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The rising fear of legalization of FGM in Egypt

13 Jul

EGYPT: Despite the fact that Female Genital Mutilation has been banned in Egypt in 1996, the issue continues to be a problematic one. There exists a reasonable fear that the ban could be overturned under the existing Islamist government, as Al Arabiya News reported today.

Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, who became president last month, was asked on television to comment on the state-imposed ban on FGM. He said it was a private issue between mothers and daughters, adding that families, not the state, should decide. Mr Morsi´s views are commonly held across the country.

His response disturbed children’s and women’s rights advocates who have been working for years to change the perception of this procedure in the society.

Although support for FGM is still widespread there has been considerable change since the mid-1990s. In 1995, 82 % of women aged (15-49) believed FGM should continue. This dropped to 75 % in 2000 and to 62.5% in 2008, according to UNICEF.

The Egyptian feminist, writer and physician Nawal el-Saadawi was the first to shed light on the issue across the region, said:

” Everything is possible depending on the ruling party.The government controls everything in the country; they own weapons, money, and media. When any new government comes to power, they definitely implement changes.”

As a result, the human rights groups are increasingly concerned that the Islamic parties intend to cut women rights short and reverse laws which were passed under the former regimes, including the ban on FGM.



UK: First Young People Led National Conference on FGM

28 Jun

BRISTOL – On July 14th the UK’s first ever conference on FGM led by young people will take place at the University of Bristol. The conference has been organized by Integrate Bristol, which has won this year´s „Young Voice Award“ for the FGM movie „Silent Scream.“

The organization helps with the integration and adaption of young people and children who have arrived from other countries and cultures. Integrate Bristol runs projects that help teenagers to develop their skills so that they can actively participate in society and feel a part of the community they have joined.

The conference aims to educate health, education and legal professionals on the devastating impact of FGM and how they can help prevent it. The conference will also act as a facilitator for young people from across the country to come together for the first time and discuss the wider implications of FGM and the current political indifference to the issue.

In the meantime, the organisers of this ground breaking conference on Female Genital Mutilation claim that politicians are too scared of being called racist and won’t tackle fundamental failures in the child protection system, which are putting thousands of girls at risk of abuse every year. They claim, that unlike many other European countries, the UK is failing to tackle FGM and as a result girls are being mutilated with impunity. They are calling for more robust warning and control systems to be put in place to flag up vulnerable children if they are taken out of the country.

For more information about the Conference, visit:

Liberian effort to end FGM runs into fierce opposition

21 Jun

Despite the massive physical and psychological consequences of female genital mutilation, the practice finds many supporters in the African country

MONROVIA – “My friend was 19 when they carried her away,” said Cecilia Samujlah. The mother of four children. “She didn´t want to go. She was crying. She never came back.” The kidnappers later apologized to the parents of the dead girl. By then it was too late. “They said the devil ate her,” said Samujlah.

Her friend was a victim of FGM, a triatitional rite of passage that still is practised by thousands of rural women in liberia in secret rural schools.


Now Liberia has announced plans to halt the practice, a move that could have huge symbolic value as a model for Africa – if it can overcome the fierce resistance from powerful forces here.

“Government is saying: ‘This needs to stop,’ ” said Liberia’s Minister of Gender and Development, Julia Duncan-Cassell. She asked Liberians to “desist” from female circumcision. “Government wants to respect the belief of the people but, at the same time, is telling them not to infringe on the right of someone else.


Yet, despite this rhetoric, the government is making little effort to impose a ban, and it has admitted it has no deadline for eliminating the practice.

The practice is usually performed by a secret organization, the Sande Society, which operates “bush schools” across Liberia to teach traditional beliefs on marriage and motherhood. The society is a leading cultural force in many villages, supported by influential groups such as the National Traditional Council.

Ella Coleman, official in the council, says she doubts that female circumcision will be banned without extensive consultations first. She insists that the bush schools are completely voluntary. “You see children as young as seven walking into the bush,” she said. “Nobody is holding their hand. Nobody is forcing them. This is our tradition, and this is how we live.”


Phyllis Nguma-Kimba, a Liberian activist with the National Association on Traditional Practices, is one of those who campaigns against female genital cutting. She goes door-to-door in villages, holds meetings and educates women about the risks. She has rescued girls from the bush schools, and she has pursued legal action against those who kidnapped girls to force them into circumcision.

Today, she said, the ritual has become a source of power and money for those who run the bush schools. Girls must pay up to $70 each for two weeks in the school, and circumcision is considered part of their initiation. “I’m hoping and praying that it will be banned,”  Nguma-Kimba said.


Her campaign against FGM has made her a target for death threats. Her office was repeatedly vandalized and her house mysteriously burned down. But she vowed to continue her campaign. “It shows that we are getting somewhere. It only gives me encouragement and the courage to keep going.”


Source:, 20.06.2012

FGM Kurdistan: The new proves difficult to implement

20 Jun

Despite an existence of law against female genital mutilation, the numbers of victims have not reduced

In June 2011, Iraqi Kurdistan passed a law which criminalised FGM and domestic violence, but one year on, activists remain frustrated with its patchwork implementation, Middle East Online reported on Monday. “You cannot find that the numbers (for FGM) have reduced because of this law, because no one knows about it”, said Suzan Aref, head of the Women’s Empowerment Organisation.

In what is considered a conservative society even by Middle East standards, the passage of the law last year was hailed by rights groups and NGOs as a major step forward after years of struggle. The law punishes physical, sexual and psychological assault committed within the family, creates conditions for the protection of victims and mandates the establishment of specialised courts. And: It also carries penal and financial punishments for those who promote or practice female genital mutilation.

Another reason for the lack of implementation: Judges and religious leaders have stood in the way of the law’s full implementation, according to Ramziya Zana, head of the Arbil-based Gender Studies and Information Centre Organisation. “Most judges think this is harmful for the family“, she further stated.

FGM is widespread in Kurdistan. According to a report of the German NGO Wadi, over 72 percent of women in the region’s two biggest provinces were victims of female genital mutilation, with the rate rising to almost 100 percent in some areas.

Pakhshan Zangana, Secretary General of the High Council for Women’s Affairs, a Kurdish government agency, remained optimistic: „”It is new in a society like our’s — anything against traditional culture, we cannot measure within months,” she said.

Reconstructive surgery helps restore sexual pleasure after FGM

14 Jun

In a new study, researchers found that new surgical technique can help easing the pain and improve sexual pleasure of FGM-victims.

PARIS – Pioneering reconstructive surgery has brought new hope to women worldwide who have suffered the pain and sexual desolation of female genital mutilation: According to a new report published in The Lancet, the new surgical technique, developed by the French doctor Pierre Foldès and his colleagues, can help easing the pain and improve sexual pleasure of FGM-victims, reported the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics yesterday.

“The real news is that it´s feasible to give back pleasure, feasible to reconstruct the clitoris, and possible to give women back their lost identities”, says Foldès. The doctors in France performed the surgery on almost 3,000 women. Of the 866 women who attended the one- year follow-up visit, 821 patients reported an improvement – or at least no worsening – of pain, while 815 stated they now had improved clitoral pleasure.

Because internal clitoral tissue survives the mutilation, the surgeons were able to trim away scar tissue and build a new clitoris that would protrude in a normal way. “However, women with FGM rarely have access to reconstructive surgery to improve their lives and in most developed and all developing countries, surgery remains prohibitively expensive”, explained Beatrice Cuzin, who led the research.

About 150 million women worldwide have suffered FGM and are living with numerous effects on physical, sexual and psychological health.

Shocking news: Female genital mutilation is practiced also in South Africa

13 Jun

Even though the World Health Organization does not include South Africa in the list of FGM practicing countries, it has recently been reported that it is practiced among communities living in the north-east of the country. 

FGM is one of the cultural practises embedded amongst the Venda community in the north-east of South Africa. At around 8 weeks or less after childbirth, Venda women undergo a cruel traditional ceremony called muthuso during which vaginal flesh of the mother is cut by a traditional healer. The cut flesh is then mixed with black powder and oil and applied on the child’s head to prevent goni (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 this procedure stated that they bleed excessively after the ceremony but have nowhere to be treated as there is no postnatal care in Venda. The women therefore use traditional medicine which sometimes leads to death because of insufficient treatment.

Venda community also practises FGM as initiation for girls into womanhood. After the cut, these girls are branded with a mark on their thighs as evidence of having attended the procedure.

Moreover, migrants in South Africa including Sudanese, Nigerian, Somali and other African communities continue practising FGM. The cutters perform the cut illegally in homes, often despite the complaints from the girls, who are often extremely traumatised following the practice.

The World Health Organisation does not list South Africa as a country where FGM is practised and there is no acknowledgment by the government that FGM exists in South Africa.

At most, South Africa enacted secondary legislation which prohibits FGM and the government has engaged in initiatives to eradicate FGM, for example national research and sensitization workshops where FGM is prevalent.

FGM continues in Kenya despite being outlawed

13 Apr

The leader of a women´s right organization has spoken out against the continued practice.

NAIROBI – “We continue to live with the threat or consequences of harmful traditional practices that violate our fundamental rights to physical integrity,” states Lilian Plapan.  The Executive Director of the SETAT Women Right´s group is talking about female genital mutilation, because: Despite the practice being outlawed last year, it still continues unabated.

As the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics reported yesterday, it concerns especially the northern regions of the country. Furthermore, she explains that in the Pokot region of Kenya, many communities still carry out a form of FGM which the World Health Organization classifies as the most severe – the removal of the clitoris and the narrowing of the vaginal opening.

In 2011, the Kenyan parliament made the procedure punishable by up to seven years in prison, but an abolishment of the practice is still far. Plapan who was launching a new campaign against FGM now believes that only a concerted effort from concerned parties will completely eradicate the practice.

Islamist Parliamentarian demands abolition of Egypt´s Ban on FGM

29 Mar

The long-standing representative of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Azza El Garf considers female genital mutilation as “beautification plastic surgery” and emphasizes women’s rights at the same time.

CAIRO – It is “beautification plastic surgery” and the “woman´s choice” to undergo this practice, says Azza El Garf. With these words, the prominent representative of the Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt offers a profile in political contradiction. The reason: She is talking about female genital mutilation, a cruel practice that was banned in Egypt in 2008.


As reported on its website yesterday, the politician with close ties to the conservative Muslim Brotherhood, uses the freedom of decision-making as an argument for FGM. “If she needs it, she can go to a doctor”, stresses El Garf.

On the one hand El Garf shares her party´s family-first view of a woman´s place, on the other she emphasizes her pioneering role in the minority of women serving in the country´s post-revolution parliament. “People here think women can be a doctor, go to university, be a teacher or an engineer”, she explains, “but people still think women are no good politics. We want to change this view.” Only one percent of the Egyptian Parliament members are women.

But also in issues such as family and divorce Azza El Garf promotes her conservative attitude. She complains that divorce had become too easy in Egypt and is even possible without the permission from husbands. Hoda Badran, chairwoman of the Egyptian Feminist Union, fears: “The comment is likely to reinforce expectations that Islamists will seek to roll back women´s rights.”

Death threats after reporting on FGM

14 Mar

Journalist from Liberia has gone into hiding in fear of attack

MONROVIA – In response to an article about FGM in Liberia, published last Thursday in the local daily FrontPage Africa, the Liberian journalist Mae Azango received death threats. According to Africa Review, Pulitzer-Center grantee Azango has now gone into hiding. “They left messages and told people to tell me that they will catch me and cut me so that will make me shut up”, fears Azango.

In her article she reports about FGM in rural Liberia, and the devastating, and sometimes deadly, effects it can produce. Furthermore two of three girls are victims of FGM in certain parts of the country, she reports.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has now called for Liberian police to ensure safety for Azango and other FrontPage Africa staff. “Authorities must send a clear message that threats of violence are crimes”, confirms CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita.

Ten out of Liberia´s 16 tribes practice FGM, accounting for up to 85 percent of the country´s population. Unsanitary conditions cause infections, tetanus and HIV transmissions.”The people behind these threats seem to be secure that they can act with impunity”, says Keita. It is important now, he stresses, to uphold the law and ensure prosecution.

FGM in Canada: Call to inform doctors

12 Mar

A recently published policy statement claims new curriculum of medical schools

TORONTO – The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada insists that information about treating patients who have had female genital mutilation should be integrated into the new curriculum of medical schools. “So what that means for us as physicians in Canada is we´re kind of confronted with this kind of anatomical difference, and we need to know how to treat them”, stresses Margaret Burnett, chair of the social and sexual issues committee, in an interview last Tuesday.
According to the Canadian Press a lot more immigrant women from Africa, who suffered FGM, are in medical attention. “One of the biggest things that we see is that sometimes the labour is obstructed because the opening isn´t big enough for the baby´s head to come through”, regrets Burnett. And: “So we have to know what episiotomy to make, how to repair that, in order that these ladies can have normal deliveries.”
The society first issued an official policy document against the practice in 1992. With this statement they want to remind members that FGM is a criminal offence in Canada, and reporting it to child welfare protection services is obligatory when it is suspected. Besides it should encourage doctors to counsel families against FGM and advocate for culturally competent support. “Education is very important. We need to emphasize that there´s no medical reason for this to be done”, explains Burnett.