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WORLD: Report published about FGM/C: A call for a global response

End FGM European Network (17.03.2020) – https://bit.ly/3afJQvc – Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C) is happening in far more countries around the world than widely acknowledged, and the number of women and girls who are affected is being woefully underestimated, finds a new global report.

 

FGM/C is occurring in at least 92 countries, but only 51 (55%) have specific legislation against the practice, leaving millions without adequate legal protection.

 

The End FGM European Network, the US Network to End FGM/C, and Equality Now have partnered to produce the report ‘Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Call for a Global Response’, bringing together for the first time wide-ranging information on the practise and pervasiveness of FGM/C in countries not currently included in official global data.

 

According to figures released by UNICEF in February 2020, at least 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM/C in 31 countries worldwide. This figure only includes states where there is available data from large-scale representative surveys, incorporating 27 countries from the African continent, together with Iraq, Yemen, the Maldives, and Indonesia.

 

Our research has now identified at least 60 other countries where the practice of FGM/C has been documented either through indirect estimates, small-scale studies, anecdotal evidence, and media reports.

 

The growing body of evidence featured in our report reveals that FGM/C is taking place in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, and North America. It also highlights key gaps in data availability and anti-FGM legislation.

 

FGM/C involves the partial or complete removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons, thereby interfering with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.

 

There are various types of FGM/C. It includes clitoridectomy, which is the partial or total removal of the clitoris, and excision, which involves the removal of the entire clitoris and the cutting of the labia minor.

 

In another form, known as infibulation, all external genitalia is removed and the two sides of the vulva are stitched together to leave only a small hole. Other procedures involve pricking, nicking, or in other ways damaging the female genitalia.

 

The procedure itself can be fatal, and data on the total number of deaths each year is unavailable. The practice has no health benefits and can have serious lifelong physical and psychological harm.

 

It is typically carried out on girls between infancy and age 18, with women occasionally subjected. While it is often done without anaesthetic, it is increasingly happening in medical settings performed by healthcare professionals.

 

Although the type and justifications for FGM/C can vary somewhat within different cultures, it is deeply rooted in gender inequality and often is a reflection of the patriarchal desire to control the sexuality of women and girls.

 

Despite mounting evidence demonstrating the global pervasiveness of FGM/C, levels of awareness and acknowledgement amongst government authorities and the general public remain unacceptably low.

 

The dearth of accurate data is enabling governments reluctant to tackle FGM/C to ignore the issue. Better statistical information is invaluable because it can help put pressure on states to take action and provides a baseline from which the scale and effectiveness of interventions can be measured.

 

Governments need to strengthen investment for evidence-based research and enact and enforce comprehensive laws and policies. There is also an urgent need to improve the wellbeing of survivors by providing critical support and services.

 

The international community and donors should bolster their global political commitment by increasing resources and investment into the provision of assistance to survivors and the empowerment of women and girls.

 

Dr. Ghada Khan, Network Coordinator of US End FGM/C Network said: “The global relevance of FGM/C, as highlighted in the findings of the report, once again calls for the collection and dissemination of reliable data on FGM/C prevalence across all regions, countries, and contexts in order to support FGM/C prevention efforts, and provide care and services to all women and girls who have undergone the practice worldwide.”

 

Accurate data also assists grassroots organizations and researchers to attract funding as a lack of financial backing is a major problem hampering the work of women’s rights activists.

 

Flavia Mwangovya, Global Lead at Equality Now said: “The stories shared by brave survivors and activists demonstrate how women across the world are uniting in their commitment to end this harmful practice, irrespective of the type of FGM involved or where it occurs. We owe it to survivors and those at risk to ensure that political commitments made by governments to end FGM are finally fulfilled.”

 

FGM/C is recognized as a human rights violation under international human rights law. In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to eliminate FGM/C, and in 2015, the 193 countries unanimously agreed to a new global target within the Sustainable Development Goals for the elimination of FGM/C by 2030 (SDG5).

 

Fiona Coyle, Director at the End FGM European Network said: “FGM must be recognized as a global issue that needs global prioritization. With only ten years to go to achieve the goal of zero girls undergoing FGM, we have no more time to waste. We need to work across communities, countries, and continents.

 

Everyone everywhere is called to substantially increase efforts towards the abandonment of FGM. We need increased political will, stronger laws and policies, increased community engagement, and increased investment to truly end this practice.”





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EU: MEP Assita Kanko: We are determined to put an end to Female Genital Mutilation

The European Parliament has approved a common resolution on a strategy to end the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) around the world, tabled by six political groups.

 

ECR Group (12.02.2020) – https://bit.ly/39KtgTQ – Speaking after the vote, ECR MEP and vocal campaigner for ending FGM Assita Kanko, who had the initiative to table the resolution, said:

 

“The European Parliament has today proved that certain issues go beyond political games. There is general consensus that we need to eliminate FGM. No less than 200 million girls and women today have to live with the often terrible consequences of their genital mutilation.

 

“Female Genital Mutilation is not only an African issue, far from it. All girls and women must have the opportunity to choose their own future.

 

“Through practical training, cooperation, information sharing, international diplomacy, and crucially through showing zero tolerance, the EU should aim to solve this issue at all levels of society.

 

“It takes a lot of courage to break a taboo. There must be zero tolerance when it comes to the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. It is a crime against your body, your mind, and your physical autonomy.”

 

As a young girl, Kanko herself became a victim of genital mutilation in her country of birth, Burkina Faso. She is also calling for support for survivors of this practice.





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AUSTRALIA: High Court rules female genital mutilation illegal in all forms

Three people charged with female genital mutilation offences against two primary school-aged sisters could face further punishment after the High Court ruled the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal erred in quashing their convictions.

 Warning: This story contains graphic details that may confront some readers.

 

By Elizabeth Byrne

ABC News (16.10.2019) – https://ab.co/2VMHfCF – In 2015, the girls’ mother and a former nurse Kubra Magennis were found guilty of two counts each of breaching the ban on female genital mutilation in NSW.

 

Dawoodi Bohra community leader Shabbir Mohammedbhai Vaziri was convicted of being an accessory.

 

All were sentenced to 15 months in jail but, while the women were allowed to spend the sentence out of custody, Mr Vaziri was jailed.

 

It was Australia’s first female genital mutilation prosecution.

 

But the charges were quashed by the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal last year, after the trio argued the ceremony was only ritualistic and new evidence showed there was no visible physical damage to either girl.

 

Today, in a divided ruling, the High Court found the law did cover the circumstances in the case and that it was meant to criminalise the practice in its various forms.

 ‘Skin only sniffs the steel’ in ceremony

 

The religious ceremony of Khatna is said to involve a girl’s clitoris being nicked or cut in the presence of elders.

 

The girls were believed to be aged six or seven when the ceremony was carried out at their homes, one in Wollongong and the other in Sydney, between 2009 and 2012.

 

At the original trial the eldest child had given evidence describing Khatna, saying “they give a little cut … in your private part” using a tool similar to a pair of scissors.

 

However, Ms Magennis said the ceremony had used forceps, not a blade, and the “symbolic” form of Khatna involved a “ceremony of touching the edge of the genital area … allowing the skin to sniff the steel”.

 

After the trio were convicted, a medical examination showed the tip of the clitoral head was visible in both girls, allowing them to argue successfully that the genitals were not mutilated.

 

The convictions were set aside but prosecutors sought an appeal to Australia’s top court, arguing the actions of the three had still breached the NSW law.

 

Today the majority of the High Court bench found in the NSW prosecution’s favour, deeming the trio’s actions illegal.

 

Retrial may cause girls psychological harm: Chief Justice

 

The case has been referred back to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal for further consideration about whether the jury’s verdict was unreasonable.

 

In a joint judgement with Justice Patrick Keane, Chief Justice Susan Kiefel said normally a new trial would be ordered, but in this case that may not be appropriate.

 

“[The victims] C1 and C2 were children when they were interviewed by police and when they gave evidence at a trial which took place in 2015,” she said.

 

“The trial judge, in considering whether C1 and C2 were compellable to give evidence against their mother, accepted that there was a likelihood that psychological harm might be caused to them.

 

“There could be little doubt that a second trial would compound that distress.”

 

Justices Virginia Bell and Stephen Gageler differed from the rest of the court taking a narrower view of the offence and argued that the Court of Criminal Appeal made the correct decision.

 

“The Court of Appeal was right to hold that superficial tissue damage, which leaves not physical scarring and which on medical examination is not shown to have caused any damage to the skin or nerve tissue, is not in law capable of amounting to mutilation,” they said.

 

The case has been listed for a call over in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal next week.





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USA: Top female GOP senators just introduced a bill to fight the abhorrent practice of female genital mutilation

By Andrea G. Bottner

 

Washington Examiner (28.06.2019) – https://washex.am/2LalqKT– Most Americans are shocked to hear that more than 200 million young women and girls around the world have been subjected to the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation. FGM is the cutting or removal of female genitalia for non-medical purposes: a practice that has no real health benefits yet brings lifelong physical and psychological consequences.

 

In 1996, the United States outlawed the practice, but — disturbingly — it still happens secretly here sometimes.

 

Last year, a U.S. district judge dismissed charges against two doctors who were charged with cutting or mutilating at least nine girls’ genitalia. The judge’s ruling wasn’t because there was any doubt as to whether these girls, as young as age seven, were brought by their mothers to the Detroit area for a procedure which left them permanently injured and in excruciating pain. Rather, the judge concluded that Congress did not have the authority to pass the 1996 law against FGM, because it had no impact on interstate commerce.

 

Now Congress is working to right this wrong.

Sens. Marsha Blackburn, Martha McSally, Joni Ernst, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Shelley Moore Capito, and Deb Fisher introduced the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2019 to amend federal law to make this practice a federal crime under several circumstances. This bill includes the requisite commerce clause language to address the district judge’s concerns and pretext for dismissing the Michigan case.

 

Blackburn and her colleagues are making it clear that Americans will not tolerate this abuse against our young women and girls. For that, they deserve commendation. But this isn’t the end of the fight against FGM.

 

Another way to further protect our young women and girls is by making certain all 50 states have laws on their books outlawing FGM. Currently, only 33 states have anti-FGM laws. There are still 17 states that need to recognize this violence and act to protect their young women and girls. Over the next several months, all 50 states should put anti-FGM laws in place or strengthen existing ones.

 

In addition to putting laws on the books, our state and federal leaders should identify education and outreach opportunities within at-risk communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 513,000 women and girls in the United States have experienced or are at risk of FGM. Our legislators should make resources available to train medical and law enforcement representatives to recognize and prevent the practice.

 

Currently, the Violence Against Women Act is being considered in the Senate. Senators should make sure anti-FGM efforts are included in this important legislation and that VAWA’s funding is available to those who seek to end this practice, which is unquestionably a form of violence against women.

 

There is much to do, but today, Blackburn began that work and stood up for vulnerable young women and girls. Her colleagues from both sides of the aisle should join her and take this important step to protect young women and girls from a practice that should have no place in this country.


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