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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Catalan Police in Crusade to Educate Ethnic Minorities about Genital Mutilation

July 9, 2009 By Gabrielle Devon THANKS to members of Cataluña’s regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, during 2008, 104 girls living in the region were prevented from going through the suffering caused by genital mutilation, a practice carried out mainly in African and Asian countries. Since 2000, the Mossos have contacted the families of girls whom they consider could be at risk of having to undergo this practice, considering their country of origin and the fact that they may not have abandoned this type of tradition. They explain the dangers involved, dissuading them from returning to their countries of origin for the mutilation to be performed or from having it carried out by clandestine witchdoctors residing in Spain. The parents are also informed that, in Spain, this practice is considered a crime punishable by law. According to the regional government, in Cataluña alone, there are more than 13,000 girls at risk and 4,846 of them are under the age of 19. Their objective to prevent female genital mutilation (FGM) is unique in Europe and has prevented almost 100 cases per year since it began. Last year, 300 officers took a special course to learn more about FGM and recently a delegation travelled to Gambia to provide information on site to families there, even managing to get one community to promise not to carry out any more genital mutilations. Many of the families living in Spain apparently don’t want to carry it out, but upon returning to their countries of origin they feel pressured into it by their society. Many communities believe that it is good for a woman’s health, maintaining cleanliness as there are no sexual secretions. Others believe that if a child touches its mother’s clitoris while being born, it will die. However, it is mainly used to prevent young girls from having sexual urges and maintain their virginity until marriage, something which guarantees they will be accepted. Many women allow the procedure as it is believed it will pleasure their partners and guarantee a successful marriage. The origin of female genital mutilation is unknown and although it is carried out in many Moslem countries, it is not related to Islam or any other known religion. There are several types of FGM, but all procedures involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. In some cases there is a narrowing of the vaginal orifice as well as cutting of the clitoris, labia minora and/or labia majora, which are then held together using thorns or stitching. In some cases the girl’s legs are tied together for two to six weeks, to prevent her from moving and to allow healing. This can be reversed to allow sexual intercourse or when undergoing labour, which becomes extremely difficult and painful, and can result in tearing and death of the child if the canal is not opened sufficiently. A study surprisingly revealed that the majority of women who have been subjected to this extreme sexual mutilation claim to experience sexual desire, pleasure and orgasm, in spite of their being culturally bound to hide these experiences. Egypt has passed a law banning FGM. Sheikh Ali Gomaa stated: “The traditional form of excision is a practice totally banned by Islam because of the compelling evidence of the extensive damage it causes to women’s bodies and minds.”