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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Reconstructive Surgery For Women Who Suffered FGM/C

Surgery for female genital mutilation restores sexual pleasure

By Laura Shin | June 13, 2012, 2:38 AM PDT

Reconstructive surgery for women who suffered female genital mutilation seems to be successful in lessening pain and restoring sexual pleasure, with a new technique described in The Lancet.
“Our findings show that clitoral reconstruction after FGM is feasible. It can certainly improve women’s pleasure and lessen their pain. It also allows mutilated women to recover their identity”, said Pierre Foldès from Poissy Saint Germain Hospital, who invented the surgical technique.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a cultural practice, widespread in Africa, that partially or totally removes the external female genitalia, or otherwise causes injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is also commonly practiced among immigrant communities in Europe and North America.
In this study, 3,000 women in France received the reconstructive surgery between 2008 and 2009, during which 5% experienced complications such as haematoma, suture failure, or moderate feverimmediately following surgery.
Of 866 women who responded to a follow-up survey conducted a year later, 821 reported that their pain had either improved or had not worsened, while 815 reported that clitoral pleasure had improved or had not worsened. Additionally, 290 women reported that their pain had eased substantially.
Among women who had never experienced an orgasm before the procedure, a third started to have restricted or regular orgasms. Half the women who reported experiencing restricted orgasm before the surgery had a regular orgasm after it.
About 5% of the respondents said they suffered side effects such as bleeding; 2% had less clitoral pleasure than before the procedure.
Over the past 10 years, up to 140 million women worldwide have been subject to FGM. The surgeries in the study were performed in France, but Foldès said surgeons in Dakar, Senegal, will be trained in the technique.
via: Eurekalert, New Scientist

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Genital mutilation and German law

Half a million women and girls in Europe suffer from the consequences of Female Genital Mutilation. Unlike France, Germany does not specifically outlaw FGM in its penal code. Activitsts are working for change.

Jawahir Cumar comes from Somalia. Like many young Somali women, she was circumcised as a child.  She wanted to ensure that other girls were spared this painful experience so she founded her own society "Stop Mutilation – Stop Female Genital Mutilation" in Düsseldorf in 1996.
Many young women and girls, who suffer from medical complications caused by what is euphemistically referred to as female circumcision, are often too terrified to go and see a doctor. Cultural taboos are often the reason for this.
Those who do venture as far as the doctor's surgery can end up paying for treatment themselves. Cumar said German health insurers often refuse to reimburse victims for the costs of a hospital operation. "These women were mutilated at the age of three or four," she explained. "At the age of 35, they want to have their genitals reopened and have to listen to the same question over and over again: 'Why do you want this done. They were always that way, where's the problem?' Many think it's just cosmetic surgery, but the reverse is true, this is a very important operation."
There are various forms of female circumcision in which the genitals are partly or completely removed. The entrance to the vagina is constricted by sewing it up. The operation is often performed with dirty instruments and without an anesthetic. Medical complications include infections, a lifetime of pain, and cysts.
As well as the women here in Germany who were subjected to this painful ritual in their youth,  there are also thousands of young girls in the country who are at risk and could be forced to undergo female genital mutilation at a later date.
German parliament discussing tougher legislation
For many African parents, circumcision belongs to the traditions of their home country which they continue to follow long after they have emigrated. Either they have the operation performed illegally here in Germany, or back home.  Dirk Wüstenberg is a German lawyer. He said that if these children are be protected effectively from harm, both in Germany and elsewhere, then German law needs to be clarified and toughened.
"The penalty handed down by the courts at the moment is the same as it was decades ago, it's never more than 10 years in prison," he explained. "It's regarded as grievous bodily harm and normally carries a penalty of three to four years for first time offenders, for the parents, that is. Those who perform the operation can expect about eight years."
Wüstenberg says the German parliament is currently discussing stiffer penalties. Across the border in France, parents who expose their daughters to genital mutilation can be sent to prison for between 10 and 30 years.
Following France's example
Nama Camara is a social worker who comes from Mali. She lives in France, where, she said, the topic has been on the agenda for some time.
"It took time for France to understand what was happening and for us to arrive at our present position. If Germany and the Netherlands were to draw on our experiences, they could move ahead more quickly," she added.
In Germany, doctors are bound by rules of patient confidentiality which prevent them from contacting prosecutors or the police. Dr Christop Zerm is a gynaecologist who counsels women seeking assistance from the "Stop Mutilation" society.
"If I hear of a crime of this sort which is about to be committed, I try to find ways of stopping it from happening," he said.
This doesn't necessarily mean reporting the matter to the local police. Youth welfare and health authorities can exert influence on the parents in time so that the child is protected.                 
Camara told the Düsseldorf meeting that the rate of female genital mutilation is decreasing, not only in France, but in her home country, Mali, and in West Africa generally, as well.
In Germany, a draft law for the protection of girls could act as a deterrent, if enacted. It would enable medical professionals to report suspicious cases to the police. Until that legislation makes it to the statute book, the women from "Stop Mutilation" will continue to try and raise public awareness until the ancient ritual of genital mutilation is finally eradicated. The discussions in Düsseldorf are going to be condensed into guidelines for teachers in Germany's schools. It will be a small step forward.           
Author: Abebe Lidet
Editor: Mark Caldwell

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From Performing FGM/C To Leading The Abandonment Movement In Gambia

Gambia: Cultural Protagonist Supports Eradication of FGM in CRR

The power of information using the local languages to change perceptions and attitudes continues to give prominence to the work of the Gamcotrap in the Central River Region. Under the auspices and support of the UNFPA joint programme, 25 community-based facilitators from the Central River Region north benefited from a three-day capacity building workshop to engage in community sensitization and mobilization to protect girls from Female Genital Mutilation.
Accompanied by two other females from the council of elders from Janjanbureh at the opening ceremony, held at the Regional Education Office, cultural protagonist, Aja Babung Sidibeh acknowledged the importance of knowledge in changing people's perceptions and practices.She noted that dialogue raises consciousness to overcome many difficulties.
Aja Babung said "the bangle in your hand should not break your head", and called on all to spread the information to protect children and women."We were blind but today we can raise consciousness to save women and children.Both the young and old face the difficulties," she stated.
Having been exposed to effects of FGM during the capacity building of the community-based facilitators, the longstanding and well known cultural protagonist changed her perception after witnessing the serious effects FGM has on women and girls. She noted that even though she had heard about the campaign, she was never exposed to the harm FGM causes to women.
Hailed from the Sidibeh family in Janjangbureh that is the custodian of both male circumcision and female genital mutilation, Aja Babung Sidibeh has led, organized and maintained the practice that is conducted every five years.
She explains: "When one is ignorant, you cannot act otherwise. I feel touched by the effects.I am the 'Ngansingba' and custodian of the female circumcision chamber here. Our culture is celebrated every five years; we have FGM in this community and even our children in the diaspora know when it is time for the cultural practice. They will come and spend time at 'Tinyang sita'.
Throughout my life, I have sympathy for women and children so from today, I will consult with my council of elders to stop the difficulty women and children face with this practice. My daughter is a nurse and she helps women to deliver. One day she told me 'Aja, the practice of FGM and the sealing causes difficulty for us (nurses) because women suffer when giving birth. Even though I heard what she said it is only having seen these pictures today that I am totally convinced. I am really touched."
The Supreme Islamic Council representative in Janjanbureh, Oustass Momodou Lamin Jobarteh led the gathering into prayer and took the opportunity to call on Gamcotrap toaccommodate the criticisms and to be steadfast to achieve its goal, because it is not easy to impart knowledge on to others. He cited a verse from the Holy Quran that says 'Those who are knowledgeable are different from those who are not.'He also called on the participants to make the best out.
Oustass Jobarteh re-echoed that health is an important aspect of life and there is the need to seek knowledge about it.He prayed that Allah blesses the occasion and fulfil the objective of the gathering.
Commenting on the law to protect women and children at the gathering,the National Assembly member for Upper Saloum, Honourable Sainey Mbye expressed optimismthatthe advocacy for aspecific bill against FGM has advanced and will eventually be presented to the National Assembly for legislation to stop the practice in the country.
He noted that the delay is to give people the opportunity to be aware of the impact of the practice so that the law will not come as a force on people but for people to be aware and for it to be voluntarily stopped.He cautioned that some elders hold onto the tradition but the knowledge is for the young ones and mothers to benefit from.
The Women's Bureau Field coordinator in CRR, Amadou Cham, acknowledged the positive role Gamcotrap played in supplementing the role of the Bureau to raise consciousness. He noted that the impact of Gamcotrap's work was captured in the evaluation of its work; which led to the organization being identified as implementing partner for the UNFPA Country Programme 2012.
He congratulated the organization and noted that despite the challenges in changing attitudes, change is taking place. He finally urged the participants to make the best out of the training and look forward to a fruitful outcome.
Declaring the training open, Governor Ganyie Touray of CRR, said he is delighted to associate with the training, because according to him the country's leadership supports women. He noted that the conducive political environment has made it possible for Gamcotrap to continue to succeed in its work and noted that people are responding positively.He was impressed with the support from local influential leaders in the region in the protection of girls and women from the practice of FGM.
Local traditional communicator, Lamin Keita, alias Takka Titi and his group of women in Janjanbureh welcomed Gamcotrap amidst singing and dancing. Amongst them was a mother of a child who recently suffered the effects of FGM and now joins the advocacy to protect girls from FGM.
The executive director of Gamcotrap, on evaluating the first leg of sensitization under the UNFPA Country Programme, described it as a success. She commended the community-based facilitators for taking leadership in their communities and a successful outreach programme; and urged her staffto redouble their effortsin ensuring that communities reach consensus to stop FGM.
She is optimistic that working with the circumcisers and their communities and with the continued support of the community and religious leaders, it is likely that Central River Region north will be the next region to drop the knife.
Dr. Touray noted that despite the challenges, more people are responding to the campaign to stop FGM in The Gambia. She thanked the UNFPA for recognising the role of her organisation and upgrading its role from sub-contractee under the Women's Bureau to an Implementing Partner (IP).
Scholars' activities
Meanwhile, Gamcotrap Religious adviser, Imam Baba Leigh has led a series of sensitisation programmes with rich discussions that reached out to 150 participants in Sami Kunting, Bakadajie Mandinka in Niani and Buduk in Nianija, the CRR north.
The outcome confirmed that FGM is not mentioned in the Holy Quran nor is it a Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH). It was acknowledged as a longstanding traditional practice and it was recommended that the awareness raising programmes should continue.
One religious leader from Kunting, Alhajie Kawsu Jaiteh called on the people to work within the limits of their knowledge.He made this remark in the presence of representatives from 11 villages from the area.
Similarly, religious leaders and imams from 14 villages within the Bakadagie Mandinka cluster in Niani also echoed that FGM is not a religious obligation.It was noted that if FGM causes harm, then it should stop.
In addition to that, more Islamic scholars and religious leaders in CRR are giving support to protect girls from FGM.In an interview with another Supreme Islamic Council representative in Buduk in Nianija District, Oustass Dawda York said: "Most people rely on religion and I can testify that enough research has been done to confirm that the practice should stop because it is not in line with Sunnah or Farda.
Let us return to the truth, because we can stop cultural practices that do not benefit our livelihood.We do not have circumcisers in the area but they were hosted by families.We shall reach out to those families for the practice to stop completely in the area."
In a similar development at Kuloro in the West Coast Region, the celebration took a form of a march past starting from Kuloromarket to Kuloro Lower Basic School, in which 150 volunteers of West Coast Region Red Cross members and members of The Gambia Scout Band participated.
Addressing the gathering, Lamin Fatty, the branch officer of WCR, expressed gratitude and delight to the participants for their meaningful participation during the celebration, while thanking the community ofKuloro Village for their contribution.
Fatty acknowledged that the day is veryparamount, noting that there is a great vitality to celebrate it. "The day will equally create an opportunity for members to meet and share their experiences at both national and regional levels," he said.
For his part, Patrick Schwaerzler, the head of theInternational Committee of Red Cross urged the people to use the day as a chance to look to the future. "In the face of civil unrest in Northern Africa and Middle East, open conflict in Afghanistan, food insecurity in the Sahel severe flooding in South America, our well-established network of more than 13 million volunteers people and humanitarian workers continues to play a vital role in meeting the need to the world's most vulnerable people," he disclosed.
According to him, in the face ofmajor challenges such as climate change, conflicts and violence, migration and urbanisation, young people everywhere show that they want to be part of the solution, noting that they helped communities to prepare for disaster, safe access to health care, accept responsibility as agents of behavioral change and building a culture.
"Youth around the work to explore humanitarian law enabling them as tomorrow's leaders to take decisions, preventing unnecessary suffering in times of armed conflict and other situations of violence," he added.
Schwaerzler pointed out that young people already make a profound difference in the lives ofmany vulnerable people and have true capacity to become community champions andprovide needed expertise in an increasingly digital world. Young people, he said, should aim to take positions ofleadership within their humanitarian network and they should be afforded real opportunities to inform their strategic decision making.
Deputising for the governor ofWCR, Sering Modou Joof, the National Disaster Management coordinator for WCR commended the volunteers for their meaningful participation towards nation building and encouraged them to keep up the good work. He advisedthem to be fast and focus during their work so that it can be done effectively and access the road to achieve their ultimate goals in the process.

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FGM/C Legislation In South Africa

Female Genital Mutilation In South Africa

Author: Barbara Kitui
LLM (Human Rights & Democartisation in Africa)  student, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is one of the cultural practises embedded amongst the Venda community of north-east of South Africa. Eight weeks or less after childbirth, Venda women undergo a traditional ceremony calledmuthusoMuthuso is a process of cutting the vaginal flesh of the mother by a traditional healer. The flesh is mixed with black powder and oil and applied on the child’s head to prevent goniGoni has been described as a swelling on the back of a child’s head. The Venda people believe that goni can only be cured using the vaginal flesh of the child’s mother. Women who experienced FGM stated that they bleed excessively after the ceremony. Moreover, the women stated that there is no postnatal care in Venda. Consequently, the women use traditional medicine and sometimes this leads to death because of substandard treatment.
Vendas also practises FGM as initiation for girls into womanhood. The girls reside in a ‘nonyana’ hut for 24 hours until an appointed day when an old woman performs the clitoris cutting by the river banks.  The girls are branded with a mark on their thighs as evidence of having attended initiation.
Migrants in South Africa including Sudanese and other African communities continue practising FGM. The families invite women into their homes who clandestinely circumcise often despite pleas from the girls. Herbs are applied to the cut places to quicken the healing. The girls are often traumatised following the practise.
The World Health Organisation does not list South Africa as a country where FGM is practised. In 2005 during the deliberation of the Children Bill, the South African Girl Child Alliance (SAGCA) presented a report highlighting the non-existence of FGM to South African parliamentarians on the Social Service Select Committee. The SAGCA report indicated that during the initiation ceremonies for women, there was no FGM being practised.
Article 5(a) of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women obligates state parties to ensure that all cultural practises that violate the rights of women are eliminated.
Regionally, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on the Rights of Women in Africa imposes a duty on state parties under articles 8(f) and 2 to institute measures that prohibit all forms of harmful practises. Article 5 obliges governments to engage in public awareness against FGM, to enact legislation prohibiting FGM and to provide victim support for women affected by the effects of FGM.
Sections 30 and 31 of the 1996 South African Constitution provide for the right to culture which must be done in compliance with the Bill of Rights. Section 211 of the Constitution recognises the existence of cultural institutions which must comply with the Constitution.
South Africa enacted subsidiary legislation to address FGM. The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (Equality Act) outlaws discrimination of any person on grounds of gender and culture, including FGM. Under section 12(2) (a), the Children’s Act explicitly prohibits genital mutilation or circumcision of female children as opposed section 8(b) Equality Act which only prohibits discrimination based on FGM.
The South African government has engaged in initiatives to curb FGM, for example national research and sensitization workshops where FGM is prevalent in liaison with government departments of health, culture and education. There is no acknowledgment by the government that FGM exists in South Africa. Most information obtained on FGM in South Africa is based on research by individuals or international organisations.
Culture is an aspect of African traditions that cannot be easily dispensed with. Despite the fact that international treatises deem FGM as an immense violation of human rights to females, those who practise FGM perceive it as a rite of passage and an avenue for children to receive protection from their mothers while eight weeks after birth.
In order to curb FGM, there is need for government to continue partnering with civil societies to sensitize communities and encourage them to reflect on the implication of FGM and make a conscious decision to end the practise.
About the Author:
Kitui Barbara is currently a postgraduate student pursuing the LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa at the University of Pretoria. As part of the LLM, Kitui undertook a field research in Venda, South Africa, under the topic ‘Hindrances to the fulfillment of the right to maternal healthcare in Venda.’ Other sources used for this research can be found here. Kitui worked as a Legal Officer with the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative in Uganda before joining the LLM programme.

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Tostan and National Organization of Women organize FGC abandonment in Somaliland

NGO Tostan Organized A Social Mobilization Event For FGC Abandonment

June 7, 2012 by Shiine

HARGEISA (Dalmar Media) – The practice of Female Genital Cutting has been termed as denial of rights.
This was said by the minister of Religion & endowments Hon Sheikh Khalil Abdilahi on Saturday June 2nd, 2012 during an FGC awareness raising event organized by the NGO Tostan in partnership with the National Organization of Women (NOW) where the minister stressed on the importance of separating religious and traditional tenets.

The religion & endowments minister said that the practice of FGC is causing much suffering among women on whom it is perpetrated. He urged parents to ensure that future generations of girls and women are protected from all forms of female genital cutting. He also thanked Tostan and NOW and encouraged them to continue to work together for community development and abandonment of practices that are harmful to women’s health.

The event was entertained with songs and a role play performed by the Tostan participants of Kilirka. This was followed by the screening of the Tostan film entitled ‘‘my child dry your tears’’ where Tostan communities of different age groups voice their opinions about FGC, especially how it has affected women health and contributed to the failure of many couples in Somaliland. In the same line, two Sheikhs members of Tostan social mobilization teams made a power point presentation with quotes from the Quran and the Hadiths bearing out that the practice of FGC is a mere tradition. They further explained their work in Tostan consisting in reaching out to indirect communities in order to increase the critical mass for FGC abandonment.

In his speech, the National coordinator of Tostan, Mr. Birima Fall informed that Tostan is working in 21 direct communities ofSomalilandto empower especially women to lead their own development and to mobilize communities belonging to their social networks including the diaspora to abandon harmful practices like FGC. Mr FALL expressed his thankfulness to the leaders of NOW, the Minister of religion, the vice Minister of health, and Amina, the representative of the First Lady for their remarks which pave the way for FGC abandonment in Somaliland. There was a diversified leadership attendance including ministers, members of parliament, political authorities, religious leaders and over 100 participating women representing NOW regional branches and Tostan communities.

The coordinator of the community management committee (CMC) of Goradher, Fatuma spoke in the name of Tostan communities and retraced the impressing headway made with Tostan in terms of empowerment, diffusion of useful information for positive social transformation. She informed the public about the public declaration of FGC abandonment that Tostan communities are intending to organize in the coming weeks as a result of Tostan human rights non formal education and outreach activities.

According to the vice health minister Hon Nimo Hussein Qawdan, women can only take their proper place in the decision making process once they are in good health and once the practice of FGC is completely stopped. Mrs. Nimo revealed that the administration of President Silanyo plans to support various anti-FGM/C awareness raising campaigns nationwide especially in rural areas where the practice is still rampant.
The vice health minister who together with the minister of Education Mrs. Zamzam Abdi Aden are the only women in the cabinet of ministers urged parents to protect their daughters from FGC and to give them equal education opportunities with their sons.
While thanking Tostan international for its support to community led development and promotion of abandonment of FGC, the chairwoman of NOW and deputy chairwoman expressed their readiness to accompany Tostan onto their challenging yet passionate journey of community empowerment, and abandonment of FGC.

Mrs Anisa Nuur Cigale explained that NOW is present in all the regions and districts ofSomalilandand is welcoming Tostan and any other organization contributing to community development.

Shiine Cilmi Kaahin

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