Ofsted to quiz heads on efforts to stop female genital mutilation School inspectors are to question headteachers on their efforts to combat female genital mutilation (FGM), as part of a government attempt to ensure public bodies live up to their responsibilities to protect children from the practice.
Ofsted to quiz heads on efforts to stop female genital mutilation
School inspectors are to question headteachers on their efforts to combat female genital mutilation (FGM), as part of a government attempt to ensure public bodies live up to their responsibilities to protect children from the practice.
Ofsted officials will demand proof that schools have "safeguarding policies" which deal with FGM, including training their staff to identify "at risk" pupils and inform the police if they believe girls are in danger of being taken abroad to undergo the agonising procedure.
Proposals to introduce a specific question on FGM into the standard school inspection procedure were agreed at the Home Office last week, during a "round-table" debate about ways of stamping out the practice. The debate took place amid growing fears that thousands of British schoolgirls are taken back to their parents' home countries every year to be forcibly mutilated.
Prosecutors fear the fight against FGM is being hindered by the failure of many public authorities to maintain data on the practice, or to devise policies to identify and tackle it.
An IoS survey last week revealed that barely 50 out of more than 500 UK councils, hospitals and police forces could produce figures on the incidence of girls or women found to have suffered FGM, or deemed to be at risk of it.
An action plan spearheaded by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has set out the demand for the collection of "more robust data on allegations of FGM, so the scale of the problem can be gauged".
The Conservative MP Jane Ellison, chair of the all-party FGM group, said Ofsted inspections were a perfect opportunity to ensure schools were meeting their responsibilities.
"Ofsted are already training their own inspectors on FGM. Asking a specific question on the subject during their inspections will ensure that everyone is doing what is expected of them," she said.
"There is nothing that concentrates a school's mind more than the thought that a negative comment on any issue might appear in their inspection report."
Migrants from Europe bringing girls to tolerant Britain for genital mutilation
The UK has a reputation for being so tolerant of female genital mutilation (FGM) that parents from some African communities in mainland Europe are bringing their daughters to Britain solely to have them cut – "sometimes during group sessions" – BBC's Newsnight discovered. While the penalties are tough in France – more than 100 people have been convicted there, serving prison sentences of up to 13 years – Britain has never carried out a single prosecution for FGM.
Some 20,000 girls are at risk of being mutilated in cities across Britain, according to Forward, the leading group campaigning in the UK against FGM.
Amina Yahaya, an 18-year-old British-Somali student living in Bristol, said she knew of "FGM parties" being held in the city. "They cut them all together, as a group," she explained, "because it is cheaper. At first, the girls are all excited because it's a party, until they realise what is going to happen, and then they get frightened."
Nine jailed for 'female genital mutilation'
Nine women have been sentenced to jail terms for the female circumcision of around 30 young girls, in what the UN said was the first criminal prosecution of its kind in Ivory Coast.
The women, aged between 46 and 91, were found guilty of "female genital mutilation" or complicity on Wednesday and each sentenced to a year in jail and a 75- euro ($90-dollar) fine.
Although UN officials said they did not expect them to serve their sentences due to their age, they welcomed the convictions as an important first step.
"This sentence is the first of its kind in Ivory Coast" and would help to prevent future cases of female circumcision, Patrick Yedress of the United Nations Operation in Ivory Coast (UNOCI), told AFP at court.
The circumcisions were carried out during a ritual ceremony in the northern town of Katiola in February.
In the past, there were arrests of women who had conducted circumcisions, but the cases were settled without going to court following the intervention of relatives and local communities, said Suzanne Maiga of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
A national inquiry in 2006 found that female circumcision affected 36 percent of the female population. A UN study put the figure at 42 percent.
The practice is particularly prevalent among northern Muslims and animists in the west of the country where up to 80 percent of females are circumcised despite a 1998 ban and numerous initiatives aimed at eradicating it.
Last year a three-year-old girl from near Katiola died after undergoing the procedure.
|A woman who performs genital cutting shows a knife she uses during a gathering to denounce excision in Abidjan. |
Image by: AFP PHOTO KAMBOU SIA
The infant, who died of a haemorrage, belonged to the Embera-Chami tribe in the Valle de Cauca department, which pledged in 2010 to end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).
The mayor of Ansermanuevo, Jose Luis Herrera, said the baby had left the hospital in good health. "The case [has been referred] to the governor of the community, because they had promised to stop these activities," he said.
The death of a young Embera-Chami girl in 2007 brought attention to the practice of FGM among the tribe, which has a population of about 5,000.
The United Nations Population Fund approached Embera-Chami leaders to ask if it could start a community project exploring the origins of FGM in the tribe and teaching about the physical and psychological harm it causes.
It was discovered it probably dated from the time of colonial rule, when there had been a lot of contact with African communities brought to Colombia as slaves.
After one year of work, the community decided it would stop the practice for a trial period of two years. At the end of the two years, it was decided to end the practice permanently and enforce severe punishments for anyone who carried it out.Source: http://www.colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/23792-colombian-baby-girl-dies-after-circumcision.html
Annual Report 2011 for the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
Direct Link to Full Report: http://www.unfpa.org/webdav/site/global/shared/documents/publications/2012/Annual_Report_2011.pdf
The Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is being carried out in 15 African countries: Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Senegal, Somalia and Sudan.
The 2011 annual report highlights the gains, challenges and best practices for the abandonment of FGM/C and offers select indicators on progress in policy and advocacy, capacity building, partnerships and media coverage. FGM/C campaign highlights in 2011 included a West African fatwa against cutting, Guinea-Bissau’s criminalization of FGM/C and the high rate of abandonment in Senegal, where 760 communities declared an end to cutting and child/forced marriage.
In addition, up to 8,000 African communities declared their abandonment of female genital mutilation/cutting, more than 18,000 community education sessions were held and almost 3,000 religious leaders publicly declared that the rite should end.
The report also features extensive information on progress by each of the 15 countries.
In 2011, a continuing core feature of the programme was not only forging partnerships but also ongoing offers of technical support and information to relevant parties, including to the General Assembly and the World Health Assembly. In addition, the programme maintained advocacy and discussions with the British Parliament debating FGM/C; participated in helping to start a research institute on FGM/C in Nairobi; and took part at an African Union meeting on harmful traditional practices.
2,000 More African Communities End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in 2011
UNITED NATIONS, New York— Almost 2,000 communities across Africa have abandoned female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in 2011. This brought the total number of communities renouncing the practice to 8,000 over the last few years, according to new findings by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.
“These encouraging findings show that social norms and cultural practices are changing, and communities are uniting to protect the rights of girls and women,” said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, on the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM/C, 6 February. “We call on the global community to join us in this critical effort. Together, we can end FGM/C in one generation and help millions of girls and women to live healthier, fuller lives, and reach their potential.”
The new report, Key Results and Highlights 2011, was issued by the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme for the Acceleration of the Abandonment of FGM/C. Set up in 2008, the initiative aims to end a practice with serious immediate and long-term health effects and that violates girls’ and women’s human rights.
Each year, around 3 million girls and women—or some 8,000 girls each day—face the risk of mutilation or cutting. An estimated 130 million to 140 million girls and women have undergone the practice, mostly in Africa and some countries in Asia and the Middle East.
The new highlights show that, with support from UNFPA and UNICEF, efforts against FGM/C have yielded encouraging results during 2011. Throughout Africa, more than 18,000 community education sessions were held, almost 3,000 religious leaders publicly declared that the rite should end, and more than 3,000 media features have covered the subject.
Consequently, almost 2,000 communities declared their abandonment of the practice during the year. Celebrations to voice such declarations were attended by government officials, Muslim imams, Catholic and Protestant priests, traditional village and clan leaders and thousands others in countries such as Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gambia, Senegal, Kenya and Somalia. Kenya’s parliament passed a bill prohibiting FGM/C; 13 Sudanese states have launched initiatives to abandon the practice; and more than 3,600 families with girls at risk in Egypt have come out against the practice. In addition, a West African fatwa against cutting was issued by religious leaders from Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Egypt.
The UNFPA-UNICEF joint programme on FGM/C speeds change through a culturally sensitive, human rights-based approach that promotes collective abandonment of the practice. That includes engaging all community groups, such as traditional and religious leaders, women, men and young girls themselves, in discussing the harms of the practice, while highlighting that it is not a religious requirement. The programme also supports legislation and policies against the practice.
STATE OF THE WORLD'S CHILDREN 2011 - ADOLESCENTS
Direct Link to 148-Page Full UNICEF Report:http://www.unicef.org/sowc2011/pdfs/SOWC-2011-Main-Report_EN_02092011.pdf
ADOLESCENT GIRLS - RISKS OF EARLY MARRIAGE & MOTHERHOOD
Pages 22-24 - "Child marriage, often deemed by elders to protect girls from sexual predation, promiscuity and social ostracism, in fact makes them more likely to be ignorant about health and more vulnerable to school dropout. Many adolescent girls are required to marry early; and when they become pregnant, they face a much higher risk of maternal mortality, as their bodies are not mature enough to cope with the experience.
The younger a girl is when she becomes pregnant, whether she is married or not, the greater the risks to her health. Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death worldwide for adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19.
For girls, child marriage is also associated with an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. Research suggests that adolescent pregnancy is related to factors beyond girls' control."
New Report Offers Breakthrough to Ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
The Dynamics of Social Change: Towards the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Five African Countries (FLORENCE, Italy 18 November 2010)
A new report provides evidence on how communities across Africa are ending female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), despite strong countervailing social pressures (www.unicef.org/media/media_56877.html).
The Dynamics of Social Change: Towards the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Five African Countries - from UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre - provides solutions and examples of communities ending the practice. The report examines what conditions are necessary for a consensus to abandon FGM/C and identifies strategies for sustainable abandonment. See a short documentary at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsdeI5JkbEo
The report is also a reminder that changing behavioural practices (social norms) - which may have endured for centuries - is a complex process that takes time. The Dynamics of Social Change finds that the most effective abandonment initiatives frame the discussion surrounding FGM/C in a non-threatening way; reinforce the positive aspects of local culture; and build community trust by implementing development projects that address local needs. This demonstrates that new ideas come with good intentions and with the goal of improving their lives. Successful abandonment programmes involve respected community members, including religious and local leaders, and engage social networks and institutions. They use legislative reform, national policies and the media to enable and support the process.
"A family's decision to practice or abandon FGM/C
is influenced by powerful social rewards and sanctions," said Gordon
Alexander, Director a.i. of the Innocenti Research Centre.
"Understanding the diverse social dynamics that perpetuate FGM/C is
changing the way in which abandonment is approached. There is no one
answer, no one way, and no quick fix. But there is progress. These
efforts need to be scaled up to bring change in the lives of girls,
The Innocenti Research Centre report (with data at the foot of this PR) examines a number of promising strategies that are supporting communities in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal and the Sudan to abandon FGM/C.
Millions of girls worldwide are cut or mutilated each year. The practice, a serious violation of their human rights, can cause severe, lifelong health problems including bleeding, problems urinating, childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
Religion, tradition and culture are also often cited by families as reasons for cutting their daughters. Many communities, for example, believe that FGM/C is mandated by religious doctrine, despite the fact that no major religion requires it. The report reveals that one of the key factors that motivate parents' decision to have their girls cut - 'to do what is best for their daughters' - may also spur a decision to stop the practice, once social norms evolve and social expectations change.
"The report is an important contribution to our collective understanding of how widespread and sustainable change can be made in communities," said Mr. Alexander. "It also has enormous implications for how we address both FGM/C and other harmful practices and forms of violence against girls and women, such as forced and child marriage that are influenced by similar social dynamics."
Despite the progress that has been made in intervention communities - particularly in Senegal - national FGM/C prevalence rates still remain high in Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sudan. There has, however, been a significant change in attitudes about FGM/C in all three countries, indicating that individuals are questioning the merits of these practices and would prefer, circumstances permitting, not to have their daughters, wives, sisters and cousins undergo FGM/C.
Estimates on how many girls and women worldwide have been cut vary from 70 million to 140 million. In Africa, an estimated three million girls and women are at risk for FGM/C each year. The practice is also found in some countries Asia and the Middle East, and to a lesser extent within some immigrant communities in Europe, and in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America.
Some figures: FGM/C prevalence and attitudes*
* Data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal. Data for Sudan from the Sudan 1989-90 DHS and 2006 Sudan Household Health Survey
A doctor in Egypt is being taken to court for carrying out an illegal operation to circumcise young girls.
It follows the death of a 13-year-old, from a village in the Nile Delta, in the north of the country.
An investigation has raised fears that the practice of female
genital mutilation, which was banned two years ago, is still widespread
See the full report here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11160935
FGM - UK - British Girls Undergo
Horror of Genital Mutilation Despite Tough Laws
Female circumcision will be inflicted on up to 2,000 British schoolgirls during the summer holidays - leaving brutal physical and emotional scars. Yet there have been no prosecutions against the practice.
FGM Affects Girls and Women in the UK
The World Health Organisation estimates that 3 million girls undergo some form of the procedure every year. It is practised in 28 countries in Africa and some in the Middle East and Asia. FGM is also found in the UK amougst members of migrant communities. It is estimated that up to 24,000 girls in the UK, under the age of 15 are at risk of FGM.
UK communities that are most at risk of FGM include Kenyans, Somalis, Sudanese, Sierra Leoneans, Egyptians, Nigerians and Eritreans. Non African communities that practise FGM include Yemeni, Kurdish, Indonesian and Pakistani.
- Female genital mutilation, also known as cutting, is practised in 28 African countries. The prevalence rate ranges from 98% of girls in Somalia to 5% in Zaire. It also takes place among ethnic groups in the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand.
- Until the 1950s FGM was used in England and the US as a "treatment" for lesbianism, masturbation, hysteria, epilepsy and other "female deviances".
- A survey in Kenya found a fourfold drop in FGM rates among girls who had secondary education.
- Reasons for the practice include conforming to social norms, enhancing sexual pleasure for men and reducing it for women, cleanliness and chastity.
- No European country accepts the threat of FGM as a reason for asylum.
- In Sudan, 20-25% of female infertility has been linked to FGM complications.
- In Chad, girls have begun to seek FGM without pressure from their immediate family, believing that to be "sewn up" proves they are virginal and clean. The fashion has led to uncircumcised girls being labelled "dirty".
A Future Without Female Genital Mutilation
As a young girl, Sudanese Voices of Our Future correspondent Halima Mohamed Abdel Rahman was circumcised at the hands of the elder women of her community. Now an advocate for the practice's abolition, she shares her own story and calls out for reform.
|Other women are usually the practitioners of FGM, with most men considering it a "woman's affair." |
Photo © Peter Arnold
I remember being forced to lie down on three old mattresses: two stretched on an angareb (a wooden bed popular in Sudan); the other plied under my torso. My midwife Hajja sat on a low wooden stool. Our eyes met as she faced my naked body.
“Now you are a woman,” she said. “A real woman never cries. I will remove this dirt, and you will become clean, a real Muslim.”
There were several women around me during the ritual. Two took hold of my thighs, while two others firmly held my arms. Another sat behind me and put my head on her lap. With her right hand she covered my eyes. As she put her left arm on my chest, she must have felt my heart beating fast because she said, “Honor your father’s name. Don’t be afraid; this is not painful. You have seen your sister and your cousins. They did not cry.” I didn’t dare utter a sound as tears ran down my face.
“In the name of Allah Most Gracious, Most Merciful,” Hajja said. She raised her fat hand, ornamented with golden bracelets, and addressed the women around her. “Open her widely,” she murmured.
I felt the fingers of her left hand moving my nudity apart and then a sharp needle piercing my flesh up and down and in the middle. I cried at the top of my voice and tried to raise my torso to kick the two women who were firmly holding my thighs.
“Oh women, hold her firmly!” Hajja cried.
I was anesthetic resistant.
Suddenly, she started cutting. The pain was excruciating. I cried like a mad person. Her head was bent between my thighs, but I felt as if she was cutting in the middle of my skull. More women were called to hold me down. Some of them nicknamed me coward.
Hajja called one of the old ladies over and asked, “Does everything look okay?”
“No, no,” said the old woman, “Cut this piece. Yes, this one. And remove her clitoris. What is the use of it? And, remove the dirt. Do as I tell you.” It was Grandmother Amna, doing her best to establish herself as the expert in the anatomy of young girls.
Again Hajja bent between my thighs and cut me with the razor. Or perhaps it was a kitchen knife. I was sure of one thing only: She wasn’t wearing gloves or covering her head. She wore only her white short dress. She was fat and stout and mowed my flesh with no mercy.
And then came the stitches: nine in all, causing me pain and panic whenever I tried to move.
I was only 6 years old—too tiny to struggle.
Between Two Atrocities
The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that in Africa about three million girls are at risk for this barbaric practice annually.
My country of Sudan ranks fifth among countries practicing female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide. According to a UNICEF report, 89% of Sudanese women are circumcised. That’s roughly 14 million women and girls.
In Sudan, there are three types of FGM practiced today: ‘Sunna’, removal of the hood and part of the clitoris; Clitoridectomy, removal of the clitoris and adjacent labia; and Infibulation, which consists of a complete Clitoridectomy as well as stitching of the labia, allowing only a small gap for urine and menstrual blood to pass through. In my point of view type one is the least practiced.
This past February the Sudanese government legalized the Sunna form of FGM. The Council of Ministers dropped the 13th article of the 2009 Children’s Act which banned FGM to take into account the Islamic fatwa that distinguishes “harmful” circumcision—Infibulation, Clitoridectomy, from less extensive procedures like Sunna.
Ironically, this decision came just one day before the world celebrated International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation.With this decision, my dear homeland has taken decades of work against these practices back to square one...
History of Resistance
FGM was declared illegal in Sudan in 1941, but the practice has continued with little interruption.
Successive national surveys between 1979 and 1983 recorded that 96% of women have undergone FGM. In 1991, this percentage dropped to 89%. And now, in 2009, the UNICEF World Report on Children shows a drop of only 7.3%. This gradual shift in public attitudes toward FGM has been due in large part to efforts led by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like Babikir Badri Scientific Studies Association on Women Studies (BBSAWS) in coordination with many other autonomous organizations and individuals. It is worth noting that BBSAWS was the first local NGO to shoulder the struggle against FGM in Sudan.
Several factors contribute to the prevalence of circumcision, including the absence of a long-term strategy against the practice, no implementation of strict measures to defend children, the concentration of NGOs in urban centers, associating circumcision with Islam, dominance of silly notions that FGM is a kind of purification and beautification, and the existence of beneficiaries who are resistant to change.
But our government’s legalization of the practice is the major obstacle. Whenever FGM is legal, it destroys efforts undertaken by NGOs, turns ethnic groups into advocators, and codifies the presence of groups who are officially supported to derive their livelihood from the profession, not to mention an increase of propaganda used to promote the practice.
Stigma and Economics
In Sudan, it is the women who shoulder the biggest responsibility for excisions. They are the practitioners and the supporters, while the majority of Sudanese men consider it “women’s affairs.”
Mothers and grandmothers who were victims of circumcision almost always request infibulations or the “Pharaonic” type of excision. The midwives get around the laws by claiming that they only perform “Sunna,” when in reality they practice only type two and three.
Midwives, like Hajaa Zeinab, never fail to honor a client’s request. They work in accordance with the law of supply and demand, not the law of the land. By doing so, they pull women into a vicious cycle of circumcision, decircumcision (tasheem) and recircumcision (adlah). The latter is normally performed to tighten a woman after giving birth.
Moreover, midwives have their own means of propaganda and advertising to increase their business. Whenever such a midwife is among a large number of women, she tells stories about uncircumcised girls being always dirty even if they spend the whole day showering. Of course, circumcised girls are always described by the famous phrase, “waa halati,” meaning, “what a nice girl!”
The gloomy picture reflected by my story does not deny the light at the end of the tunnel.
Change is in process. It will not happen overnight, but with persistence, proper education, and consistency, it is within reach.
I believe that in order to stop FGM in Sudan (and worldwide), civil society organizations, NGOs, artists, writers, dramatists, cartoonist, musicians, activists, media practitioners, physicians, the whole family, etc, must continue to pressure governments to not support this practice.
Continuation of personal efforts is a must. I, for one, prevented my young nieces from having to endure excision and convinced two illiterate mothers to abandon the practice.
I believe that an effective cure for this disease will have to involve personal and collective trials discussions. Men and women who don't practice female circumcision need to come in the open, and not hide in shame.
I recently received an email from a man named Mohamed Ahmed. He wrote, “As a man I didn't find it difficult to say I am married to an uncircumcised woman, and my 22-year-old daughter is not circumcised. This helped me in convincing many relatives and friends throughout more than 27 years to not practice FGM." I received his message with hope and great appreciation.
For the sake of my daughter from whose eyes beam a promising tomorrow and who brings seeds of change, I will continue to work at home and through the media to put an end to FGM.