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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Circumcisers from Kombo South Trained on FGM and Rights of Women and Children

December 22, 2010
The Point: Gambia News for Freedom and Democracy

Circumcisers were among the sixty participants who have completed a three-day training on the harmful effects of female genital mutilation on the health and rights of women and children. The training held in Tujereng village, was part of the SCS and UNIFEM-supported project.GAMCOTRAP is implementing for the Kombos in the Western Region. 

At the opening of ceremony the Alkalo of Tujereng, Karamo Bojang, noted that even though it is difficult to change attitudes, it is through education and awareness creation that people realize the need to change their attitudes to protect their children. He observed that FGM is an abuse of the rights of girl children because they are not allowed to consent to the practice.  Alkalo Karamo Bojang said it is clear that the FGM is not a religious obligation and he called on the advocates to continue to raise awareness among the people.

For his part, the representative of the Chief of Kombo South, Jerreh Demba of Siffoe village, advised participants to listen, learn and share experiences on the reasons FGM should be eradicated.

Tanzania: How to Eradicate FGM

December 22, 2010

Although female circumcision is illegal, it is still being widely practised in some parts of the country under the local administration and police's nose. And this can only mean that having strict laws alone is not enough to end the practice, which has adverse health consequences for the victims, but still continues in this day and age.

For the Kurya people of Mara, for instance, this is a special season for circumcising boys and girls, as an initiation into adulthood. Although the drums are no longer beaten as loudly as was the case in the past, in some of the villages, elaborate rituals still go on.
For years, the government and civil society have waged a campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM). But the practice persists, partly because of deep-held so-called traditional beliefs about chastity and motherhood. It's a belief, which is nonsensical, considering the health experts' findings.

What the government, non-governmental organisations, communities, families and parents need to do is to step up public awareness campaigns on the dangers of FGM. As has become evident, laws alone will not end the problem. The people need to know about the deadly consequences they expose their young girls to by requiring them to undergo this outdated traditional ritual.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Razor and the Damage Done: Female Genital Mutilation in Kurdish Iraq

December 21, 2010
The Guardian 
Martin Chulov

Mixture of motives persuades villages to maintain practice that often leaves lasting effects on young girls

The old Kurdish midwife's hands trembled alongside a bowl that she positions to catch dripping blood. She picked up a razor blade and sliced through a corner of paper, mimicking the ritual cut she has performed at least 500 times, on young girls' genitals.
"In the name of God, the most compassionate and merciful," Naksheen Moustafa said. "That's it! It's simple. I have never had a problem with this procedure in all the time I have done it."
But in a small home on the outskirts of the same village in northern Iraq, Jiana Ali Mohammed sat on the floor, her wide eyes staring into the middle distance. Jiana, now 17, underwent female genital mutilation twice as a seven-year-old; once by a midwife in the morning, and the second time later that day by her grandmother, who thought the job had not been done properly. Her clitoris and labia were sliced away, a procedure far more invasive than the symbolic nip described by Moustafa. Jiana bled for days and lost movement for a while in her lower limbs.
She is developmentally delayed and socially backward. Her mother, Nazeka Shemen, blames her daughter's woes on the trauma of that day.
All four of her daughters before Jiana also underwent genital mutilation, but she said she would never put a new daughter through the ordeal.
"I have come to accept that it was wrong," said Shemen. "I would not do this to another child and I regret doing what we have done. Everyone has done it in Rania, including me. It is not a practice that has been questioned until recently."
There was a widespread feeling among the Kurdish women watching Moustafa's demonstration that the midwife was deliberately underestimating the cruelty of her cut, perhaps because of wariness about increasing scrutiny from the outside world.
For 20 years, the village elder has been the woman that parents take their daughters to in Rania village, in Iraq's north, to undergo female genital mutilation, arguably in greater numbers proportionally than anywhere else in the Middle East. Around 90% of adult women in at least eight villages in the Sulaymaniyah district alone are believed to been subjected to the practice.
Moustafa, 68, learned her cottage craft from another old woman, who, until she died, had been one of the last practitioners of this highly contentious tradition in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Judging by the knowledge bestowed, neither Moustafa nor her predecessors could be deemed to be midwives in the true sense of the word. Clinical care appears to have been universally absent in the practice. So too, until very recently, was antiseptic or even basic surgical dressings. Instead, ash is often rubbed into the wound.
Family 'honour'
The absence of modern medicine has not deterred many of the families in Rania and a swath of Iraq's remote Kurdish north from continuing with a tradition that has been disavowed in much of Arab Iraq and by Islamic clerics across the region.
Even now, after more than two decades of public awareness programmes in often impoverished villages, parents are still sending their girls in large numbers, believing it to be the fulfilment of a Qur'an instruction, which will cause the girls no harm and will instead help purify the family home.
Unlike elsewhere in Iraq, the practice of female genital mutilation became entrenched in the Kurdish north as a convention passed on through the ages.
Recent research by Human Rights Watch showed that there are at least four factors driving this: a link to Kurdish identity, a religious imperative, social pressure, and an attempt to control a woman's sexuality.
The mix of motivations has combined to give the custom a hold that prevails in the face of rulings from leading religious figures, a move by Kurdish law-makers to outlaw it, and the scorn of conservative societies outside the north who look down on the Kurds' ways.
Recent studies, including an Iraqi human rights ministry survey conducted last year, show that up to 23% of Iraqi Kurdish girls under 13 have undergone female genital mutilation. However, the report also reveals the figure is sharply higher among girls aged 14 to 18 (45%), suggesting an apparent recent shift in attitudes.
Slowly, mothers in Rania and, in some cases, the sheikhs who offer religious authority for the practice, are beginning to reassess their views. A key reason for this is the palpable harm that has been done to girls like Jiana.
There is evidence in Rania that comprehensive slicing of a girl's genitals has been commonplace.
Four women spoken to by the Guardian say they bled for many days after their procedures, which took place before any of the girls reached sexual maturity.
Two of them say they continue to suffer from infections. All the women said they were told that the procedures had upheld their family honour.
Others in the village say they have had no problem with the tradition. The Otthman family's six daughters have all been attended to by Moustafa. "She came here with a ball of cotton and a razor," said the girls' mother, Basra Sayed.
"I believe that this is prescribed by Islamic tradition and should be done to both boys and girls," she said. "The difference in our society has been that for the boys we get a doctor to do it, and for the girls we get a midwife.
"None of my daughters had any complications, but I have heard that there were girls who bled a lot and had to go to hospital. My girls, however, were cut during the morning and were fine by the afternoon."
Sayed insists that her daughters were not subjected to the procedure that removes their labia, or clitoris. "It was just like the old lady said, she was very professional and quick.
"Two of my daughters are now married," she added. "And they both fully enjoy their sexual lives."
Sayed's words reflect the fact that inroads appear to have been made into at least one taboo – discussion about the impact of the procedure on a woman's sexual health and enjoyment.
Human Rights Watch last year interviewed 31 victims, many of whom described traumatic experiences that have left lasting consequences. A report prepared by Asuda, the women's rights group, also last year found sexual enjoyment in many victims was greatly diminished.
Religious debate
The best hope of eradicating female genital mutilation as a convention in the Kurdish north appears to rest with Muslim clerics. On that front, the prognosis appears mixed.
"We have seen some clerics prepared to accept that this is not sanctioned by religion," said the director of Asuda's Suleimaneya office, Khanim Latif. "But there are others who still say strongly that it is."
Throughout Rania, there is a sense that more people than ever before are looking disapprovingly at the practice and, by extension, their society.
People here seem ready to accept change, but only if it is spelt out wholeheartedly by the clerics they have listened to for generations.
"We want the clerics to say, stop doing this," said Jian's mother. "We are waiting for this and the time is right to do it."
The ageing midwife up the road also seemed willing to accept change.
"If a sheikh said today to stop this, I would stop it today," she said, dropping the razor blade and cotton wool into her bowl.
Her voice trailing away, she added: "This has never hurt anyone, but if it could … I don't want to be the one responsible."
• More than 3 million girls under 15 undergo female genital mutilation each year, according to the World Health Organisation. Up to 140 million women and girls are believed to have undergone the practice.
•FGM is practised in at least 40 countries (28 of them in Africa), including Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Iraq, and parts of Asia.
•A vote in 2008 in the Kurdish national assembly passed a bill outlawing FGM. It has not yet been enacted.
•FGM ranges from removal of the clitoris, to removal of the clitoris and labia, to cutting and stitching and, in some cases, cauterisation.
• This article was amended on 8 January 2010. The original said that FGM is practised in at least 28 countries. This has been corrected.
Sources: WHO; UN Population Fund; Human Rights Watch

Colombian Indigenous Group Vows to Stop Female Genital Mutilation

December 21, 2010
International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics 
Paul Robertson

A Colombian indigenous group, the Embera, have said they will stop practising female genital mutilation (FGM).

According to Colombia Reports, the practice was widespread in the community and performed on young girls, reports El Tiempo.

With help from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Embera has decided to suspend FGM and research the cultural origins of it.

UNFPA has been helping the indigenous group to understand the impact on women's human rights that the practice has.

The decision is "of historical importance in the country", said UNFPA Colombia, reports the news provider.
It said the move is a step towards improving the "health and rights of Embera women".

Recently, international charity Unicef called for support to end FGM practices around the world, which are believed to affect around three million girls and women in Africa.

The charity believes intervention programmes can only be successful if they address the needs and wishes of the communities they are implemented in.

Uganda Calls for Africa to Outlaw Female Genital Mutilation

December 21, 2010
International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics 
Martine Ward

Uganda has called for the whole of Africa to stop the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).

The country's state minister for gender Rukia Nakadama called for a widespread ban, claiming its own outlawing of the act could not be successful if its neighbouring countries continued the practice, reports New Vision.

Her appeal came following reports some girls had been taken to Kenya for female genital mutilation to be carried out on them.

"We have a law in place against the practice. Unless we ask our neighbours to put in place similar laws, our girls will cross over to be cut," Ms Nakadama said, reports the news provider.
The Ugandan government passed the anti-FGM law in December last year, and a ten-year jail term could be imposed on anyone caught practising it, but it reportedly still persists in the country.

In 2007, children's charity Unicef and the United Nations Population Fund launched a campaign to put an end to the practice.

By 2012, the organisations hope there will be a 40 per cent reduction in FGM around the world.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Switzerland Moves Against Practice of FGM

December 20, 2010
M&C News

Berne (eca) - The Swiss parliament on Thursday voted to make the practice of female genital mutilation a punishable offence.
Lawmakers in the national assembly voted 162 for and two against a plan to changing Switzerland's penal code in this regard.
With the anticipated approval by the Cantons, all forms of genital mutilation involving females would be outlawed. This would also apply in cases where Swiss residents carry out the practice abroad. Penalties would range between a heavy fine and 10 years in prison.
Genital mutilation involves the partial or complete removal of the external sexual organs, without medical reasons.
Circumcised girls and women are exposed to great suffering and health risks, parliamentarians said. It is estimated that around 7,000 girls and young women in the Switzerland are at risk.

Survey Reveals Facts about FGM, Education, Child Labor

December 20, 2010
Mohamed Abdel Salam

CAIRO: 44 percent of women have been sexually harassed, 75 percent were circumcised, and 37 percent married before the age of 18, revealed a survey of Egyptian youth conduced by the National Population Council.
The comprehensive survey, done in collaboration with the Information and Decision Support Center of the Egyptian Cabinet, revealed 88 percent of young people between the ages of 15 and 25 describe themselves as ‘religious,’ and 64 percent believe the tradition of female genital mutilation, also known as FGM or female circumcision, is important and necessary.
75 percent of women between the ages of 10 and 29 said they had been circumcised.
The survey found that only 16 percent of young people participated in the recent Parliamentary elections and 28 percent believe in the existence of nepotism and favoritism in getting jobs.
More than two million children do not attend school, about 80 percent of whom are from rural areas and Upper Egypt. Financial burden, customs and traditions are major barriers to female education. 20 percent of young people never attended school and cannot read and write, the study revealed.
Also, dropout rates remain high. One in four young men dropped out of technical education.
The survey showed that University education is still a luxury for the rich: 46 percent of students in higher education belong to wealthy families, compared to 4 percent of poor families. Two thirds of young people cheat during their studies. Half of students receive private lessons and 40 percent have taken tutorials to improve their skills.
Despite significant improvement in the fight against child labor, the survey said 3 percent of children are still working, mostly females in traditional occupations such as household chores.
The survey said 37 percent of women are married before the age of 18. 71 percent of both males and females believe that a girl must obey her brother, even if he is the youngest, and that a wife must obey the orders of her husband in all circumstances.

Friday, December 10, 2010

More Needs to be Done to Fight FGM in Uganda

December 10, 2010
The Observer

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 marked Sabiny Cultural Day. It also marked the beginning of something tantamount to torture – Female Genital Mutilation season.
During the month of December, each night, after the stroke of midnight, young Sabiny girls are taken from their homes and subjected to this excruciatingly painful act.  They have no choice and the majority live in fear and dread of this moment in their lives.
Female Genital Mutilation is deeply rooted in tradition. In the districts of Bukwo and Kapchorwa, the Sabiny believe it is an essential rite of passage that will enhance a girl’s chastity and chances of marriage. But this is not a symbolic ceremony. It is a violent act that can cause permanent damage both physically and mentally.
Young girls are cut with crude knives, and despite the need for critical medical attention afterwards, they are forced to walk back to their homes, often bleeding profusely. Female Genital Mutilation can result in prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and complications during childbirth. In some cases, it can be fatal.
While the Government of Uganda should be applauded for passing legislation that bans female circumcision, the fact that girls are still undergoing the procedure demonstrates the need for responsive action. So, what can we do to achieve the total abandonment of FGM in Uganda?
We know that FGM functions as a social norm for those communities that still practise it; so, it is difficult for any one family to abandon it on their own. To do so would risk the marriage eligibility of daughters as well as loss of social status for the entire family. We know the decision to abandon FGM has to come from the community as a whole so that all members will be more confident to abandon the practice.
We know from other countries that too much focus on persuading the ‘cutters’ to stop the practice has proven ineffective. Interventions must, therefore, concentrate more on addressing the need for communities – especially the elders and the girls – to say “no.”  That way, girls who do not get cut will not be shunned.
Through dialogue, education and social change, we are witnessing more and more families standing by their daughters and not allowing them to be cut. Many communities have also put in place an alternative rite to passage into womanhood – one in which the girls can celebrate with joy and hope for the future.
The perseverance and determination of the elders of these communities should be commended. Their continued leadership is a must for this practice to be stamped out. The voices against FGM are getting louder and louder, but we need to increase and intensify them.  This is a call to action for everyone to stand up and speak up for these young girls who are denied the choice of saying “no.”
FGM is nothing more than an act of brutality and a gross violation of basic human rights. The voices opposing it will only get louder until the practice of FGM is consigned to history.

The authors of this joint statement are:

Theophane Nikyema, UN Resident Coordinator for Uganda /UNDP Resident Representative

Janet Jackson, UNFPA Resident Representative

Dr Sharad Sapra, UNICEF Representative

Birgit Gerstenberg, OHCHR Representative/Head of Office

Dr Joaquim Saweka, WHO Representative

Musa Bungudu, UNAIDS Country Coordinator

Jebbeh Forster, UNIFEM Representative

Kai Nielsen, UNHCR Representative

Education Will Eliminate FGM

December 10, 2010
The Observer

Female genital mutilation continues unabated in Sebei even after Parliament enacted a law making the practice illegal.
The ritual, normally held in December, involves cutting off of a girl’s clitoris as a rite of passage. The cruel and dehumanising character of female circumcision, as it is sometimes called, had made it a campaign target by civil society organisations for a long time, until late last year when a private member’s bill resulted in a law outlawing it.
Under this law, those who abet female genital mutilation face imprisonment of five to ten years. But it was never going to be as easy as that. Just like old habits, old cultures die hard. For instance, reports surfaced early this month that female circumcision services are now being sought across the border in Kenya, which has no law similar to Uganda’s.
It has also been reported that some of its promoters in the Sebei sub-region are turning against the law enforcement officers in a desperate bid to keep their cultural practice. But this practice is brutal and has no known value. Besides, it is often imposed on innocent children. That is why the resistance notwithstanding, female circumcision must stop.
Overcoming it will require more education, both for the young and the old. There’s evidence that education, particularly of the girl child, results in the decline of some other harmful cultural practices. For instance, a girl who studies as far as university will not be married off at 14 years, as often happens to the uneducated ones.
And when they eventually marry, girls with a good education foundation are in a better position to make responsible reproductive health decisions.
In the same way, the government needs to pay special attention to the education of the girl child, particularly among the Sabiny.
This would help them appreciate the irrelevance of female circumcision on realising that other girls at school, perhaps from other parts of the country, don’t have to go through the pain.
On the other hand, the adults need to be sensitised on why the cultural practice is bad, and thus was abolished in Uganda. With adequate education and sensitisation, law enforcement will be easier. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cleric Says Female Circumcision Recommended by Islam

December 8, 2010

SULAIMANI, Iraqi Kurdistan: The Imam of Hajji Osman Alaf Mosque in Iraqi Kurdistan’s second largest city, Sulaimani, has told his followers that anyone who believes female circumcision is not a recommendation from the prophet Mohammed is “ignorant.” 

During his Friday sermon on December 3rd, Imam Mala Yassin Hakim Piskandi said female circumcision was a “Sunnah," a term used to refer to the practices carried out or recommended by Mohammed, the prophet of Islam. 
He said, the Sunni Shafeyi, a school of jurisprudence which most Kurds follow, took a tougher stance regarding female circumcision, considering it an “obligation," but that the other three Sunni schools of jurisprudence regarded it merely as a Sunnah, meaning it was recommended, but not compulsory.   

The Islamic practice of female circumcision, known among rights groups as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), has a deep history dating back to the prophet Abraham. Prophet Mohammed followed in Abraham’s footsteps by remaining silent about the prevalence of the practice in the city of Medina, where he established the first Islamic system of law, said Piskandi. 

“When men and women have intercourse, their sexual organs should be circumcised and clean,” he quoted Prophet Mohammed as saying.

He added that practicing a Sunnah act is “good,” but that not practicing it is “not sinful.” But in some cultures, including among some Kurds, uncircumcised women are regarded as unclean and are not allowed to cook. 
Piskandi’s remarks come at a time when a recent gathering of Islamic scholars in Egypt has ruled that female circumcision is not necessary, because it endangers women’s health.

Also, Ali Qaradakhi, a Kurd who is secretary general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS), recently told a local newspaper that female circumcision is not an obligation in Islam.

“Female circumcision is an old issue that keeps resurfacing,” said Qaradakhi. “Islamic scholars have several opinions on it. To me the most appropriate opinion is that female circumcision is not necessary in Islam.”

Female circumcision has been practiced in Iraqi Kurdistan for years, mostly in rural areas. According to statistics published by Kurdistan’s Ministry of Health last week, 41 percent of Kurdish women had been circumcised. The data points to a decline in the number in recent years. 

Imam Piskandil, who holds a master’s degree in Islamic jurisprudence, said Islam does not condone the killing of women, adding that men “should not be blamed so much for women who burn themselves to death.”

Monday, December 6, 2010

300 Girls to Undergo the Cut

December 6, 2010
Daily Nation
Philemon Suter

At least 270 girls are lined up for circumcision in Marakwet East and Pokot Central districts in the coming weeks.

Though the number of girls undergoing the rite of passage has significantly dropped over the past few years, most of them are taking part voluntarily.
After the cut, scores of the girls who may not proceed to secondary school, will be married off to already waiting suitors after coming out of seclusion in mid-January next month.
A crusader against female circumcision, Ms Lilian Plapan of Setat Women’s Group, has called for an end to the practice.
“We want chiefs in the respective villages to stop the cut since the lives of young girls are going to be wasted,” she said.
Mrs Plapan, who visited Propoi Girls Secondary School at the weekend, urged girls to identify the talents that they fit in and develop them through education.
About 74 girls in Kapsogom, Kachenyut, Kapchemila, Kakisoo, Tinyar and Kasui villages will be initiated in Kerio Valley from Friday.
Another 86 will be undergoing the rite in Sibou, Kotut, and Kapsiren villages in the second weekend of December. Another 100 in the far flung Arpolo, Embobut and Endo-Kaben locations in Pokot Central and Marakwet East will also join the queue.
Only 10 girls may be circumcised the same Friday in Kamariny and Karamwar villages neighbouring the home of local MP Linah Kilimo who campaigns against the rite.
“This year’s initiation would go on as scheduled given that traditional signs have been observed... these include the position of stars, the weather pattern and the year’s harvest,” said Mzee Kipkaino Wero-Merei, 71.
“Most of those lined up to face the knife fled their homes to rescue centres in 2006 for fear of being circumcised by force but are now willing,” said another opponent of the circumcision, Ms Rose Kilimo.
Apart from curiosity to graduate into womanhood, Ms Kilimo, claimed the girls opted to get circumcised in a bid to please their parents after engaging them in four years of rebellion.
Ms Kilimo said: “This lot comprises the 2010 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education candidates who have come of age and would want to be loyal to their parents”
Some parents had quietly vowed not to pay even a cent for secondary school fees to any girl who refused to undergo the old age custom of circumcision.

FGM "Difficult to Eliminate"

December 6, 2010
Daily News: Tanzania's Leading Online News Edition
Sosthenes Mwita

Despite government efforts to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) the practice continues in a shroud of secrecy mainly in Mara, Dodoma, Kilimanjaro, Singida and Manyara regions where adult women and children aged between six and 20 years undergo the harmful ritual.

Although there are sustained sensitization efforts and legal curbs that aim at eradicating the practice, incisors (ngariba) are still at work, mutilating children and women secretly. A recent survey shows that the “diabolical” practice is mainly prevalent in ten regions on the Mainland.

The report says the prevalence of FGM in Arusha and Manyara regions stands at 81 per cent. In Dodoma 68 per cent of women are mutilated while in Mara the rate is 44 per cent; Kilimanjaro (37 per cent); Iringa (27 per cent); Singida (25 per cent); Tanga (25 per cent) and Morogoro (20 per cent).  Dar es Salaam appears to have the smallest rate at 5.4 per cent.

An anti-FGM activist, who wished to remain anonymous, said in Dar es Salaam at the weekend that the anti-FGM crusade has made headway so far in sensitizing elders in tribal settings to shun the harmful ritual. She said a significant number of incisors in Dodoma, Singida, Ruvuma and Manyara have come forward to surrender their tools of the trade.

She said, however, that despite the vigorous anti-FGM effort, which has made successful inroads into the ritual, some incisors now mutilate day-old babies secretly.

"Ninety- eight incisors in Manyara Region have already laid down their tools.
This is a welcome development," she said.

She mentioned other regions where incisors have given up their trade as Dodoma (83), Singida (96) and Ruvuma (202). It is suggested in the report that communities must look for alternative methods of marking the passage of girls to womanhood (unyago).

"You do not have to mutilate a girl to get her to graduate into adulthood. Exposure to societal norms and ideals also groom girls into upright adults."

AFNET, the non- government organization that fights Female Genital Mutilation countrywide, has succeeded in reducing the harmful practice in Dodoma Region by over 90 per cent after changing the mindsets of parents, incisors and tribal elders.

The National AFNET chairperson, Ms Stella Mwaga, said this recently at a Wagogo tribal ritual during which the passing of 30 teenagers from childhood to adulthood was affected without them undergoing FGM. The training, which also involved nine boys, is an improved version of the traditional ìjandoî and ìunyagoî which normally culminates in the circumcision of the boys and the genital mutilation of the girls. After the training 30 graduates would now grow up into responsible adults and healthy parents.

The girls, who will now not be mutilated, will in turn spare their own daughters from mutilation. However, the boys would be circumcised but their ritual would be handled by trained health workers not the traditional incisors who use crude blades exposing the initiates to health hazards that include HIV/AIDS and septic wounds.

Ms Mwaga said that apart from enlightening the teenagers on the traditional tenets of good parenthood, they also know how best to maintain married life. The initiates were also enlightened of the ill effects of borrowed foreign cultures, moral decay and how best to get along with communal living.

The teenagers have also been exposed to simple health requirements, simple communal and national laws; the good virtues of working hard; respect and attentive listening to school teachers and elders and simple skills such as weaving and bricklaying. The lessons also included an insight into the ill-effects narcotic drugs and parental health with stress on pregnancy complications.

Ms Mwaga was hopeful that the female initiates would not be genitally mutilated after attending the new-look “unyago.” One of the initiates, Ms Loi Nyamunga (13), said her traditional teacher (mkungwi), had trained her group (of girls) to be responsible mothers in future.

The group was also enlightened on the ravages of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV/AIDS. In Dodoma Region the practice is known as "kugotolwa" among the Wagogo. “Here, the ritual marks the passing of a young girl from childhood to womanhood,” the report says. The ritual is also seen as a preventive measure or a cure against an imaginary disease known as"lawalawa".

In Mara Region, where the Wakurya refer to the practice as "esaro", and in Arusha where the Maasai know it as emorata, the reasons for the ritual do not differ from those advanced by the Wagogo, although here it is also designed to shoot down sexual desires.

So, in Dodoma and Singida women are mutilated on the pretext that the practice fends off "lawalawa". In fact, investigation by medical experts has shown that such a disease does not exist.

Lawalawa is a myth and an excuse to validate FGM among backward tribal settings. It has been established that what is believed to be "lawalawa" is actually a minor medical complication caused by improper cleaning of the genitals and any “uncircumcised" woman who develops thrush and an itchy feeling in her genitals is believed to have "lawalawa,” the report says.

Medical doctors say that the so-called “lawalawa” is thrush that is normally caused by dirt. It is an infection that can be prevented by cleanliness of genitalia and cured in hospitals by administration of antibiotics. “It is, indeed, a shame for any woman to allow scum to accumulate and cause thrush.” Farther afield, in African settings, women are subjected to female genital mutilation in most tribal settings because they are likely to bring shame to their families.

On the continental front, various forms of FGM are carried out in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, Mauritania, Nigeria and Mali.

Female Genital Mutilation: Kenya

December 6, 2010
Hope, Anger, Courage: Raising Awareness & Voices for the Women of the DRC
Fardosa Muse

CARE’s Assistant Gender Officer in Kenya, Fardosa Muse, describes her efforts to discover more about the practice of Female Genital Mutilation.

The Somali community is one of the groups which practices Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
on a large scale in Kenya. FGM is done for religious reasons, often without a girl’s consent, to curb their sexual desire and to preserve their sexual honor before marriage. FGM is irreversible and extremely painful, but it is deeply rooted in social, cultural, and traditional practices, and therefore difficult to combat. Yes, attempts have been made by international and local groups to stop the practice, but FGM is ingrained in peoples’ beliefs and traditions. In an effort to explore FGM, I traveled into the Dadaab refugee camps. 

During a discussion with a senior ex-circumciser, a girl was brought for circumcision by her immediate family members. I tried to ask the girl about her situation, but the relatives intervened when they realized I was a gender officer working with CARE International inKenya. The mother of the girl pleaded with me to leave for fear of victimization and notification of law enforcement officials.

I asked the mother of the girl how safe her daughter was from infection and other complications that arise from FGM. She responded that it’s a historical practice and that they have never had any problems related to it. I explained that many women have died from complications due to FGM, causing untold grief to their loved ones.

Later, on my way back to the office, in the adjacent blocks, I came across a group of women and girls weaving baskets. I asked to speak with them, and presented my personal story as a victim of FGM to bring up the topic.

As we were speaking, Halima, a 24-year-old mother of two, passed by, joined us, and told of her experience with FGM: “I have been in pain ever since and keep attending hospital with back pain and kidney problem. There is no single night I have gone to bed with comfort, unable to put my feet to the ground because of fistula operations. I have been subjected to this outdated practice due to strong belief of my grandmother on FGM.”

Halima’s story moved me to tears.  I could only entreat her not to allow such a gruesome act to be performed on her own children in the future.  In fact, Halima’s father saw circumcision as unacceptable, but he was overruled and deemed disrespectful to his mother in-law. "The dispute almost led to our family breakdown.  It was only saved when elders forced my father to apologise to my grandmother in accordance with the Somali culture, and warned him not to meddle in 'women affairs.’ I had no idea that it was such a horrible and traumatising process. It still lingers in my mind today.  I shed tears when remember how I had to drop out of school due to incontinence, pain, trauma and  low self-esteem from with FGM."

To help end FGM practices please visit CARE and support their work around the world.

Amid Doubts Over Egypt's Progress, Minister Urges UN to Ban FGM

December 6, 2010
Ahmed Zaki Osman

Egypt’s Minister of Family and Population Moushira Khattab said on Saturday that Egypt is seeking international support in order to urge the UN General Assembly to issue a resolution banning female genital mutilation (FGM).
Khattab said in a press release that Egypt had managed to mobilize international public opinion in condemning this "inhumane practice".
Last November, Khattab was among 42 internationally acclaimed parliamentarians, political leaders and civil society activists who signed a petition calling upon the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution banning FGM worldwide.
The list of the signatories include Nobel laureates Nadime Gordimer, Desmond Tutu, Shirin Ebadi and Martty Ahtisaari as well as number of African first ladies.
FGM is a practice that is very common in some African countries. In Egypt, official figures claim that nine out of every ten Egyptian women have undergone FGM.
Egypt criminalized the practice in 2008 following the death of a 12-year-old girl. However, human rights activists say that it is still being practiced despite the law.
Mona Ezzat from the New Woman Foundation--an advocacy group for women's rights--told Al-Masry Al-Youm that Egypt’s women are being seriously damaged by FGM and the government's steps to fight the harmful practice is not having sufficient results.
"They [the government] go and advertise the fact that Egypt is combating FGM but the reality is that the Ministry of Family and Population is not adopting a fruitful strategy," said Ezzat. "The problem is that we need a cultural change in terms of shifting the society's perspective towards women."
The ministry launched a project in different villages across Egypt to combat FGM, however "people in these villages are still conducting FGM and doctors still believe that it is good for the morals and ethics of women," argued Ezzat, who concluded that "the ministry’s approach is based on religious teachings that might be understood as a reason for banning the practice, but a religious approach is not sufficient since it sometimes fails to convince highly conservative regions in Egypt, such the southern part."

Anti-FGM Drive Finally Begins Bearing Fruit

December 6, 2010
The East African
Kevin Kelley

Community-focused initiatives are proving effective in reducing the incidence of female genital cutting in Kenya and a few other African countries, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) says in a new report.
Efforts that address cultural and social dimensions of the practice have yielded better results than have blanket condemnations or appeals aimed at individuals, Unicef finds.
The report cites an eight-year-old project in Mosocho in Kisii Central District as having created “a safe environment that supports individuals to make their own decisions to abandon [female genital cutting], free from judgment and social pressure.”
Organisers have sought to involve all segments of the Mosocho community in the project, with emphasis on participation by boys and men.
In 2005, Unicef notes, almost 50 former practitioners taking part in the German-sponsored project took an oath promising never to cut girls again.
The practice had been “almost universal” among the Kisii, and was usually performed on girls between the ages of three and eight, the report says.
About 98 per cent of ethnic Somali girls in Kenya also undergo genital cutting, but among other groups, such as the Luo and Luhya, it is done rarely or not at all, Unicef observes.
“Prevalence rates, type of cutting and age of cutting vary significantly” in Kenya, the report adds. It attributes the differences to “the range of cultural traditions and diversity found within Kenya’s numerous ethnic groups.”
Overall, 27 per cent of Kenyan females ages 15 to 49 have undergone some form of the cut, the report says, citing data from the 2008-09 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey.
That proportion is the lowest among five African countries. In Senegal, 28 per cent of women in the same age group have been cut, with the figure for Egypt put at 91 per cent, for Ethiopia 74 per cent and for Sudan 89 per cent.
Efforts to discourage female genital cutting began in Kenya more than a century ago, the report notes. It says Christian missionaries denounced as “barbaric” a practice that came to be banned by colonial authorities.
The prohibition triggered cultural and nationalist resistance, however, which sharply limited its impact.
“Medical complications related to the practice are at times not brought to the attention of health services for fear of prosecution,” the report says.
“Furthermore, the trend towards fewer public ceremonies has led to concerns that the practice has been driven underground.”
Unicef makes clear its commitment to helping put an end to female genital cutting, which it also defines as a form of mutilation.
But Gordon Alexander, the director of the organisation’s research unit, acknowledges “there is no one answer, no one way, and no quick fix.”
Pointing to initiatives such as the Mosocho project in Kenya, he adds, “These efforts need to be scaled up to bring change.”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Government Says 41 Percent of Kurdish Women are Circumcised

December 2, 2010
Ari Osman

ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan: A survey by the Kurdistan Minstiry of Health shows that 41 percent of women have gone under the practise of female genuital mutilation (FGM). 

The survey was carried out in July this year. The results of the survey were announced during a campaign to raise awareness on violence against women in Kurdistan earlier this week. 

Part of the campaign has focused on FGM. The survey by the government shows that mothers are the main party responsible for forcing their daughters experience the painful ritual and then grandmothers and fathers. 

The survey’s results show that none of the participants in Dohuk, Kurdistan’s smallest of the three provinces, were circumcised while the highest rate of FGM was in Sulaimai.

Erbil, Kurdistan region's capital, came between Sulaimani and Dohuk. According to the survey, most of the women were circumcised while they were under five years old. 

Jamil Ali Rashid, the director general of health affairs at the ministry of health, said “the survey’s results are totally correct and credible because the participants were given clear questions and special teams examined the women who participated in the survey after their consent was secured.” 

A campaign to end FGM practices in Kurdistan was launched in February 2010 by 51 non-governmental organizations.