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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Working to Reduce Female Genital Mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan

December 25, 2009
ERBIL-Hewlêr, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Female Genital Mutilation (“FGM”) is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death. For generations, FGM has been an embedded traditional practice in Kurdistan, but, with the help of a UK-funded project, this is starting to change. With funding from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a specialist German NGO called WADI has been working to reduce the practice in Kurdistan, and to increase the numbers of senior figures who speak out against it. The project has the support of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the United Nations, the Dutch MFA, and various human and women’s rights groups in KRG, as well as several MPs and doctors from the region. The project has raised awareness of the issue of FGM across KRG, using computer equipment and a specially produced film. 7000 information booklets are being distributed to MPs, health workers, Imans, teachers, social workers and community leaders to encourage them to speak out against the practice of FGM. Four TV spots focusing on the issue are due to be broadcast shortly. Draft legislation is currently being discussed in the Kurdish Parliament, which would ban FGM and impose penalties on those who practised it. On 8 November, Bev Simpson the British Deputy Consul General travelled with a WADI mobile team to a Halabja women's centre to see them run one of their FGM awareness meetings. More than 50 women attended, and the two speakers (a lawyer and a social worker) showed the FGM film, then took a question and answer session which was very lively. There was a great deal of debate among the women on whether FGM is required under Islam and whether it is still practised as widely as studies suggest. * Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a human rights violation and a severe form of violence against women and children. In Iraq, as in other countries of the Middle East, official documents of governments and United Nations agencies alike, still neglect this abuse. As a consequence, Women’s groups and human rights organizations, supported by the German NGO Wadi initiated the campaign »Stop FGM Kurdistan