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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ban on female genital mutilation passed

June 23, 2011
AK News
Hemn Hadi & Patrick Smith

For the first time in Iraqi Kurdistan women are protected by a new law against some of the traditions most harmful towards them.

Yesterday the regional parliament ratified a bill banning female genital mutilation and domestic violence. This is a landmark law in a region that is more steeped in such practices than surrounding countries.

Female circumcision, where the clitoris and hood, and sometimes the labia, are cut away, is particularly commonly in rural areas. A German-Iraqi study conducted in 2007/08 showed more than 77 percent of female interviewees aged 14 and over in the Kurdish province of Sulaimaniyah had undergone the procedure.

The new law lays out the penalty for encouraging female genital mutilation as 3 to 6 years imprisonment or a IQD 1 million ($860) fine. Those who carry out the operation will be sentenced to 3 to 5 years or a fine equal to IQD 5 million ($4300). If they are medical practitioners they will be banned from working for three years.

The demanding of dowry payments, forced marriage, arranged marriages for young women to men many years their elder and forcing women into prostitution are also outlawed by the new law.

It is not clear how a law, seeking to stop a practice, such as genital mutilation, that is not carried out though official means, will be enforced.

Kurdistan's health minister, Taher Hawrami, said authorities are distributing posters to promote awareness, but he said religious leaders should do more to end the practice.

"The clerics should take on the main role. People need to have better understanding of religion in order to give up this phenomenon."

There are also many issues that are not covered by bill. Payman Abdul-Kareem, a member of the parliamentary committee for women and children’s affairs said: ‘When a woman is divorced, she does not have anywhere to go and is often mistreated.

“There ought to be social welfare safety nets to cope with this.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report last year that showed there are at least four factors driving the prevalence of genital mutilation: a link to Kurdish identity, a religious imperative, social pressure, and an attempt to control a woman's sexuality.

The practice is often carried out at home and by people without medical training. When not done properly the girls, who are often as young as ten, can have lasting damage and in extreme cases die from loss of blood or infection.

Esther Gatuma helping women overcome female genital mutilation

June 29, 2011
Today's THV
Stefanie Bryant

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Ceremony Celebrating Change: Abandoning Female Genital Cutting in Guinea

June 24, 2011
Pathfinder International

“From now on, you are one of the great pioneers of ending female genital cutting and soon your example will be followed by other communities,” said Dr. Hawa Toure, a representative of the Minister of State of Social Affairs in Guinea.

On June 5, Dr. Toure delivered the closing speech at a female genital cutting abandonment ceremony in Bissikima, where leaders from 197 Guinean communities gathered in solidarity to declare their rejection of female genital cutting and other cultural practices harmful to the health of mothers and children. Made possible with USAID support, the ceremony was organized by community leaders who wanted to send a public message about the dangers of female genital cutting and the growing movement to end it in Guinea. In total, more than 1,000 people attended the event, including hundreds of community members, former “cutters,” national and local authorities, bilateral and multilateral institutions, and national and international NGOs.

Powerful testimony from community leaders like Mamy Diallo moved the crowd and emphasized the central theme of the ceremony.
As a former “cutter” from Sampolia village, Mamy performed genital cutting on girls for nearly 40 years. Accompanied by two other former “cutters,” Mamy pledged her total abandonment of the practice, thanking the community management committees for raising her awareness to the damaging health effects cutting can cause.

For many girls and women, female genital cutting results in severe physical, social, and psychological consequences. Despite growing recognition that the practice is harmful, it remains deeply rooted in Guinean society, with 95 percent of Guinean girls or women having experienced it.

Female genital cutting remains prevalent in many communities, in part, because it is considered a religious obligation. But this is beginning to change.

Sharing his testimony at the ceremony, Imam El Hadj Mamadou Barry explained that female genital cutting is not an Islamic Sunnah, a practice of Prophet Muhammad; and, since cutting causes serious health problems for women, it is appropriate to abandon it. He also added that Islam condemns any act of violence against women.
The ceremony ended with a public recitation by all participants of an oath to abandon female genital cutting. Written in both French and Malinké, the oath roughly translates to:

“We solemnly make the decision to permanently abandon female genital cutting—and other harmful traditional practices—to ensure and assert the rights of girls and women to good health and the preservation of their physical integrity and human dignity.”

Ultimately the event inspired and educated, representing a culmination of two years of work by Project ESPOIR, a USAID-funded, Pathfinder-led initiative to reduce and eliminate the practice of female genital cutting in Guinea. Pathfinder joined partners Tostan and Population Services International to build on previously successful female genital cutting reduction programs using Tostan’s community-centered approach to change attitudes about and the practice of female genital cutting.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Africa moves to ban female genital mutilation

June 27, 2011
The Times of  India

Prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is part of the agenda of the 19th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Executive Council which has opened here.

The item on FGM was proposed by Burkina Faso, to educate African States on the need to fully support the draft resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations to ban FGM in the world, because it is considered harmful to women's health.

The draft resolution is the result of a campaign that involves Burkina Faso and Egypt, among other countries, after it was revealed that 91.5 million victims of this phenomenon in the world are mostly children under the age of nine.

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that, despite the efforts over the last two decades to eliminate FGM in the world, "about three million girls undergo yearly the risk of genital mutilation."

In Malabo, the AU foreign ministers will, among other things, consider setting up a common front and harmonised fight against FGM.

The recommended actions include the creation and implementation of national mechanisms to inform, educate, prevent and suppress the practice of FGM, as well as the ratification and implementation of regional and international legal instruments to fight against the phenomenon.

In Africa, the main actions against the practice are attributed to the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices affecting the Health of Women and Children (CWC), chaired by Burkina Faso since 2008, and national committees in 28 States considered to be the continent's most affected.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Female Circumcision Decree Must Be Revoked: NGOs

June 23, 2011
The Jakarta Globe
Dessy Sagita

Hundreds of activists demanded on Thursday that Indonesia's Health Ministry revoke a 2010 ministerial decree regulating the proper procedure for female circumcision.

“The decree is extremely discriminatory, we want it to be revoked immediately,” Ratna Batara Munti from the Federation of the Women’s Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Apik) said.

More than 170 NGOs, including Amnesty International, and activists signed a joint statement asking the ministry to revoke the decree, which they said contradicted a 2006 circular from the director general of community health prohibiting health workers from performing female circumcisions.

“Female circumcision will damage women’s sexual pleasure. We need to stop it,” Ratna said.

Further, Masruchah, the deputy chairwoman of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), said female circumcision was not medically recommended because it could damage reproductive health.

“Female circumcision is an abuse that has to be stopped. The discussion about this issue has been going on for 32 years. It has to stop now,” she said.

Siti Musdah Mulia, a progressive Islamic scholar from the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace, said she had conducted a survey to track female genital mutilation in Indonesia. “What I found was horrible. There are some female circumcision procedures that cut the whole clitoris. [Practioners] thought the more they cut, the more religious [the girls] become,” she said.

The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) has issued a fatwa that female circumcision was allowed but not obligatory. However, it also stated that prohibiting the procedure was not allowed.

But the ministry’s director of mothers’ health, Ina Hernawati, said the protest was unjustified because the ministry had never supported female circumcision. “Read the decree carefully, there’s nothing there saying we are supporting female genitalia mutilation or any kind of abuse,” she said.

Ina said the decree was issued because no health worker in Indonesia has received any formal training about how to perform female circumcision and the decree provided guidance on how to conduct it safely if necessary.

“We do not condone the practice. If parents come to midwives, we ask the midwives to explain that medically female circumcision is useless,” she said.

However, she said, many times parents insisted on getting their daughter circumcised for religious or traditional reasons.

“In such case, we prefer the circumcision were done by a trained health worker rather than some random shaman or traditional healer, which may not be safe,” she said.

Ina denied the decree legitimized abuse against women. She said people often associated female circumcision with genitalia mutilation. “They’re totally different. Circumcising is merely scratching a piece of skin.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Reformed practitioners of Female Genital Mutilation receive aid

June 21, 2011
Daily Monitor
Steven Ariong

At least 254 former traditional surgeons of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Sebei have received grinding machines to start up alternative means of living after they voluntarily left the age-old vice.

The machines were donated by Inter-African committee Uganda (IACU), one of the NGOs based in Kapchorwa District with funds from Danida. While handing over the machines to the former surgeons in Kapchorwa last week, Mr Geoffrey Sande the program coordinator Inter African Committee Uganda, said the machines were procured inform of support to former FGM surgeons who have left the practice so that they can continue with their daily living since they have been claiming the practice was their source of living.

Mr Sande said apart from grinding machines, the three groups also received thermal generators which will be installed to supply power to the trading centres without electricity and at the end of the month they collect money.

“We looked at this as the way to attract those who are still doing the practice,” he said. Mr Sande said bank accounts have been opened for them to deposit the money they collect. He said the practice is slowly stopping in Kapchorwa and Amudat districts. However, most parents are sneaking with their children into Kenya to undergo FGM.

While receiving the machines Ms Stima Chepto, who was well known for cutting women in Bukwo, now the beneficiary of the project, thanked the NGO for the support and promised that they will work with government to arrest those who are still encouraging the practice. She said the practice was their means of survival although the government was pushing it out. “We would have left circumcising women long time ago but we were not sure on how our daily income would be, but now since we are supported it will be the end,” Ms Chepto said.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

117 URR communities abandon FGM, other practices

June 14, 2011
Daily Observer
Alieu Ceesay

A total of 117 Fula and Mandinka communities in the Upper River Region (URR) Sunday openly declared they have abandoned Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); and early and forced mariage; among other harmful traditional practices. The declaration ceremony was held at the Basse mini-stadium.

The public declaration was organised under the auspices of Tostan, an NGO that has been operating in
The Gambia since 2006. Tostan works in the area of non-formal education. The occasion was attended by thousands of people among them the governor of URR, Tostan national coordinator, chairman of Basse Area Council, National Assembly member for Jimara District, Tostan regional coordinators for Kolda and Zigunchor, security chiefs and a cross-section of the community.

Speaking at the ceremony, Alhaji AF Jallow, a member of the steering committee applauded Tostan for the great achievement registered in URR since its inception. He acknowledged that the organisation has brought about positive changes in the life of the people. He added that the solemn declaration was a clear indication of Tostan’s unwavering commitment in achieving its mission and vision. Jallow described FGM, early and forced marriage as things that are of great concern and need to stop, considering their long-term negative impacts. He urged the communities to stand by their words, while commending Unicef and the Gambia government for bringing Tostan to the region. Also addressing the gathering, Ello Jallow, from the Office of the Vice President noted that the programme was meant enhance the protection of children’s rights by promoting community efforts to protect such rights.

He told the gathering that harmful traditional practices are a violation of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Rights of the Child, which The Gambia is a signatory to.
He stated that the promotion of human rights and responsibilities for women and girls are at the core of the Constitution of the Second Republic under the leadership of President Jammeh. Jallow went on to express Gambia government’s commitment to promoting gender equality and women empowerment as key factors to the attainment of the development agendas of the country.

He acknowledged that Tostan has brought about positive changes in the life of the people of URR, while expressing his office’s readiness to support the cause of the organisation. He thanked Unicef for funding the project in The Gambia, while applauding the communities for finally abandoning the harmful traditional practices. He also thanked the leadership of Tostan and staff for a job well done.

For his part, Alhaji Omar Khan, the governor of URR thanked Tostan, The Gambia government  and Unicef for such a tremendous achievement, saying his region has now graduated from absolute illiteracy to a literate region. The governor acknowledged that Tostan has done a lot for the people of URR, and urged the organisation to extend its operations to other regions. He specially thanked Bakary Tamba, Tostan national coordinator; and Molly Melching, director of Tostan for Africa based in Dakar, for a job well done.
Bakary Tamba described the event as the biggest ever in the anals of Tostan-Gambia. He described the declaration as a clear symbol of Tostan’s stance in changing the lives of the people.

He disclosed that since 2006 Tostan has been conducting training for the communities in the areas of health and hygiene, democracy, human rights, and problem solving process, as well as helping them with micro-finance schemes. Tamba thanked the communities for the déclaration, and further urged them to stand by their words. He finally thanked the Gambia government and Unicef for supporting Tostan, noting that a lot have been achieved since 2006.

Other speakers at the ceremony included Salif Jassey of Unicef, Lamin Dibba of NGOs Affairs and Hammeh Minteh Krubally, the chief of Fulladou East. The ceremony was punctuated by cultural displays by different cultural troupes from URR and Senegal. It was moderated by Essa Kanuteh, Tostan supervisor.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Somali religious leaders and high-level officials join hands to put an end to all forms of FGM/C

June 3, 2011
Unicef Somalia
Charity Koronya

Seventy religious leaders and some of Somaliland’s highest officials participated in a public gathering in Hargeisa to declare their support and commitment to the abandonment of all forms of the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

While presiding over the occasion, Somaliland’s First Lady Amina Waris mentioned that men are the key perpetuators of FGM/C while women are the ones who have to suffer the consequences including complications during child birth. "Men are the ones who insist on marrying circumcised girls, so if men don't change their attitude towards FGM/C, the practice will never die out" she said. "I am pleased to see that respected religious leaders have decided to publicly declare the abandonment of all types of FGM/C in Somaliland because people listen to them. Let us put the interest of our daughters first and ensure that they remain intact as they were created by Allah". 

There is still a deep belief among Somalis that FGM/C has its roots not only in local culture, but also in Islamic doctrine.  Given religious leaders’ strong influence and status and their ability to reach different levels of society, UNICEF and UNFPA have started working with them in 2009 through a project that initiated dialogue and engaged Somalia’s religious leadership with revered international Islamic scholars to reach consensus that FGM/C is not a religious obligation.

This approach of creating consensus among religious leaders aims to facilitate the development of a high-level policy and legal framework as well as to create awareness among communities to ultimately trigger behavioural change.

The dialogue in which Sheikhs and Imams have participated during 2010 has culminated in the form of public declarations held by religious leaders in both Somaliland and Puntland during May this year.

The Minister of Religious Affairs and prominent religious leader Sheikh Khalil addressed the gathering in Hargeisa saying that "it is very clear that the holy Quran does not support FGM/C in any way. I call upon all the religious leaders wherever they are to join hands to protect our daughters and women from having their organs cut".

The Minister informed the participants that the Ministry of Religious Affairs will support all activities aimed at FGM/C abandonment including the formation of the ‘Religious Leaders Network Against FGM/C’. Both the First Lady and the Minster called on everyone including young men who are potential husbands to the girls to ensure they are vigilant to protect the health and rights of girls and women.

During the coming months, UNICEF and UNFPA will work to ensure that these committed Sheikhs and Imams are supported to carry out awareness and dialogue sessions in the community, so that a greater number of community members, religious leaders and policy makers have an accurate understanding of the non-Islamic nature of FGM/C.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Phoenix Clinic Cares for Women with Cut Genitals

June 6, 2011
Womens Enews
Katherine Rausch

When a woman who has undergone female genital cutting seeks medical help in many parts of the United States her chances of finding a knowledgeable physician--or talking about her condition--aren't very good.

That's the finding of advocacy group Sauti Yetu Center for African American Women, a nonprofit based in the South Bronx that recently publicized research at a New York conference. They found that few New York clinicians were trained to handle women with the condition and many women felt uncomfortable in their care.

A Phoenix clinic, however, offers a way of doing things differently.

The Refugee Women's Health Clinic cares for immigrants and takes a culturally sensitive approach to female genital cutting. The clinic provides translators, counseling, education and transportation to the facility. It works with agencies that provide diapers, car seats and food stamps for the mothers.

Crista Johnson, an obstetrician-gynecologist, opened the Refugee Women's Health Clinic in 2008. The clinic, she says, has served nearly 2,000 women from 19 countries. Some of Johnson's patients are going through their second birth with her.

Johnson was in New York in April to join the conference about the often unmet medical needs of women in the United States whose genitals have been cut.

During childbirth, women with cut genitals often need special attention. Some may need defibulation, a procedure to open the scar. Some suffer heavy bleeding, deficiency in amniotic fluid during childbirth and gestational diabetes.

Resisting C-Sections

Johnson says when women need a Cesarean section because of fetal distress during birth many resist the idea. She says her patients--many from Somalia in east Africa--fear a long recovery time that will keep them from caring for their family. Others worry the surgery will prevent them from having more children and some see surgery of any kind as a sign of impending death.

Johnson says there's also social pressure from family members not to have the surgery and she tries to help the women consider their options in a way that's free from family pressure.

"Trust is a major issue," Johnson said in a phone interview with Women's eNews. "Engaging in open dialogue without judging women affected by this practice is key. Building trust takes time and often may require multiple visits and good continuity of care."

In 2008, the United Nations released an updated statement on ending the practice of female genital cutting while addressing the strong impact it has on the cultures that practice it.

The World Health Organization classifies genital cutting into four categories, with the first three increasing in severity of cutting, though there can be exceptions.

The first three all consist of removal of genital tissue while the fourth category consists of harmful procedures for non-medical purposes, such as piercing.

Type I is partial or total removal of the clitoris or the clitoral hood, while type II is partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, sometimes with the labia majora, also.

Type III consists of narrowing the vaginal opening, which Johnson says she sees most commonly with complications.

Genital mutilation to be outlawed

June 7, 2011
Swiss Info
Urs Geiser

The government is facing calls by parliament to outlaw the genital mutilation of women and girls.

The Senate unanimously agreed to ask the government to prepare an amendment to the criminal law. The House of Representatives approved a similar proposal last December.

Those found guilty of carrying out or encouraging female circumcision will face up to ten years in prison or will have to pay substantial fines regardless of whether the criminal act was committed in Switzerland or abroad.

Piercings and tattoos will not be considered punishable offences.

During Tuesday’s debate Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said it was crucial to step up prevention and raise awareness of the mutilation issue.

There are an estimated 6,700 women and girls in Switzerland who are victims of genital mutilation according to the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef.

In 2008 a Zurich court found a couple from Somalia guilty of causing bodily injury to their daughter in the first case of genital mutilation to come before judges in Switzerland.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fears over female genital mutilation Bill 'loophole'

June 3, 2011
Irish Times
Jimmy Walsh

Concerns were voiced that there could be significant loopholes in a legislative measure to outlaw and punish the practice of female genital mutilation.

Responding, Minister for Health and Children James Reilly said he was willing to consider tightening some of the provisions in the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill, which passed second stage.

Members on all sides praised Ivana Bacik (Lab) for her role in promoting the proposed legislation.

Dr Reilly said he believed that female genital mutilation was a gross violation of women’s human rights, and the Bill before the House was the first step in ensuring that this practice did not take hold in this country. He said mutilation had no health benefits. The message was being sent out loud and clear that it would not be tolerated in Ireland.

There were firm indications from those working with practising communities that the most significant risk of mutilation being carried out on young girls living in Ireland arose during visits to countries where it was commonly practised, he said.

The Bill aimed to address this risk by creating an offence of removing a girl or woman from the State for the purpose of female genital mutilation and by introducing an extra-territorial element to its provisions, he said.

Various exemptions to the offence were aimed at avoiding criminalisation of surgical operations required for the protection of the physical or mental health of a girl or woman, Dr Reilly added.

Dr Reilly said it had been contended that mental health issues could be used as a ruse or a legal loophole.
The exemption in this case referred to the possible need for surgery in relation to gender reassignment, inter-sex conditions or congenital malformations, Dr Reilly said.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

KENYA: Legislation failing to curb FGM/C

June 2, 2011

At her grandmother's home in the western Kenyan village of Nyamataro, 14-year-old Ruth* lies on a mat surrounded by visitors, all congratulating her on becoming a woman; the previous week, Ruth was one of 10 girls to undergo female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

"When people see me and I smile at them, they think I like what I went through... [but] I wish I could run away," she told IRIN. "My grandmother said I must be cut so I can be a good girl in future.

"I was afraid to go, but they forced me and now I am feeling a lot of pain. I can't go to school until I heal," she added.

Ruth's father says the pain is worth the respect she will earn from the community as a circumcised woman.

"As a man, you want to bring up your child in the way of your people and for us, being circumcised is one of them," he said. "She will be a good woman to her husband in future. When people say we should stop what we have done all along, I just laugh."

The Children's Act (2001) criminalizes the subjection of children to FGM/C; people violating the law are subject to prison sentences. However, the 2008/2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey reported an FGM/C prevalence of 96 percent among Ruth's Kisii ethnic community; the Kisii practise a form of FGM/C known as excision, where part of the clitoris is removed.

Overall, the 2008/2009 report logged a national drop in FGM/C prevalence to 27 percent from 38 percent in 1998 and 32 percent in 2003, but officials say the law's main impact has been to drive the practice underground.

"With the implementation of laws such as the Children's Act, those who do this practice have resorted to secretive ways of doing it," said Pamela Mbuvi, district children's officer for Kisii District. "So when you see surveys pointing to a decline, it might mean people are abandoning the custom, but it could also mean they now do it secretly and report it less lest the law catches up with them.

"We have caught a few people doing it and at least five have been jailed that I know of, but the secrecy that the perpetrators use makes it hard to effectively use the law to end the practice."

A second piece of legislation, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Bill (2010), seeks to close loopholes in current legislation; the new law, for instance, would remove the requirement for the police to obtain a warrant to enter premises where they suspect FGM/C is being carried out.

"Female genital mutilation puts those who undergo it through a lot of physical and psychological pain and they need support and that support must come from the government," said Lina Jebii Kilimo, FGM/C activist and Kenyan Member of Parliament. "That is why the law seeks to make it plain that the government must provide support to victims."

However, she noted that laws alone were not sufficient to end the practice of FGM/C.

Changing the community

"Laws targeting specifically FGM are an important step in ending the practice but the law alone cannot do it because it is a traditional practice and it is deeply rooted; remember, people who strongly believe in culture are at times ready to die for it," Kilimo said. "My suggestion is, let the government and anybody working for children's rights carry out education and awareness among the community to let them know the dangers [of FGM/C]. Those campaigns have been carried out, but they must be continuous."

Joyce Nyangito, 78, cannot remember how many girls she has cut in her 38-year career. She says she will keep doing it as long as there is a demand.

"My work is to cut these girls and to make them moral women when they get married," she said. "I can’t stop unless parents stop bringing their girls to me, which I know they won't do, so I will stop it when I die."

Women in the Kisii community who disagree with the practice feel powerless to protect their daughters. Rispa Moseti, a 41-year-old mother of six, says if she had the power, she would have prevented her two daughters from going through FGM/C.

"They were cut against my will and at times they ask me why I allowed it; it is a bad thing because it puts a young child through pain for no reason," she said. "Those who encourage it say it preserves virginity and reduces immorality - it is a lie. I cannot tell any woman to allow her child to go through this kind of thing."

The few who have dared to defy tradition have paid a heavy price. Violet Masogo runs a rescue centre that provides protection to girls who have run way from home to escape FGM/C, but she has had to move the centre from Kisii to Kisumu city, farther west, after two attacks by men who claimed she was "spoiling" their daughters.

"I underwent female circumcision and I know the pain. Many girls wouldn't want to go through it and that is why I thought of starting a centre where these girls could get some refuge," she said. "It is hard because those who still believe in the practice see you as a spoiler."

*not her real name