January 21, 2010
By Thomas v. der Osten-Sacken - Stop FGM in Kurdistan Blog
Human Rights Watch mentions FGM in Iraqi-Kurdistan twice in its latest World Report.
Female genital mutilation is practiced mainly in Kurdish areas of Iraq; reportedly 60 percent of Kurdish women have undergone this procedure, although the KRG claimed that the figures are exaggerated. Girls and women receive conflicting and inaccurate messages from public officials on its consequences. The Kurdistan parliament in 2008 passed a draft law outlawing FGM, but the ministerial decree necessary to implement it, expected in February 2009, was inexplicably cancelled.
In 2009 Human Rights Watch found that health providers in Iraqi Kurdistan were involved in both performing and promoting misinformation about the practice of female genital mutilation.
FGM is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as all practices “involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
The investigation found that FGM was practiced by midwives, but that its prevalence and harm were routinely minimized by physicians and government medical officials. For example, one physician explained to Human Rights Watch that she counselled patients that “circumcision is nothing; it does not influence life because a woman is sensitive in all her parts.” Government medical providers routinely told Human Rights Watch that FGM was uncommon-despite surveys finding nearly half of all girls to be circumcised-and promoted false information in media campaigns. One woman told Human Rights Watch that on television “a [government] doctor explained that FGM is normal…. The doctor said, ‘If you do it or not it’s still the same.’”