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EU: Launching of the first Interactive Map on FGM Laws, Policies and Data in Europe/ 28 May 2021, International Day for Women’s Health

EU: Launching the first Interactive Map on FGM Laws, Policies and Data in Europe

On Friday, 28 May 2021, International Day for Women’s Health, End FGM EU launched the FGM in Europe online interactive map in a high-level launch event with European decision-makers.

 

Endfgm.eu (28.05.2021) – https://bit.ly/3uKu9pp – The event presented the map and its potential as an available and accessible resource on FGM in Europe. It also focused on specific aspects of working to address FGM in Europe. Officials from countries with promising practices shared their knowledge during breakout sessions on “Community engagement and Protection for persons at risk of FGM” and “Funding and data collection on FGM’. You can watch the Facebook Live replay here.

 

Chiara Cosentino, End FGM EU Head of Policy and Advocacy said “As the European umbrella organisation working on FGM, our expertise and bird’s eye view of the European context is highly valued by many stakeholders. Yet, we realised that this insight was only available on demand. This is why we decided to create this resource with our members and share the richness of our collective knowledge with a wider audience.”

 

We hope that this map will not only serve as a source of information but also as a well of inspiration to do better and continue to improve our work to end FGM and our support of FGM Survivors. We want countries to learn from each other and strive to better their laws, policies, services and data collection efforts. We want to encourage mutual learning and cooperation towards ending FGM for All in Europe and beyond.

 

The End FGM EU Interactive map is now officially live! You can access it here: https://map.endfgm.eu/map

 

Background:

 

Between 2019 and 2020, End FGM EU conducted, together with its members, a thorough mapping around laws, policies, services and data collection in the 14 European countries where its members operate. Information has been collected systematically and homogenously through a standard questionnaire to ensure comparability among countries and promote improvement and mutual learning at the national level. The questionnaire, developed by the End FGM EU Secretariat, has been inspired by the Sexual Rights Database project. The research has been conducted at the European level by End FGM EU and has been cross-checked and validated by national members at the country level.

 

The development of this online interactive map and database has been made possible by the support of the European Commission, Rights Equality and Citizenship Programme, Sigrid Rausing Trust and Wallace Global Fund.

 

Photo credits: endfgm.eu 





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MALI’s failure to ban FGM challenged in West Africa’s top court

After years of unsuccessfully campaigning for an anti-FGM law in Mali, rights groups file complaint at the ECOWAS court

 

By Nita Bhalia

 

Thomson Reuters Foundation (12.04.2021) – https://tmsnrt.rs/32W4j6l – Mali’s failure to outlaw female genital mutilation (FGM) is being challenged in West Africa’s highest court by rights groups, who accused the country on Monday of failing to protect girls and women from “a grave and systematic violation”.

 

Nine out of 10 women and girls in Mali have undergone the ancient ritual, which usually involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia and can cause serious health problems, according to the United Nations.

 

Women’s rights NGO Equality Now said it had jointly filed a case with two partner organisations at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice after years of campaigning unsuccessfully for an anti-FGM law.

 

“We have made several calls to Mali for the past 18 years urging it to honour its national, regional and international obligations to protect girls and women from this harmful practice,” said Faiza Mohamed, Equality Now’s Africa director.

 

“However, this remains to be done and we can no longer sit still as thousands of girls and women in Mali continue being subjected to FGM,” she added in a statement.

 

Malian government officials could not immediately be reached to comment on the filing.

 

An estimated 200 million girls and women globally have been cut – and about four million girls are at risk of being forced to undergo the rite every year.

 

Practiced in at least 27 African countries and parts of Asia and the Middle East, FGM is often seen as necessary for social acceptance and improving a woman’s marriage prospects.

 

But health experts say girls can bleed to death or die from infections caused by FGM, and it can cause fatal childbirth complications later in life.

 

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) said in June 2020 that the failure to criminalise FGM was putting the lives of girls and women in Mali, as well as from neighbouring states, at risk.

 

It voiced concerns over the transnational nature of the practice, with reports of girls from countries such as Burkina Faso, Benin, Guinea and Togo that prohibit FGM being taken to Mali to undergo the cut in order to avoid prosecution at home.

 

Attempts by the Malian government to criminalise FGM in 2002 and again in 2009 failed due to opposition from religious leaders, CEDAW added in its latest report.

 

The women’s rights groups said in a statement that Mali had ratified international and regional agreements on women’s rights such as the CEDAW and The Maputo Protocol – and was therefore obliged to take action to curb FGM.

 

The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), one of three groups that filed suit with the Abuja-based court, said the case had the potential to establish a landmark in women and girls’ rights jurisprudence in Africa.

 

“This case would not only prompt the ECOWAS court to make binding pronouncement on the situation of FGM in Mali, but would also establish legal precedent and standard applicable not only in Mali and West Africa, but across Africa as a whole,” said Gaye Sowe, IHRDA’s executive director.

 

Most countries in West Africa, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo, have adopted laws prohibiting FGM.

 

In March 2020, Sierra Leone overturned a ban on pregnant girls attending school after Equality Now and its partners challenged the rule in the ECOWAS court and won.

 

 

Photo credits: REUTERS/Joe Penney





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EGYPT toughens penalties for Female Genital Mutilation; activists sceptical

Most of the 28 countries in Africa where FGM is endemic have banned FGM, although enforcement is generally weak

 

By Menna A. Farouk

 

Thomson Reuters Foundation (26.04.2021) – https://tmsnrt.rs/2R3Bl1K – Egypt has toughened penalties for female genital mutilation (FGM), imposing prison terms of up to 20 years in a push to end the ancient practice.

 

It is the second time Egypt’s parliament has cracked down on FGM – which typically involves the removal of a girl’s external genitalia – but activists remain sceptical about enforcement in a country where cutting is deep-rooted and widespread.

 

“It’s fantastic news that Egypt has strengthened its law on FGM again. However, unless the government takes it seriously this time, nothing is likely to change,” Brendan Wynne, co-founder of The Five Foundation advocacy group, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday.

 

“Medical professionals are still performing FGM in Egyptian clinics – and even offering their services publicly,” said Wynne by email from his group’s New York headquarters.

 

Most of the 28 countries in Africa where FGM is endemic have banned FGM, although enforcement is generally weak.

 

World leaders have pledged to end FGM by 2030, but the practice remains as common as it was 30 years ago in Somalia, Mali, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Chad and Senegal.

 

In Egypt, the government and civil society groups have tried awareness campaigns, field visits and tougher penalties.

 

But Wynne said perpetrators are rarely held to account – particularly in rural areas, where FGM is more entrenched.

 

“We need to see a few high profile cases of doctors being given long sentences and struck off for performing this horrific act of violence. Unless this happens it doesn’t really matter what type of law there is,” he said.

 

Amendments approved on Sunday include increasing the maximum sentence from seven years and banning medics involved in FGM from practising for up to five years.

 

Under the changes, prison terms of five to 20 years will be recommended, depending on who performed surgery and whether it caused permanent damage or death, a government statement said.

 

Whoever requested the FGM – usually a close family member – will also face imprisonment, according to the amendments, which must still be approved by the president.

 

Nearly 90% of Egyptian women and girls aged 15 to 49 have undergone FGM, according to a 2016 survey by the United Nations, in a ritual practised widely by Muslims and Christians.

 

Entessar El-Saeed, a woman’s rights activist and director of the Cairo Foundation for Development and Law, said stricter penalties alone would not sway minds.

 

“It is a good step, but we are still struggling with a deeply-rooted concept in the Egyptian society and even among some doctors and judges that FGM is not (a) crime,” El-Saeed told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

 

Egypt has struggled to stamp out FGM since 2008, when its parliament first passed a law to criminalise a practice some researchers have traced back to Egypt in the fifth-century BC.

 

Photo credits: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh TPX





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AFRICA/FGM: UK – FGM Policies May Be Alienating Some African Diaspora Communities

By Nazia Parveen and Aamna Mohdin

 

WUNRN (18.02.2021) – https://bit.ly/2ZHWzDu – Safeguarding policies introduced to protect women and girls against female genital mutilation (FGM) are instead eroding trust and alienating African diaspora communities, a study has found.

 

Current FGM safeguarding measures are undermining the welfare and safety of the women and young girls they seek to protect, with families feeling racially profiled, criminalised and stigmatised, according to the report.

 

The report, published by African women’s rights organisation Forward and the University of Huddersfield, examines the lived experiences of FGM safeguarding policies and procedures in the UK.

 

Based on interviews with communities and professionals, including serving police officers, it found that health and social care workers, teachers and the police are concerned about the growing mistrust within their communities, and are sceptical of the need to single out FGM from other forms of child abuse.

 

Key findings included that safeguarding policies enacted since 2014 may have inadvertently done a great deal of harm to families, communities and young girls, potentially across the UK.

 

They increased the scrutiny, suspicion and stigmatisation experienced by families in many areas of their lives, from school, to healthcare, to overseas travel, the report said. These experiences had taken a significant toll on the mental health of parents, who said they had no intention of carrying out FGM on their daughters, and in some cases even campaigned against it.

 

Professionals participating in the study expressed equal concern over the ways in which the current policies had burdened some families, and warned against a growing disconnect between them and the diaspora communities.

 

“The current FGM safeguarding policies are causing quite a lot of harm. Communities are feeling targeted and that they are racially profiled. There is a general sense of assumption that many of these African diaspora communities are having the intention of subjecting their daughters to FGM, even if in some of the cases that’s not actually true,” said Amy Abdelshahid, lead author and head of evidence at Forward.

 

She added there is an excessive focus on families from certain communities when they travel abroad. “Sometimes they may receive home visits from social services and police investigating them and interrogating before they are able to travel,” she said.

 

Asha, from the Somali community, who participated in the study, said: “When children are going on summer holiday, mothers face fear … The assumption is that you are going on holiday and you are doing FGM to your daughter. It’s really the holiday that you were thinking about.’’

 

Abdelshahid said participants also spoke of having to endure repetitive and uncomfortable conversations about their own FGM and their intention of having it carried out on their daughters in healthcare settings.

 

“What we’re seeing is that in different touchpoints of their lives, they are getting that constant scrutiny by different types of professionals across many areas,” she added.

 

In an interview with a police detective, she said singling out FGM as a particular issue could be stigmatising for a community, “whereas we should be looking at all forms of abuse within every community”.

 

Abdelshahid said: “We think the policies could end up being counterproductive.”

 

She pointed to a quote in the report by a social worker who warned communities are staying away from them. “And that is really alarming, because if community organisations are not able to do the awareness raising and grassroots work that has proven to be very effective in the past, then we’re risking undermining quite a lot of fundamental and essential work.”

 

The report makes a series of recommendations to address FGM in a more compassionate and inclusive way, including the introduction of more holistic training for professionals, re-examining the current policies and a focus on policies that recognise the role of communities in eliminating FGM.

 

However, the feminist campaigner Nimco Ali – who has been a key figure in the global fight to end FGM – praised the work being carried out by the government, stating that the practice would only be eradicated via legislation and state-level involvement.

 

Ali, who is a survivor of FGM and was appointed by the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, as an independent adviser to help draw up a strategy to tackle violence against women and girls, said: “When I was growing up it was all about trying to work with communities – which is good – but FGM is an organised crime. The idea that we need to return to talking and negotiating with communities is a non-starter.

 

“I absolutely understand [the need] for the state to take control of this issue, and it is the reason FGM was added to the Children’s Act. We are going to ask uncomfortable questions. Why are we offended that these questions are being asked? We need these safety nets.”

 

Victoria Atkins, the Safeguarding Minister, said: “Female genital mutilation is a crime. It causes extreme and lifelong physical and psychological suffering to women and girls and we will not tolerate this child abuse taking place in our country.

 

“The government introduced tough safeguarding laws which compel certain professionals to report if they have encountered a potential child victim of female genital mutilation, regardless of what community they are from.”

 

 

Photo credits: Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images





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Somalia sees “massive” rise in FGM during lockdown and Ramadan

By Emma Batha

 

Thomson Reuters Foundation (18.05.2020) – https://reut.rs/2LVFgrI – Somalia’s coronavirus lockdown has led to a huge increase in female genital mutilation (FGM), with circumcisers going door to door offering to cut girls stuck at home during the pandemic, a charity said on Monday.

 

Plan International said the crisis was undermining efforts to eradicate the practice in Somalia, which has the world’s highest FGM rate, with about 98% of women having been cut.

 

“We’ve seen a massive increase in recent weeks,” said Sadia Allin, Plan International’s head of mission in Somalia. “We want the government to ensure FGM is included in all COVID responses.”

 

She told the Thomson Reuters Foundation nurses across the country had also reported a surge in requests from parents wanting them to carry out FGM on their daughters while they were off school because of the lockdown.

 

FGM, which affects 200 million girls and women globally, involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia. In Somalia the vaginal opening is also often sewn up – a practice called infibulation.

 

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has warned that the pandemic could lead to an extra two million girls worldwide being cut in the next decade as the crisis stymies global efforts to end the practice.

 

Allin said families in Somalia were taking advantage of school closures to carry out FGM so that the girls had time to recover from the ritual, which can take weeks.

 

The economic downturn caused by coronavirus has also spurred cutters to tout for more business, she said.

 

“The cutters have been knocking on doors, including mine, asking if there are young girls they can cut. I was so shocked,” said Allin, who has two daughters aged five and nine.

 

She said restrictions on movement during the lockdown were making it harder to raise awareness of the dangers of FGM in communities.

 

“FGM is one of the most extreme manifestations of violence against girls and women,” said Allin, who has been cut herself.

 

“It’s a lifetime torture for girls. The pain continues … until the girl goes to the grave. It impacts her education, ambition … everything.”

 

The UNFPA, which estimates 290,000 girls will be cut in Somalia in 2020, said the spike was also linked to Ramadan, which is a traditional time for girls to be cut.

 

UNFPA Somalia representative Anders Thomsen said the pandemic was shifting world attention and funding away from combatting FGM.

 

But he said there were also grounds for optimism, pointing to the recent criminalisation of FGM in neighbouring Sudan.

 

“There are glimmers of hope and we do hope and believe that may rub off on Somalia, which I would call ground zero for FGM,” he said.

 

New data also shows families are beginning to switch to less severe forms of FGM with 46% of 15 to 19-year-olds having been infibulated compared to more than 80% of their mothers.


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