tribunal and then the minister despite a bill before parliament aimed at protecting such women. A groundswell of concerned readers yesterday contacted the The Age, appalled by the situation and eager to help. ''If the laws are changed, these women have a clear case for asylum,'' Senator Xenophon said. ''I urge the minister to exercise discretion to give these two women asylum.'' The comments were echoed by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who said the women sounded like ''prime candidates'' for the proposed ''complementary protection'' laws aimed at building on existing refugee criteria. Currently, refugees' fear of persecution has to be based on ''race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion'', allowing people facing genital mutilation for other reasons to be sent home. While Opposition spokeswoman for immigration Sharman Stone supported a second look at the pair's cases, she rejected the need for the new laws, saying the existing intervention powers were adequate. The Coalition will oppose complementary protection in the Senate. ''The minister of the day looks at what are often very complex, one-off situations, and he or she doesn't have to adhere strictly to any convention. They can then exercise their own sense of what is right and just and humane,'' Dr Stone said. But supporters of the change, including a member of her own party, said Dr Stone had outlined precisely what was wrong with existing laws. Professor of public law at the University of Sydney, Mary Crock, said the changes gave certainty to women such as Ms Gichuhi and Ms Muturi, whose cases would be ''no brainers'' if departmental officials had laws to apply. Liberal MP Petro Georgiou said current powers before the minister had limitations. He said: ''Ministerial intervention is not subject to a process other than an individual's position and the system can be improved.'' Immigration officials, who had told the women to prepare for deportation, are reassessing their claims with new information to put before the minister. Senator Evans' spokesman could not give a timeframe for a decision.

Film director raises awareness about female genital mutilation

September 23, 2009 "Desert Flower," the best-selling book by former super model Waris Dirie, has been adapted for the big screen. German-US director Sherry Hormann hopes it will draw attention to the problem of female genital mutilation. Dirie's rise from a nomadic life in Somalia to the top of the international modeling world is well known around the world. Her autobiography "Desert Flower" has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide since it was published in 1998. Dirie was one of 12 children born to desert nomads in Somalia. She escaped from being sold into marriage for five camels at the age of 13 and ran away to London to work for an uncle. She taught herself to read and write and five years later got a big break as a model when a photographer spotted her at McDonald's. "Not a victim" Opening Thursday in German theaters, director Sherry Hormann's film is a homage to Dirie's tough spirit, which made it possible for her to survive tremendous odds. It traces her death-defying journey through the Somali desert, as she flees from the prospect of marrying a 60-year-old man and makes it to the capital Mogadishu. The film shows Dirie's move to London, where she cleans houses and struggles to survive. Dirie is played by the glamorous Ethiopian-born model Liya Kebede. "What interested me in Waris' story is that she isn't a victim," the Berlin-based director told news agency dpa. "She takes action - till today." Hormann, who is better known for romantic comedies such as "Women Are Simply Wonderful" and "Doubting Thomas," however, makes it clear that the central message of the rags-to-riches film is a serious one - that the practice of female genital mutilation continues to be widespread. Dirie was five years old when she was forced to undergo the painful procedure. A scene in the film shows a crying girl held down while a woman cuts off parts of her genitals with a razor blade. The wound is then sewn up with a coarse thread, with a tiny hole left through which to urinate. Film crew faced hostility on location The World Health Organization estimates that at least 150 million women around the world are affected by genital mutilation - a practice meant to prevent women from experiencing sexual pleasure. "We want the film to at least reduce the unbelievably high number of women and girls threatened by or suffering from genital mutilation," Hormann said. "It's still carried out - even in countries that have officially banned the practice." Hormann said she shot large parts of the film in Djibouti, home to a large Somali population. The director said the film crew faced a lot of hostility from the local population during the shooting and had to be provided with security personnel. "The people hated us; they threw stones at us because we were white people who came and spoke about genital mutilation," Hormann told dpa. "And then when Waris turned up - that further provoked them." A growing problem in Europe Hormann said her main motivation for the film was to draw attention to a problem that no longer just existed in other parts of the world, but increasingly in Europe, too. "Immigrants take this tradition (female genital mutilation) with them to their new homes. That's very unsettling," Hormann said. "That's why we hope that the film helps to raise awareness of the subject." That's what Waris Dirie has been doing for more than a decade. The former supermodel is the UN's special ambassador for the elimination of female genital mutilation and has set up a foundation to raise public awareness about it. "The world knows that these mutilations are wrong and still not much has happened. I don't understand why the world only looks on," Dirie said during a recent appearance at the Venice Film Festival. The award-winning human rights campaigner said she was driven by one single thought: "Somewhere in the world, a girl is being mutilated right now and tomorrow that same fate awaits another girl." sp/dpa/ap Editor: Louisa Schaefer

Australia mulls Kenyan women's 'circumcision' case

September 23, 2009 SYDNEY — Australia's government is considering intervening to stop the deportation of two Kenyan women who fear they will be circumcised if forced to return home, officials said Wednesday. Grace Gichuhi, 22, and Teresia Ndikaru Muturi, 21, have been in Australia since festivities for Catholic World Youth Day in July last year and have exhausted their avenues under Australian law to apply for asylum. Debate is due to begin on a new law which would extend protection visas to women seeking refuge from honour killings or female genital mutilation, but it is opposed by the conservative opposition. While current laws do not cover Gichuhi and Muturi's claims, Immigration Minister Chris Evans said he was willing to consider directly intervening in their case. "The two women have submitted new requests for ministerial intervention and these will be thoroughly assessed," a spokesman for Evans told AFP. "The women will not be removed from Australia while these applications are on hand." Both women come from families where it was customary to circumcise the clitoris, a practice known in the West as female genital mutilation. Gichuhi said her mother had been killed by members of the Mungiki sect for refusing to have her clitoris cut off, and she also feared death in the crude operation. "They use a knife. Just a knife, no medicine," she told Fairfax newspapers. "They circumcise you and maybe you die." Muturi said she was sold for 10 cows to marry a 70-year-old man and would also be circumcised against her will if forced to return. Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone has said the proposed new law would open the floodgates to false claims and abuse. Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

What does UNHCR do to combat Female Genital Mutilation?

Posted by: lisacollste
September 22, 2009

Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women and the procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later, potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths. The practice is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15 years. WHO estimates that 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM and that about three million girls in Africa are at risk for FGM annually. FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

Promoting gender equality and working towards the elimination of violence against women and girls, including Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), is an integral part of UNHCR’s protection mandate in its work for refugees and other people of concern. UNHCR staff have an obligation to uphold rights and freedoms enshrined in international human rights instruments; therefore a harmful traditional practice which violates the individual rights of refugees will normally require the intervention of UNHCR. UNHCR’s Policy on Harmful Traditional Practices (1997) advises field staff to plan their strategy to address the occurrence of FGM practices carefully, in conjunction with the refugee community, implementing partners and any other relevant UN organizations. UNHCR advanced its policy in 2008 by being one of nine agencies which signed an Inter-Agency statement on eliminating female genital mutilation (FGM). This statement provides UNHCR’s operations with new and targeted guidance to address FGM.

In 2009, UNHCR published a Guidance Note on Refugee Claims relating to Female Genital Mutilation. The note affirms that FGM is a form of gender-based persecution and can constitute a ground for refugee status according to the 1951 Refugee Convention. The guidance is intended for use by those who may be involved in refugee status determination.

UNHCR has also updated the Guidance on the Use of Standardized Specific Needs Codes for the registration of refugee populations, which now includes specific codes on persons at risk of FGM, thus allowing field operations to identify and follow up on individual cases.

Below are some examples of UNHCR’s activities in 2008/09 in to combat FGM:


In Eastern Ethiopia, UNHCR is in partnership with a community-based NGO, Mother and Child Development Organization (MCDO), to raise awareness on FGM. In 2008-2009, MCDO conducted weekly group discussions, referred to as “coffee ceremonies”, and mobilized youth clubs against FGM in three Somali refugee camps. They identify role models against FGM within the refugee community and provide support to those who choose not to perform FGM on their children. They train health staff on how to respond to FGM and conduct vocational skills training targeted at former FGM practitioners and groups at risk in the camps. MCDO has also established a women’s centre in Aw-bare refugee camp where women talk exclusively about their economic, social and domestic problems. Organized discussions related to FGM are held in the centre to raise awareness. In the Kebribeyah refugee camp, a workshop on FGM was conducted in August 2009 by UNHCR, the International Rescue Committee and MCDO. The workshop targeted 50 participants, amongst whom there were representatives of district authorities, FGM practitioners and spiritual leaders. The workshop included the religious aspects of FGM and used spiritual leaders to highlight that FGM is a traditional practice, not a religious one, in order to demystify some of the conceived perceptions of the practice. During the workshop, FGM practitioners underlined that they did this work due to a lack of any alternate income, and 15 boys declared that they wanted to marry a woman who has not undergone FGM.


In Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, which hosts Somali refugees, UNHCR is raising awareness of the serious health risks of FGM through community dialogue. Inter-generational debates are held between older persons and youth to discuss the negative aspects of the culture. Support groups to fight FGM have been created, including religious leaders’ committees which support the abolition of FGM and emphasize the distinction between FGM and religion. Men Against FGM, a group of three hundred individuals, is mobilizing the refugee community, conducting peer education activities, acting as role models, and working in close cooperation with the police and agencies. There are support groups for families who have abandoned FGM, groups of former FGM practitioners, Youth Against FGM and groups for girls who have not undergone FGM. The awareness on FGM among the youth in the camp has greatly improved, through a project using sports to address FGM. This is being implemented in partnership with CARE. It has organized sports tournaments where the participants discuss FGM before and after the matches. Teachers, sports coaches and FGM survivors have been trained and the sports activities are used as a safe environment to discuss and create awareness on FGM. Radio communication has also been used to share information on the consequences of FGM. In Kakuma refugee camp, there are eleven anti-SGBV clubs targeting boys, their parents and teachers in the school, who campaign against FGM and other harmful practices.


In 2008 solar-powered radios were distributed to community points in the camps to support dissemination of messages on prevention of FGM and other types of SGBV. In 2009 a follow-up sensitization campaign against FGM was organized in the Koukou refugee camp.


A Women’s Association has been established with the aim of combatting SGBV and FGM.


In 2008, workshops were conducted on SGBV, with a particular focus on FGM, for the Refugee Women Committee, Youth Club, Block Leaders and Religious leaders in Kharaz refugee camp.


UNHCR, in partnership with Cairo Family Planning & Development Association, continues to implement awareness-raising sessions for refugee women on SGBV prevention and response, and the issue of FGM has been included in these sessions. The activity reaches around one hundred refugee women yearly. Moreover, discussions on community mechanisms to address SGBV and FGM regularly feature in UNHCR’s work with community-based refugee organizations.


The Men’s Association in the Ali-Addea refugee camp raises awareness among the refugee community focusing on FGM.

Other projects in partnership with UN agencies, governments and NGOs

In partnership with other UN agencies, governments and NGOs, UNHCR has also been involved in awareness raising among teachers, traditional and religious leaders and FGM practitioners, in Sudan, Liberia, Chad and Djibouti. In 2008, UNHCR joined the Donors Working Group on FGM/Cutting which supports a common approach among key governmental and intergovernmental organizations to promote the abandonment of the practice and make a major difference for girls and women worldwide.

If your field office is doing anything else to combat FGM, please let us know!

Website launched to end female genital mutilation

Posted by Nathan Solomon
September 21, 2009

A website dedicated to tracking the response of the European Union (EU) to female genital mutilation (FGM) has been launched by Amnesty International Ireland.

It will document the response of EU institutions and the Council of Europe to assess developments on preventing FGM and will feature an interactive map of Europe, which will contain information on prevalence rates and legislation on the issue in member states.

The campaign — the site for which is located at — is committed to ensuring the EU delivers a definitive strategy to end FGM in Europe and to protect women and girls who flee their countries for fear of being mutilated.

The European Parliament estimates 500,000 girls and women living in Europe are suffering lifelong consequences of FGM.

- by Niamh Mullen | IMT News

Government failing 'silent asylum seekers'

By Meredith Griffiths for AM Posted Sat Sep 19, 2009 12:05pm AEST The Australian Immigration Department has been criticised for failing to adequately protect people facing human rights abuses in their home countries. A young Kenyan woman who came to Australia for World Youth Day wants to stay because she claims she will be circumcised if she returns to Kenya. She has been told she does not qualify for refugee status, but the Catholic Church has taken up her cause. When Teresia Ndikaru Muturi arrived in Australia for World Youth Day last year, she knew she never wanted to go back to Kenya. "Because I'm fearing my own mum for how she's forcing me to marry [an] old man, to leave school and yet I don't want to leave my school. Also I'm fearing to be circumcised," she said. Her mother is a member of the outlawed Mungiki sect which practices female genital mutilation. Ms Muturi says the sect believes you can only become a full woman and get married once you are circumcised. Five years ago when Ms Muturi was 16, her mother suddenly told her that she had arranged for her marriage to an older man, and that she had already received a payment of cash, cows and goats. "He brought cows and goats for my mum, so no way I could escape from it, I have to get married," she said. Ms Muturi ran away and lived with her step-sister until her uncle, who is a priest, arranged for her to come to Australia. Knocked back Her application for asylum has been rejected and she was also unsuccessful at the Refugee Review Tribunal. In January she was put in touch with Franciscan nun, Sister Aileen Crowe, who applied to the Minister Chris Evans to intervene. That too was knocked back. Sister Crowe says Ms Muturi falls into a certain group she dubs the silent asylum seekers. "There is nothing for them. Australian law up until now does not recognise them at all. The only way they can be recognised is if they go to the Minister," she said. Sister Crowe has now made a second application to the Minister, adding new information about Ms Muturi's psychological state But earlier this week, Immigration Department staff told her she had to buy a plane ticket to leave the country next month. A spokesman for Chris evans says Ms Muturi will not be forced to leave the country until the new information has been thoroughly assessed. Sister Crowe says it is a hit and miss approach. "Four girls in this house once got permanent protection and the other three haven't and they're all from Kenya," she said. "Four Ugandan girls suffered the same possibilities, all got protection on the first go. It's just a lottery, but people's lives are at stake in this lottery." Sister Crowe says Chris Evans is not receiving all the information he needs to decide on cases. The Government has introduced legislation to Parliament to establish complementary protection visas for people who are not covered by the Refugee Convention. Sister Crowe is calling on the Minister not to send anyone away until that legislation has completed its passage through Parliament.

Female Genital Mutilation Study for Health Professionals – Forward

September 18, 2009

What is the study about?

The study is being conducted to increase our knowledge about women and girls affected by female genital mutilation (FGM) in England and also to find out more about knowledge and training needs of key health professionals around FGM. It is anticipated that the study will serve as a benchmark and will be repeated annually to provide accurate data on trends.

Who is carrying out the study?

Funded by the Department of Health, FORWARD, the Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists are working together with King’s College London, Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery to conduct a study with health professionals on FGM.

Why do we need health professionals’ help?

Often, women who are affected by FGM first come into contact with the NHS through maternity services, obstetrics and gynaecology, general practice, sexual health clinics, and other specialist clinics including FGM clinics. Therefore people working in these settings are ideally placed to participate.

What is the format of the study?

The study is in two parts:
1. Part One: Survey on women and girls affected by FGM: The survey is being carried out to increase our knowledge about women and girls affected by FGM.

You are asked to record the numbers of all those presenting with FGM and additional demographic data, e.g. ethnic background and the age at which FGM was carried out.

How to complete:

We are asking you to note the number of the people you see during September who have been affected by FGM. You may like to print out a copy of the template (available via, enter password fgmsurvey) keep it to hand, and update it after you finish each consultation. At the end of the month, submit data for the whole month via the same site at any time between 1 and 8 October 2009.
2. Part Two: Survey on the knowledge and training needs of key health professionals around FGM: This aims to assess the knowledge and training needs of health professionals around FGM.

How to complete:

The survey can be completed online (available via, enter password fgmsurvey) and takes around 15 minutes to complete. It only needs to be completed once any time up until 8 October 2009.

Why does the study need to take place?

The practice of FGM is against the law (FGM Act 2003) and can cause long-term mental and physical suffering, difficulty in giving birth, infertility and even death. New evidence from the World Health Organisation and CEMACH also confirm that FGM results in grave obstetric complications and neonatal deaths.

FGM has become a growing concern in the UK due to increase in women migrating to the UK from countries with FGM practising communities. It is impossible to estimate the actual numbers of women affected that are living in the UK due to the sensitive nature of the practice. Because most women may use more maternity services and related FGM and specialist services than other routine health and public services, data from these services will help provide a more reliable source for estimating the numbers of women that have undergone FGM who access specialist services.

What are we hoping to achieve by carrying out the study?

The study should indicate the prevalence of FGM together with some demographic data about those affected across England. It will also establish a useful baseline for future review and provide information on professionals’ knowledge and training needs. The results are likely to help inform the development of appropriate sexual and reproductive health services across the country and support policy and programme development.

How will the findings be reported?

The findings of this study will be reported within the forthcoming cross-government strategy on tackling Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and the reports of the VAWG Health Taskforce, due in early 2010.

Where can I go for help with taking part in the study?

If you are having problems accessing any part of the study, or to complete over the phone, please contact or call 0208 960 4000.

MPs table female genital mutilation Bill

Wednesday, 16th September, 2009
By Joyce Namutebi

A Bill seeking to impose tough penalties for people involved in female genital mutilation (FMG) has been tabled in Parliament. The Private Members’ Bill was yesterday tabled by Kinkiizi East MP Dr. Chris Baryomunsi (NRM).

If passed, a person found guilty of aggravated FMG will be liable to life imprisonment. FMG refers to the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-therapeutic reasons.

The practice is mainly carried out in Kapchorwa and Bukwo districts during the even year. Launching a campaign against the practice in Nakapiripirit district recently, President Yoweri Museveni described the practice as brutal and backward. “God knew what he was doing when he created us. Do you think you are more intelligent than God?”

According to the Bill, a person commits aggravated FMG in situations where death occurs as a result of the act or where the victim suffers disability or is infected with HIV/AIDS.

It also states that a person commits aggravated FMG where the offender is a parent, guardian or person having control over the victim or where the act is done by a health worker.

The Bill provides that a person who carries out FMG shall be liable to 10 years imprisonment. A person who carries out FMG on herself is also liable to imprisonment for 10 years.

Attempts to carry out FMG or supporting it are also crimes, each carrying five years imprisonment according to the Bill. “Consent of the victim to FMG is immaterial and shall not be a defence under this Act.”

“A magistrate’s court if satisfied that a girl or woman is likely to undergo FMG, upon application by any person, may issue a protection order,” the Bill added. The Speaker, Edward Ssekandi, referred the Bill to the committee on gender, urging it to co-opt other members.

Scandinavia fights female circumcision

By Marcus Oscarsson — Special to GlobalPost Published: September 19, 2009 09:09 ET Sweden, Denmark and Norway try to stop genital mutilation among immigrants at home and abroad. STOCKHOLM, Sweden — When she was 11, a Swedish-born girl was taken on vacation to her mother’s native Somalia. The mother wanted to “make her daughter clean” and paid a man to cut off her daughter’s clitoris and labia while two women held her down. Afterward, the girl was stitched to her urethra. No anesthesia was used. Last year, at age 19, a Swedish court convicted the mother for those illegal acts, awarding the victim record demages. Scandinavians — rather than quietly recoiling as immigrant mothers take their Europe-born daughters on vacation to Africa be circumcised — are fighting the traffic in female genital mutilation (FGM). Sweden, Norway and Denmark are doggedly pursuing perpetrators of FGM, practiced by African and Middle Eastern cultures. Those perpetrators are mostly the immigrant mothers of the young girls. Jail sentences, record damages and controversial immigration laws are Scandinavia’s weapons in this war. Meanwhile Africans — who have immigrated with their families for a better life in northern Europe — wring their hands, imploring Westerners to understand that they are doing what they think is best for their daughters. “The reasons given for female circumcision are traditional, cultural and religious. It is believed to encourage cleanliness, to control promiscuity, enhance the males’ sexual pleasure, preserve virginity and protect against unwanted pregnancies,” said Timnit Embaye of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Kenya. But Scandinavian leaders refuse to interpret tolerance of female circumcision as politically correct. FGM "is a very serious assault on children,” said Norway’s Secretary of Justice Knut Storberget. “It is important that they will be given a chance to value this independently when they are old enough to understand.” In Scandinavian countries, female circumcision is illegal even if it happens in another country and even if the practice is legal in that country. It does not matter if the victim said yes, it is still illegal. Perpetrators — such as a girl’s parents — are being prosecuted upon return to Scandinavia and face up to 10 years in prison. The graphic details revealed in the ensuing trials have shocked people here. Young women have told horrible stories confirmed by medical reports. In Norway, the Immigration Appeals Board has allowed African families to remain in the country even if they do not fulfill immigration criteria. The board fears that sending families back to Africa will leave their daughters vulnerable to circumcision. In 50 cases of asylum applications rejected by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, appeals were filed not by the families as usual, but by the appeals board itself. “Female genital cutting is a serious assault and contradicts basic human rights,” said Jan Olav Barstad of the appeals board. Earlier this year a Danish court handed down the country's first jail sentence for carrying out female circumcision. A 40-year-old mother from Eritrea, where circumcision is practiced among more than 98 percent of the female population according to the World Health Organization (WHO), was sentenced to two years in jail after forcing her two daughters, 10 and 12, to be circumcised on a trip to Sudan in 2003. When the parents planned another trip to Sudan with their 6-year-old daughter, the two elder girls alerted other adults. The police seized the parents, and the shocking story took center stage in Danish media for months. The father claimed he had no idea what was happening and was acquitted of any charges. “Although women are often responsible for the practical arrangements, members of the extended family are usually involved in the decision-making,” said Margaret Chan, WHO's director-general, in a statement. “Female genital mutilation is a manifestation of gender inequality. It represents society’s control over women.” Without support from men in societies where FGM is practiced it will never be stopped, experts say. “There is often an expectation that men will marry only circumcised women,” Chan said. “Anyone departing from the norm may face harassment and ostracism.” In Eritrea, if a girl is not a virgin, she will be returned to her parents’ home after marriage. Circumcision is seen as evidence that a girl is a virgin. Embaye of IOM, who is originally from Kenya where circumcision rates affect about 32 percent of the female population, said that for these reasons mothers are reluctant to object to the circumcision of their daughters. “Women in most African communities are taken as second-class citizens. Although the mothers may not want to circumcise their daughters, it is often very difficult for them to openly oppose the practice,” she said. “It would be a bold woman to stand up against a practice that has been endorsed by all her women ancestors for centuries.” So Scandinavian governments are trying to stand up for the women. The Swedish government has launched a national campaign trying to stop female circumcision in Sweden, including among immigrants without citizenship. It has also moved to support girls and women in Sweden who already are victims of circumcision. The act directs Swedish schools, preschools, hospitals, local health centers, social services, police authorities and prosecutors to understand, prevent and deal with circumcision. Police and prosecutors have attended regional conferences on how to do that. A new law in Norway that goes into effect nationwide Jan. 1 will offer free genital screenings to all girls emigrating from countries where 30 percent or more women are circumcised. If the offer is not accepted, immigration authorities can alert the Children’s Welfare Institution. Girls who reside in Norway will have health checks in the fifth and 10th grades. “Genital cutting is illegal and results in incurable damage for the victims,” said Norway’s Secretary of Health Bjarne Hanssen. “Therefore, we launch this additional rule.” Laws regarding female circumcision were adopted in Sweden in 1982, in Norway in 1986 and in Denmark in 2003. In the U.S., it has been a federal crime since 1997 to conduct female genital mutilation on anyone younger than 18. However, IOM believes approaches must be delicate. “Forceful means — including laws — will not bring any success," Embaye said. "The approach should be respectful and not militant. The whole issue needs careful talking and patience where the communities concerned are slowly but readily educated." But patience and slow action is not the Scandinavian approach. Fourteen reports on female circumcision are under investigation at the Oslo Police Department and in June, Norway’s parliament made a move that is likely to increase that number even more. The statute of limitations was changed from 10 years after the offense occurred to 10 years after the victim turns 18.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Practice of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Kenya’s Meru Society

September 16, 2009 After briefly reading about the prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in the Meru tribe of Kenya while updating our website’s Media Watch section, I decided to do some further research on the history of FGM/C amongst Meru women, and what is being done to change these barbaric traditions. The tradition of FGM/C in the Meru society dates back to an ancient myth in which all healthy men of the village were sent off to fight enemy tribes, but upon their return from war, found their women impregnated by the weaker men who had been left behind. The myth continues that from this day forward, women were forced to endure the removal of their clitorises to deplete their sexual desires in the hopes that they would remain faithful to their warrior husbands. This practice of FGM/C has been carried forward into present Meru society despite the fact that these procedures have been illegal since 2001 under the Children’s Act. The Act specifically states: No person shall subject a child to female circumcision, early marriage or other cultural rites, customs or traditional practices that are likely to negatively affect the child’s life, health, social welfare, dignity or physical or psychological development. (Kenya 2001, Sec. 14) In an effort to change and modernize Meru society, elders of the tribe have begun to run an Alternative Rites-of-Passage (ARP) program that promotes both knowledge of cultural traditions of the Meru, as well as modern values. These ARP programs have been taught in several Meru locations since 2007, and so far more than 2,000 girls and young women have taken these classes as an alternative to the brutal FGM/C. The idea behind the program is to remain true to the values of the Meru and the idea of preparing girls for womanhood through education rather than physical mutilation. These young women learn about relationships, marriage, self-awareness, Meru cultural values and traditions, substance abuse and even HIV/AIDS. While ARP seems like the perfect alternative to FGM/C in the Meru society, there is still a huge amount of resistance to the change and FGM/C procedures are now often performed under cover of night, sometimes by individuals not qualified to perform them. There are so many risks and dangers involved in the practice of FGM/C (aside from the fact that it is a blatant violation of basic human rights), that these procedures are becoming increasingly dangerous. Some of the short-term side effects include severe pain, shock, hemorrhage, tetanus or sepsis (bacterial infection), urine retention, open sores in the genital region and damage or injury to nearby genital tissue. Some of the long-term consequences of FGM/C can include recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, infertility, increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths, and the need for further surgeries depending on the type of FGM/C that the woman was subjected to. There are four main procedures used to perform FGM/C and in brief they are: 1) Clitoridectomy: involves the partial or complete removal of the clitoris and sometimes the prepuce as well; 2) Excision: involves the partial or complete removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, which can or cannot include the removal of the labia majora as well; 3) Infibulation: the creation of a covering seal to narrow the vaginal opening. The seal is formed by removing and then repositioning the inner and/or outer labia. This procedure can or cannot involve the removal of the clitoris; and 4) Other: this includes all procedures performed on female genitals not for medical purposes and can include pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area. There are many organizations including the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund and local NGO’s throughout Africa that are trying to put an end to the practice of FGM/C. As I mentioned earlier, ARP programs are being created in different regions of the continent, including in the Meru society, but there are still millions of young girls at risk of FGM/C every year in Africa. Moving towards the eradication of FGM/C will require that education and awareness about the consequences of this procedure to young women (both physically and mentally) be made available to community leaders throughout the many regions in Africa where FGM/C is prevalent. In the meantime, it will be up to the many women who have suffered this barbaric procedure, and the brave men who support them to bring forward change in local communities through alternative learning programs. Hopefully the international community will continue to fight for the rights of children in developing countries, specifically the rights of girls, by bringing awareness to the public on such a large scale, that these violations of human rights can no longer be ignored.

Customising the ‘perfect woman’ through FGM for ‘man almighty’

Published September 15, 2009

For most men, the perfect woman is submissive, hardworking, quiet and in awe of his intelligence – or lack of. She listens to his every word, is amazed at his great ideas and agrees to all his suggestions because he is ‘the’ man, and he definitely knows more than she does. That woman’s body belongs to the man, and therefore if he wants her to lose some weight, who is she to deny him that? If he wants her to gain some pounds, she better do so to keep him happy. That is the perfect woman.

Because of this, when women tend to move away from this male perception of how they should look, act and think, men feel threatened and call her names all in a bid to control her. She is called a whore because she dares to be independent and not resigned to the ‘baby-making-machine’ kind of life. She is called good-for-nothing because she pursues her career instead of settling down and concentrating on her role as a housewife. She is uncouth because she insists on speaking her mind and does not take everything she is told as the gospel truth.

For all there is to male dominion, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) takes the prize for being the worst kind of evil exercised against the female gender in the name of culture. Wife inheritance pales in comparison. No form of degradation, inhumanity or even crime compares to FGM.

The method with which FGM is carried out varies from gross, disgusting, to despicable. Even the names have a scary ring to them- clitoridectomy, excision. They are synonymous to evil! Clitoridectomy is the partial or total removal of the clitoris. Excision is the partial or total removal of both the clitoris and the labia minora (these are the lips surrounding the vagina).

Some communities in Kenya that still practice FGM mostly carry out clitoridectomy on girls just approaching puberty between the ages of 13 to 15. The ritual is considered to be parcel to girl grooming to prepare her for adulthood and marriage. Although the practise is decreasing, the numbers are still intolerable.

The Pitta-Patta Aborigines from Australia practise introcision – the cutting into the vagina by use of a sharp object. When a girl reaches puberty, the whole tribe – both sexes – assembles. The operator, an elderly man, enlarges the vaginal orifice by tearing it downward with three fingers. Others use, get this – a stone knife! This is usually followed by compulsory sexual intercourse with a number of young men.

Introcision is also practised in Peru, in particular among the Conibos, a division of the Pano Indians in the North-East. As soon as a girl reaches maturity, she is intoxicated and subjected to mutilation in front of her community. The operation is performed by an elderly woman using a bamboo knife! She cuts around the hymen from the vaginal entrance and severs the hymen from the labia, at the same time exposing the clitoris. Medicinal herbs are applied followed by the insertion into the vagina of a slightly moistened object made of clay.

These cultural practises have no place in modern times. We are advancing technologically, economically and even scientifically. We have been to the moon and back, we are making sperm cells on a petri dish, cloning ourselves and finding cures for previously terminal illnesses but still refuse to leave such barbaric practises calling them cultural. What did that young girl do to deserve such mutilation on her body?

This practise does nothing to help the woman. On the contrary, it causes numerous risks to her health. This just goes to show how far men will go to dominate and prove superior to the women. Long-term consequences like recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections are bound to be suffered following such operations. Some may even suffer infertility or childbirth complications or infant deaths- all in the name of culture! In the case of introcision where the vagina is sealed, later surgeries are required to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth when the “powers that be” feel that it is the right time. Sometimes, it is even stitched back to close it again afterwards! What is this, a door that can be opened and shut at the whims of a man?

In most communities where the practice persists, bride price is deeply entrenched and any girl who refuses to be circumcised is a threat to the would-be wealth her father expects on her marriage. They will fetch a lower bride price, and we cannot have that now, can we? They also believe that a circumcised girl will lead a responsible married life. Her subsequently reduced libido will prevent her from straying. So if anyone should enjoy sex it is the “man almighty!”

Once all the above have been carried out, the man has his perfect woman- a woman who is submissive and doesn’t stray. What’s more, she made her father rich – her ‘perfection’ increased her bride price! This woman, in a bid to be perfected to suit what the man likes, is in danger of haemorrhaging to death; she might never give birth or do so with complications. She is prone to infections during and after the FGM process -what with all the crude weapons (wood, stones and metals) used to tear her body apart. And for what? Gentlemen, get real!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What is the situation of women in Somalia?

September 11, 2009
By Kathambi Kinoti

Somalia has been in turmoil for the past eighteen years. What is it like for women?

Peace has eluded Somalia since 1991 when the military regime of President Siad Barre was ousted. No single central authority has yet been able to successfully govern the state of Somalia. At least fourteen national reconciliation conferences have been held, but none has brought absolute peace. The longest period of calm the capital Mogadishu and the surrounding south and central Somalia have experienced was the seven months from June to December 2006 when the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) was in control.

Hibo Yassin is the Regional Representative of COSPE, an international NGO that works in Somalia. She says that it is important to interrogate what is meant by security. Although the UIC had support from civilians who were tired of insecurity, they soon realised that the security came at a cost. Women for instance, were subjected to severe punishment if they did not strictly adhere to certain modes of dress.

An uneasy Ethiopia, which shares Somalia’s western border, soon intervened. Its United States-backed army fought to expel the UIC and install the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) which continues to be besieged by Al-Shabaab, a group that was formerly part of the UIC. The US says that the group is linked to al-Qaeda and has put it on its terror list.

In the same year that the war first erupted, Somaliland in the north-western region of the country went its own way. It declared its independence, formed a government and has been stable ever since. However, so far Somaliland has failed to secure international recognition. The easternmost tip of Africa, where the Red Sea meets the Indian Ocean lies in Puntland, a self-governing part of Somalia, which even though it has not been entirely peaceful, has enjoyed more stability than the central and southern part of the country.

In African countries religious or ethnic homogeneity is rare. Somalia is an exception. Almost all its people are Muslim and of the same ethnic extraction [1] But this virtual homogeneity has not provided immunity against civil war. In Somalia’s case, clan differences have fomented the conflict. Military interventions by the United States in 1992 and the Ethiopian armed forces from 2006 to 2008 have further exacerbated the situation, deepening divisions and "aggravating tensions that have erupted into conflicts-within-conflicts."

The UN estimates that there are 1.55 million internally displaced persons (IDPS) in Somalia, and almost 350,000 Somali refugees in neighbouring countries. Although main cause of displacement is the perpetual conflict, the ongoing drought and lack of livelihoods are significant contributing factors. Food shortages currently affect 3.8 million people, and according to the UN, Somalis live below the water poverty level. Conflict and military interventions have degraded the country’s already fragile environment and the general lawlessness has provided opportunities for the dumping of toxic waste from pesticides used in Europe.

Somalia's maternal mortality rates are amongst the highest in the world, at 1400 per 100,000 live births. Early marriages and teenage pregnancies are common in Somalia; forty five per cent of women now aged 20-24 were married by the age of 18. Girls who get married or give birth young have a greater vulnerability to violence and health problems.

Violence against women

The most prevalent form of violence against women in Somalia is female genital mutilation (FGM), estimated at about 98 per cent of all women and girls. Research conducted by women’s organisations in Somalia and Somaliland indicates that there may be a link between insecurity and the form of FGM practiced. In Hargeisa, the capital city of Somaliland, where there has been stability since 1991, the incidence of infibulation has decreased. In Somalia’s capital city Mogadishu the incidence of the practice has increased. The research report says:

“Bearing in mind the commonly cited reason for FGM, of the need to ‘protect’ the girl’s virginity, this may reflect an increased perceived need to ‘protect’ their daughters. It may additionally reflect the beginnings of behaviour cha.nge in response to more exposure to campaigns against the practice in Hargeisa.”

Behaviour change is also reflected in the fact that more girls and women say that they do not intend to have their daughters undergo any form of circumcision. Many Somalis believe that FGM is a religious obligation, a view not shared by religious leaders, most of whom oppose infibulation on religious grounds because of the physical harm that it causes. The report however urges caution in regarding religious leaders as allies in eradicating FGM because a large number of them are neutral towards the so-called “sunna” form of circumcision which is regarded as less severe.

Rape is widespread in Somalia, although being a taboo subject, it is under-reported. A 2009 UNDP report on human security in the Arab region says that “war-time assaults on women take place in a context of lawlessness, displacement and armed clashes such as those in …Somalia where gender roles are polarized. In these theatres of conflict, men often compensate for their own insecurities and loss of dominance through intensified aggression against women.”

Yassin was part of the group that facilitated the formation of the Somali Women’s Agenda, a movement that has opened space for women’s engagement in crucial legislative and policy processes. She says that women played a critical role in the negotiations in Djibouti that led to the formation of the TFG and at one point helped to break a stalemate that threatened to bring the talks to a halt. About eight cent of members of Somalia’s parliament are women, and there are three female cabinet ministers.

Keeping the society going

In the absence of a central government it is difficult to imagine how people can survive in a war-torn country for 18 years. International NGOs have provided critical humanitarian assistance and remittances from Somalis in the diaspora have helped keep the country afloat. However, according to Yassin, the women of Somalia have played the most significant role in keeping communities going. She says that the conflict has facilitated a shift in gender roles, with many women becoming the primary income earners. This means that women have acquired greater economic power even though overall poverty levels remain high. They have kept the economy going through small scale trade. Civil society organisations - and mostly women’s organisations - have filled in for the government by running schools and hospitals.

Somali women have shown tremendous resilience throughout the conflict, and hopes are high that the TFG will re-establish peace and security in Somalia. Women’s rights advocates continue to press for greater inclusion of women in the leadership of the country. “During the war, women have been running the country, they have been the breadwinners,” says Yassin. “How can they not be in leadership when the country is at peace?”

1. There is a significant Somali Bantu ethnic minority in the South and Central part of the country. They are disadvantaged and face exclusion and discrimination.

In Ethiopia, African women parliamentarians condemn female genital mutilation

Septemeber 14, 2009
By Tezeta Tulloch

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, – In a room filled with visiting dignitaries and members of the Ethiopian National Assembly, Tadeletch Shanko’s voice was whisper-quiet as she talked about the difficult subject of female genital mutilation/cutting, or FGM/C.

Ms. Shanko had performed FGM/C on girls for the last 15 years and underwent the procedure herself as a girl, with devastating consequences.

“I lost seven of my nine children in childbirth,” she said. “Because of the scarring I sustained, I was not elastic enough. All seven of them suffocated inside my womb.”

Raising awareness

Ms. Shanko is no longer a supporter of FGM/C, as a result of a series of community dialogues on the physical and psychological harm caused by the practice.

She shared her story with the members of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) Women’s Caucus, which convened in Addis Ababa late last month to assess the state of FGM/C across Africa – and to learn from the strategies that Ethiopia and other countries have put in place to eliminate it.

A key objective of the visit was to mobilize parliamentarian and state support for the elimination of harmful traditional practices, with a particular emphasis on female genital mutilation. Also on the agenda were ways to raise public awareness of FGM/C through the media; customary laws to introduce sanctions against the practice; and potential avenues for collaboration among various stakeholders in society.

Powerful testimony

The parliamentarians heard powerful testimony from women and men whose lives had been tragically affected by FGM/C.

For Aregash Agegnehu, female circumcision – as the practice is also known – had never been a question of choice. “I was circumcised when I was a child. My daughter had to be cut as well,” she said. “It was inevitable.”

But since participating in in-depth community dialogues on the subject, Ms. Agegnehu no longer believes that FGM/C is a requisite part of being a woman.

“When I started engaging in community dialogue, I came to understand the harm of FGM, and now I have changed,” she said.

Cultural beliefs

Female genital mutilation is widely practiced by Muslims and Christians alike in Ethiopia, and official statistics suggest that almost three-quarters of women here have undergone the procedure. Forms vary widely by region but generally entail either a partial or total removal of the clitoris.

In the most severe form, infibulation, the labia are removed and the genitals sewn shut – barring a small hole for the release of urine and menstrual blood.

The predominant cultural belief is that circumcision is an essential pre-condition of marriage and motherhood. In many communities, an uncircumcised female cannot be recognized as a woman. Some feel that circumcision is a safeguard against promiscuity. Another common belief is that uncircumcised women tend to be inept at carrying out common household duties.

According to the World Health Organization, women who have undergone FGM/C are more likely to suffer from infertility, develop vaginal cysts and have recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections. FGM/C also increases the risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths. It has no proven health benefits.

Worldwide, between 100 and 140 million girls and women are living with the consequences of FGM/C. In Africa, an estimated 92 million girls aged 10 and over have undergone some form of genital cutting.

Changed attitudes

Many mothers fear that, without circumcision, their daughters will not fulfil the criteria for marriage or gain full acceptance in the community. Indeed, supporters of FGM/C often cite the fact that it is a long-held social norm. But such attitudes are changing. By the end of 2008, four of Ethiopia’s districts had publicly pledged to abandon FGM/C.

Mergieta Temesgen Ashebir, a religious leader who uses his influence to speak out against the practice, also spoke at the PAP conference. “According to the bible,” he said, “circumcision is only for boys, not for girls. There is no verse that states otherwise.”

Hon. Anab Abdulkadir, PAP Acting Chairperson and a member of the Ethiopian Parliament, pointed out the importance of understanding the root causes of FGM/C

“The demand is coming from where?” she asked. “It is coming from men. If there wasn’t a demand, there wouldn’t have been any supply. We have to … outlaw that demand.”

‘Not cast in stone’

UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia Ted Chaiban voiced the need to accelerate and harmonize efforts to abolish FGM/C in Africa.

“There are encouraging signs that the practice of FGM in Ethiopia is declining,” he noted. “We see this mission of the Pan-African Parliament Women’s Caucus as a major opportunity to catalyze and synergize efforts in Ethiopia, and across Africa, towards an intensified and coordinated affront on FGM.”

Added Hon. Fatima Hajaig, a South African parliamentarian: “Cultural norms are not cast in stone. They develop from day to day. Our cultural value system changes as we go along. This business of ‘in the name of culture’ – I can’t accept that.”

UNICEF Ethiopia has been collaborating with partners on a number of advocacy efforts toward abandonment of FGM/C, including training community-dialogue facilitators and disseminating educational materials in various media. The parliamentary mission is the most recent effort in this direction.

Father Acquitted of Daughter's Genital Mutilation

September 12, 2009 HAARLEM, A 30 year old father has been acquitted of the genital mutilation of his 6 year old daughter. In the first female circumcision case ever in the Netherlands, the district court in Haarlem on Friday did convict the man for hitting and biting the girl - to three months in jail. The girl's clitoris and labia minora are missing. The child lives with foster-parents. Her foster-mother discovered the mutilation when the child told her: 'pappa cut me up with a big scissors', the woman and the little girl told the court. Nonetheless, the court took the view that the statements of the foster-mother and that of the girl are insufficient as evidence that the father is the perpetrator. According to the Public Prosecutor (OM), the father, Mustapha El M., should have been given six years in jail. The OM will appeal. El M. of Moroccan origin, accused the OM of discrimination. According to him, the real perpetrators threaten to get away with it. The judges did consider it proven that the father had bitten the girl in the cheeks several times and hit her on her back and in her face. El M. however only received three months jail for this. He had already served this in pre-trial custody, so that he was immediately released Friday.

The fight to abolish Female Genital

September 12, 2009

According to statistics, the number of girls that have undergone Female Genital Mutilation has dropped from 621 in 2000 to about 212 in 2008. This is a remarkable feat, even though leaders are on a campaign to have the practice abolished once and for all, amid numerous challanges writes David Mafabi

Asking residents of Kapchorwa and Bukwo districts on the slopes of Mt Elgon to end female genital mutilation [FGM] remains a challenge. While health experts and local leaders in the district are calling for stronger commitment from the communities to end the practice, many traditionalists are not ready to drop it.

The traditionalists argue that FGM is a culture that makes them distinct from other tribes; because through FGM, girls are initiated into womanhood, shapes the morality of women during marriage and above all, is a means of livelihood for some women who are directly involved in undertaking the procedure.

A traditional surgeon, Ms Kokop Cherop says circumcising girls is the only way she has been able to make a living and educate her children.
"I have been at it (circumcising girls) for the last 20 years and from this I have educated my children; it has now become a means of survival. So when someone talks about ending it, I just laugh it off," Ms Cherop, 67, said.

Whereas rights activists have condemned the act as being crude, outdated and an abuse of the dignity of the girl-child, independent reports reveal that the practice apparently takes place at night stealthily as an arrangement between the surgeons and parents of the girls.
According to the district leadership in Kapchorwa, this presents a challenge, especially regarding the change in the attitude of the people who are deeply involved in the culture.

According to Kapchorwa LC5 chairperson Nelson Chelimo, because of this challenge, sensitization of the masses against FGM has not yielded enough results to strengthen the fight against the practice although the district council has already passed an ordinance against FGM.

Said Mr Chelimo, "In line with the UN resolution against FGM adopted last year, we have called upon leaders to take action to end FGM in our district and already because of resistance from some sections of traditionalists, we have passed a law against the practice and are waiting for Parliament to act.” He added: “But we still have a big challenge in dealing with the people who have turned this practice into their livelihood.”

Mr Chelimo's fears are not unfounded. The traditional Sabiny have in the past resisted dropping FGM, which they argue is a practice that gives dignity to the traditional Sabiny woman.
Under the UN resolution 2007, FGM besides violating the rights of women and young girls, constitutes an irreparable mutilation and irreversible abuse.

Among the salient issues cited are mounting medical evidence that FGM poses a serious threat to the health of women and girls, increasing vulnerability to HIV, raising the risk of maternal and infant mortality and harming psychological, sexual and reproductive health.
But even with these fears, Mr Chelimo is optimistic that the practice will be dropped, given the reduction in numbers of girls who are undergoing FGM at the moment.

Mr Chelimo like other leaders in the district believes the decline is due to the intervention of ReproductiveEducative And community Health [REACH] programme spearheaded by an local NGO headed by Ms Beatrice Chelangat.

The NGO operates in the districts of Kapchorwa, Bukwo and Nakapiripirit among the Pokot in Uganda where the tradition is highly practiced. REACH was established in Kapchorwa in 1996 to improve the reproductive health conditions and discard the harmful practice of FGM. According to them, in 12 years, the practice has dropped.

Statistics presented during the 12th annual Sabiny Day in Kapchorwa District Boma grounds indicate that in 2000, 621 girls were circumcised, while in 2004, 595 were mutilated, in 2006 a total of 226 girls were and in 2008 the numbers dropped further to about 212.

According to data for 2008 on Female Genital Mutilation based on a report by REACH, the community health programme against FGM has been addressing all stakeholders and adds that this year the advocacy campaign will be integrated to educate every Sabiny to discard the practice.
"Campaigns against Female Genital Mutilation initiated by REACH indicate that the practice has dropped to about 36 per cent even when the progress has been constrained by rumours, myths and misconceptions about the practice. It is thus recommended that FGM advocacy be stepped up and sub-county leadership pass by-laws denouncing FGM," reads the 2008 data report in part.

Ms Chelangat says even with the resistance from traditionalists, this time strategies have been laid down to involve all local leadership and the parliamentary leadership in the struggle to end FGM in order to restore dignity to the girl-child.

Mr Chelangat believes that a strong religious influence, local leadership support against the practice and increased enrollment of the girl-child at school, is likely to see that practice completely discarded in the next four years.

She revealed that REACH is targeting all communities that practice FGM like the Pokot both in Uganda and Kenya, the Sabiny and other tribes in Kenya while also tracing other Sabiny who have settled in other districts of Uganda.

Ms Chelangat says because Sabiny and Pokot FGM initiation ceremonies are carried out among girls between the age of 14 and 16 years, education and sensitisation of the girl-child in rural remote areas, exposure of the girl-child through training tours and revoking of FGM licenses is the sure way forward for ending the practice.

Australia proposes new refugee law for women

Associated Press September 9, 2009 Australia's government proposed a new law Wednesday that would give asylum to immigrant women who would be at risk of genital mutilation or honor killings if forced to return to their homelands. Immigration Minister Chris Evans said such women did not always fit the definition of refugees under the United Nation's Refugees Convention because their persecution was not necessarily based on race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion. The new legislation introduced to Parliament on Wednesday widens the criteria under which Australia can grant protection to asylum seekers. It was not clear when Parliament will vote on the legislation. The World Health Organization defines female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, as any procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It estimates that 100 million to 140 million girls and women worldwide have had the procedure performed on them, most in African countries.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Women and Violence

Violence affects the lives of millions of women worldwide, in all socio-economic and educational classes. It cuts across cultural and religious barriers, impeding the right of women to participate fully in society. Violence against women takes a dismaying variety of forms, from domestic abuse and rape to child marriages and female circumcision. All are violations of the most fundamental human rights. In a statement to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in September 1995, the United Nations Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, said that violence against women is a universal problem that must be universally condemned. But he said that the problem continues to grow. The Secretary-General noted that domestic violence alone is on the increase. Studies in 10 countries, he said, have found that between 17 per cent and 38 per cent of women have suffered physical assaults by a partner. In the Platform for Action, the core document of the Beijing Conference, Governments declared that “violence against women constitutes a violation of basic human rights and is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace”. Traditional practices In many countries, women fall victim to traditional practices that violate their human rights. The persistence of the problem has much to do with the fact that most of these physically and psychologically harmful customs are deeply rooted in the tradition and culture of society. The Work Of The Special Reporter The issue of the advancement of women’s rights has concerned the United Nations since the Organization’s founding. Yet the alarming global dimensions of female-targeted violence were not explicitly acknowledged by the international community until December 1993, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. Until that point, most Governments tended to regard violence against women largely as a private matter between individuals, and not as a pervasive human rights problem requiring State intervention. In view of the alarming growth in the number of cases of violence against women throughout the world, the Commission on Human Rights adopted resolution 1994/45 of 4 March 1994, in which it decided to appoint the Special Reporter on violence against women, including its causes and consequences. As a result of these steps, the problem of violence against women has been drawing increasing political attention. The Special Reporter has a mandate to collect and analyze comprehensive data and to recommend measures aimed at eliminating violence at the international, national and regional levels. The mandate is threefold: ? To collect information on violence against women and its causes and consequences from sources such as Governments, treaty bodies, specialized agencies and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and to respond effectively to such information; To recommend measures and ways and means, at the national, regional and international levels, to eliminate violence against women and its causes, and to remedy its consequences; To work closely with other special reporters, special representatives, working groups and independent experts of the Commission on Human Rights. Female genital mutilation According to the World Health Organization, 85 million to 115 million girls and women in the population have undergone some form of female genital mutilation and suffer from its adverse health effects. Every year an estimated 2 million young girls undergo this procedure. Most live in Africa and Asia — but an increasing number can be found among immigrant and refugee families in Western Europe and North America. Indeed, the practice has been outlawed in some European countries. In France, a Malian was convicted in a criminal court after his baby girl died of a female circumcision-related infection. The procedure had been performed on the infant at home. In Canada, fear of being forced to undergo circumcision can be grounds for asylum. A Nigerian woman was granted refugee status since she felt that she might be persecuted in her home country because of her refusal to inflict genital mutilation on her baby daughter. There is a growing consensus that the best way to eliminate these practices is through educational campaigns that emphasize their dangerous health consequences. Several Governments have been actively promoting such campaigns in their countries.

New documentary, The Cut, to educate about FGM, Female Genital Mutilation

September 5, 2009

New documentary, The Cut, to educate about FGM, Female Genital Mutilation

London, UK (RPRN) 09/05/09 — Freelance journalist and photogrpaher, Linda May Kallestein, has produced a short documentary, The Cut, aimed at raising awareness of the sufferin to women caused by female genital mutilation.

The Cut is a 12 minute documentary about Mary (fourteen years old) and Alice (early twenties) from Kenya. Both are affected by the traditional rite of passage into womanhood: genital cutting.

Mary and her community are preparing for her ceremonial cutting.

Alice is studying to be a social worker to work against female genital mutilation. As the first in her community to refuse the practice, she has paid a high price for her choice to break with tradition.

Alice tells of the different myths she encounters in the community around her, as to why circumcision is practiced. Mary, on the other hand, has no voice. She just goes through the preparations and rituals in silence.

Female Genital Mutilation - FGM - affects the lives of girls and women almost all over the world. This 5000 year old African practice has migrated and has become an increasing problem in Western countries. It is condemned and outlawed.

Yet it still goes on. Often underground. In order to eradicate FGM, it is important to understand why it is practiced. This is what 'The Cut' aims to do.

'The Cut' focuses on the situation as it is in an African country. There are plans for a follow up documentary on the situation in Western countries.

Phantomfilm is the producer of both films. “The Cut” is directed by Linda May Kallestein.

The Cut has been accepted to the Stavanger Short Film Festival 2009. According to the organizers of the event, which takes place October 1 - 3, the documentary contributions this year are especially strong.

Moolaadé: Drama. Starring Fat…

September 3, 2009
By Jorge Garzón

Moolaadé: Drama. Starring Fatoumata Coulibaly, Maimouna Hélène Diarra,Salimata Traoré, Dominique T. Zeida, Mah Compaoré, Aminata Dao and Moussa Theophile Sowie. Directed and written by Ousmane Sembene. (Not rated. 124 minutes. In Wolof, Bambara, Diola-Fogny and French with English subtitles. At the Lumiere and Rafael Film Center.)

Female genital mutilation — sometimes called female circumcision —
is often in the news for horrific reasons. Last month, after Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was shot and knifed on an Amsterdam street, his assassin left a note on the body that threatened a Dutch parliamentarian who had criticized the type of female circumcision practiced in Muslim countries. The World Health Organization estimates that upward of 140 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation.

In "Moolaadé," the great Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene explores the issue in the context of a remote West African village where a woman rebels against the practice and harbors four young girls who don't want to be cut. A standoff ensues, pitting the rebellious mother named Collé (played by Fatoumata Coulibaly) and her female supporters against the village's male elders and the women who perform the crude surgeries. Coulibaly's character invokes the spirit of sanctuary (moolaadé means "protection" in the Wolof language) to guard the girls, even as she risks widespread condemnation and a public beating from her husband.

Connected subplots, which (along with the incredible setting) help give
the film more appeal, are everywhere in "Moolaadé." Mercenaire (Dominique T. Zeida), an itinerant shopkeeper who has fought in wars, sets up his business in the village center, from where he can flirt with all the pretty women and observe the goings-on. The handsome son of the village chief (Moussa Theophile Sowie) arrives from Paris with money and modern views about TV, radio and family tradition. Collé's husband (who has two other wives) watches her rebelliousness with a mixture of sympathy and frustration, until he's driven to action by an overbearing brother who supports the ceremony that he and others consider "purification."

Religion is another subplot. The village practices Islam, and village
elders — walking around with prayer beads in their hands — insist that
female circumcision is a commandment of faith. The village mosque, a beautiful mud structure that's a miniature version of the stunning mosques that dot West Africa, overlooks the village's main square, as if God were watching the
unfolding events.

It's clear which side Sembene takes in all of this. The Collé character
is a hero of "Moolaadé," and is reminiscent of other strong women in Sembene's films, including his most recent work, "Faat Kiné," which featured a single mother who manages a gas station in Dakar. Sembene says "Moolaadé" and "Faat Kiné" are the first two parts of a three-part trilogy about "heroism in daily life." The heroism in "Moolaadé" is not always pleasant to watch. And the film can be preachy and didactic. (Sembene says he makes his films first and foremost for an African audience.) But "Moolaadé" is not a "downer" film as much as a parable that lets us see the hardships (and occasional humor) that are inherent in an environment where the slightest change in tradition is a cause for great alarm.

Escaping the Somalian desert

September 4, 2009 By Keily Oakes BBC News entertainment reporter Desert Flower, which has premiered at the Venice Film Festival, tells the incredible journey of Waris Dirie, the model-turned-campaigner against female genital mutilation. Although Dirie's story is full of drama - fleeing an arranged marriage at the age of 13 and eventually finding herself in London - it is the revelation that she was circumcised as a very young girl that gives the film its emotional centre. While based on her autobiography, the movie has taken a degree of artistic licence, becoming a strange blend of drama and comedy, with star turns from Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall and Juliet Stevenson. But the central message is harrowing. It is difficult to absorb that female circumcision is a practise that continues in great numbers in Africa, and around the rest of the world. Sir Elton 'sent packing' Dirie, who is helping to promote the film, is undoubtedly a strong woman, but also confrontational and untrusting in most things she does. Director and screenwriter Sherry Hormann had the difficult task of persuading her that she would do her story justice. Sir Elton John had already been sent packing with a flea in his ear after buying the rights to her story and sending along a screenwriter, to whom Dirie took an instant dislike. With Hormann sitting next to her in Venice, Dirie does not hold back with her first reaction to seeing the film. "This woman destroyed me," she says. "When I had finished watching the movie I felt disturbed, I felt sad, angry, I felt really sick to my stomach. I had to run away to the desert for two weeks. It was the only way that could bring me back to sanity." But she adds: "The movie was what I expected, to have the message, and if no-one can feel this movie I don't know what will move the hearts of the world". Hormann interjects: "Waris originally said, 'you have to make me a promise, I do not want a solely political, female genital mutilation movie. I want to be entertained, I want young kids to see this movie and to laugh and to cry and to be entertained'. "And I thought that was the most difficult thing she was asking me, to get that balance between drama and comedy. This is why it took so long. Needless deaths The actress cast to play Waris Dirie is Ethiopian-born model Liya Kebede, who is now based in the US. This is her first lead role, having previously appeared on screen in The Good Shepherd and Lord of War. While Dirie is a confrontational character with an unforgiving harsh manner, Kebede is sweet and gently spoken. Speaking about the film's central message, she says: "The thing is, I grew up in Ethiopia and female cutting happens in Ethiopia - so you know a bit, but it wasn't close to me and you cannot understand it unless you have experienced it. "So when I read the book it opened my eyes to what it is for a little girl to go through the process and live with it for the rest of her life." A mother of two, Kebede does her own campaigning on maternal health, and has started a foundation to tackle the many thousands of needless deaths through childbirth around world because of a lack of access to basic medicine. Kebede had encountered Dirie once at a party years before the film went into production, but her first official meeting came as shooting ended. "I felt really awkward because I knew so much about her," she confesses, "but we bonded really well and now we have a great admiration for each other and an incredible connection." Immigrant tradition The scene where the young Waris is circumcised is key to the film - but also extremely difficult to watch. For Hormann, creating the right atmosphere was important. "It was not about doing a documentary, it was about creating a feeling," she says. "I did a lot of research on that, because one of our promises was that this has to be the essential scene in the movie, because this is where it is all heading to." Dirie made a powerful speech to the United Nations as she began her campaign to highlight the brutality of female genital mutilation. But she quickly fell out with the organisation, getting frustrated with its sheer size and lack of pressure on female issues. So it was left to Hormann to give advice on what the average person can do build awareness of the problem. "Look to your neighbourhoods, because immigrants carry the tradition. We don't live in Africa, we live in Europe. I live in Berlin and it happens in Berlin. Try and find out if they are carrying out that tradition. "In New York City 40,000 girls a year are mutilated. I think if you get a feeling it is happening, just talk to them or call the police."

Am I Not Human: Female Circumcision

Dec 27th, 2008 By Marenda Taylor When we think of circumcision what usually comes to mind is the removal of the foreskin of an infants penis in a clean hospital with sanitized tools. When I think of circumcision I shutter and squirm thinking of the 200+ million young girls and women in various parts of Africa and the middle east whose genitals have been (or will be) mutilated in the name of female circumcision also known as FGM (female genital mutilation). What’s the big deal, why do I care, and why should you? According to the World Health Organization: Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15 years. An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM. Common Health Consequences of Female Circumcision Include: Death Hemorrhaging Infertility Shock Damage to other organs Infection Urine retention Extreme scar tissue Cysts Painful menstruation cycles Torn bladder/vaginal walls Nerve damage Child birth obstruction Painful sexual intercourse Inability to experience sexual pleasure What is Female Circumcision? Depending on the region and culture female circumcision can include any and/or all of the following: Removing the hood of the clitoris. Removing the clitoris. Removing part or all of the labia minora. Removing part or all of the labia majoria. Sewing the vaginal opening closed leaving an extremely small opening for the passing of urine/menstrual blood. Stretching the clitoris and/or labia Burning the clitoris and surrounding tissue. Scraping the vagina. Inserting acidic substances into the vagina to shrink or narrow the vagina. These circumcisions are not usually done in a clean hospital with sterile tools (but some are). Many of these circumcisions take place in small villages with stones, razors, scissors, knives, and no anesthetic. Most people cannot even fathom any sharp instrument coming close to their genitalia for any reason. In America, women pierce the hood of their clitoris to intensify sexual pleasure. Its unimaginable that there are parts of the world where women are pressured into removing any part of their PRIVATE parts…. Yes, we are talking about young girls and women being tied up, held down, and having their genitals butchered! This practice is not always done by force… but it is often an expectation (tradition) and a rites of passage. Some believe female circumcision garners respect and honor. This is a frightening practice and a dangerous way to gain respect or acknowledgment as a woman. In all honesty…as an outsider looking in, female genital mutilation seems like an extreme way to dishonor and disrespect a woman…by cutting off and discarding parts of the female anatomy… Who benefits from it? How human would I be if I didn’t ask or care? While it is never our place to dictate what people do with their bodies or to tell people how or what they should believe… do we not have a duty to educate people so that they are able to make informed decisions? Shouldn’t we do whatever we can to bring awareness and spark discussion surrounding the issue?

Trial opens in first Dutch genital cutting case

September 2, 2009 By Marcel Decraene A unique court case opens on Thursday in Haarlem: for the first time in the Netherlands, a man is on trial for female genital mutilation. A 30-year-old man of Moroccan origin is charged with mutilating his daughter. During a pro forma hearing earlier this year, the public prosecutor read the charges: “The accused is charged with wilfully and severely abusing his child. He is charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm on his daughter, Zoë, born in 2003, by cutting away the labia minora and the clitoris using scissors or another sharp implement.” The accused, Mustafa el M. (surname withheld for legal reasons) denies everything, including the charge that he repeatedly beat and bit the child in the face and on the arms. Islamic Dineke Korfker is a cultural anthropologist and midwife. She lived in Africa for 12 years and now works as a researcher on female genital mutilation for research organisation TNO in Leiden. Female genital mutilation, also referred to as female circumcision or genital cutting, is practised in countries that include Somalia, Sudan and Egypt. But not Morocco, the country in which the accused has his roots. Neither is it originally a Muslim practice, says Ms Korfker. “People often see it as being Islamic and think it’s prescribed by the religion, but the highest Islamic body, the Al-Azhar University in Egypt, has officially distanced itself from the practice and calls on people not to do it. It has taken a long time for them to dare to do so, but now they clearly distance themselves from it. In a country like Saudi Arabia, where you might expect it, it doesn’t occur at all; they don’t have the practice there.” Hidden Female genital mutilation is a criminal offence in the Netherlands, and it is outlawed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. But victims often remain hidden, because the cutting takes place in a closed family setting. Vanessa Penn is a policy advisor at the Dutch Child Protection Council, a department of the Justice Ministry, and a specialist in the field of female genital mutilation: “It isn’t often properly detected, so the Child Protection Council doesn’t deal with many cases. It’s estimated that around fifty girls a year undergo genital cutting, but not all of these cases are referred to the Child Protection Council and the practice is not reported to the police often enough – rarely or never. It’s a criminal offence and falls under abuse. It’s a deliberate injury to health and a form of abuse, and if parents are involved it’s an aggravating circumstance.” Mustafa M.’s defence lawyer sees the five-year-old daughter’s statement as highly questionable and has applied for a second opinion from a legal psychologist. The girl and her sister have been taken into care.

Pioneering op gives female circumcision victims hope

September 2, 2009
By Olivia Sterns

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Every day thousands of girls endure forced circumcision. It's a controversial cultural tradition common in parts of Africa, South America, Middle East and Asia and that regularly results in infection and even death.

The health dangers involved in this procedure, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM), are increasingly well-known and have lead to international efforts to ban the practice.

FGM is also the topic of the forthcoming film "Desert Flower," the true story of Somalian supermodel Waris Dirie.

The film, released later this month, tells the story of Dirie and her struggle with her own circumcision at the age of five. A former Bond Girl, Dirie has become a leading voice campaigning against FGM.

As traumatic as the physical consequences may be, victims say severe psychological and sexual problems also often develop from FGM that deserve attention too.

One Senegalese woman who was cut as a young girl describes living with FGM as a "wound that tortures me everyday of my life."

But a new treatment pioneered by a French doctor, Pierre Foldes, offers hope for victims of this practice.

Dr. Foldes began working with victims of female circumcision almost 30 years ago while volunteering in Burkina Faso.

"I met a population of women suffering from mutilation. Some of them asked me if I could fix things that were painful," he explained, referring to scar tissue that frequently develops over the clitoris.

"When I came back to France I realized there was absolutely no data on this, no technique."

Since then Foldes has developed a simple reconstructive procedure that removes the painful tissue and actually reconstructs the clitoris by cutting the ligaments to expose the original root.

After six to eight weeks, he says the area begins to appear normal. After six months feeling begins to come back.

"The results are getting better and better," Foldes told CNN. "72 to 75 percent [of patients] are back to normal sexuality after 18 months.

"We are working very hard on the evolution of the program and are involved in treating patients for up to two years," said Foldes, who currently operates on 80-100 women each month at a hospital outside Paris.

"The surgical procedure is only a small part of the whole problem. We have a whole team with psychologists that follow up with patients for months."

Dr. Foldes estimates he has operated on more than 3,000 women at his hospital in France. Because female genital mutilation is a crime in France, Dr. Foldes was able to get the French public health system to reimburse the cost of the operation and now roughly 70 percent of his patients receive treatment for free.

"It's like a rape," Foldes says, comparing the brutality and trauma involved in female circumcision. "It's very important to deal with the aggression and emotions to progressively get back to normal sexuality."

Over the years Foldes says has encountered some steep resistance against his work and has even received multiple death threats.

According to him, the threats "are coming from radical Islamic people," and that more than once men have come to his office with knives, but he will not be deterred.

An estimated 130 million women have undergone female circumcision. The procedure is typically performed in unsanitary conditions and often results in infections and fistula, an open wound that can develop in victims of FGM between the vagina and the anus after a failed childbirth.

Increasingly international organizations and governments are working to ban FGM, despite protests from religious and cultural groups hoping to defend the practice.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Father Loses Appeal in Genital Mutilation Case

September 1, 2009

(CN) - A Senegal native seeking to protect his two young daughters from female genital mutilation in his homeland lost his appeal of a deportation order in the 5th Circuit.

Abou Kane entered the United States illegally in 1996, followed shortly by his wife. They had five children in the country, including two daughters who are under 10 years old.

Facing deportation in 2006, he filed for withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture Act, claiming his daughters would face forced genital mutilation if they came back to Senegal with him.

The immigration judge agreed to withhold the deportation order, noting that "it is, quite frankly, difficult for this court to expose two young U.S. citizens to this practice, simply because their parents were not of status in this country."

The government appealed, arguing that immigration law doesn't protect fathers from deportation based on a fear that his minor children - both U.S. citizens - would be persecuted.

The Board of Immigration Appeals agreed and reversed the immigration judge's opinion, ordering Kane's removal to Senegal. The board said it couldn't grant Kane relief based solely on fears about his daughters, who were free to stay in the United States with their mother. Even if they did move to Senegal with him, the board added, the family could likely prevent mutilation by settling in a relatively safe area.

The board also rejected Kane's claims for asylum and protection against torture.

Satisfied with the decision, the federal appeals court in New Orleans said the board's removal order was "supported by substantial evidence."

It rejected Kane's claim that the tribe's enforcement of genital mutilation against his daughters would, in effect, be persecuting him.

The board had acknowledged that there are cases where loved ones are harmed as a way of persecuting an asylum applicant. Those cases differ from Kane's, the board explained, because the applicant can show that he or she was the target of persecution.

"We see no reversible error in this decision," Judge Wiener wrote.

"Kane himself testified that Fulani tribal elders would likely enforce the practice against his daughters only because they believe that their culture compels them to do so," the court noted, "and not as a way to persecute Kane for any particular belief or characteristic that he exhibits."