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Friday 31 October  
Female Circumcision
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Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

New Dutch campaign against female circumcision

Published on : 10 March 2011 - 2:27pm | By (Photo: RNW)
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A Declaration against Female Circumcision is the latest weapon to help migrant parents prevent their daughters from undergoing the procedure. With the document in hand they can show their relatives in their home countries that the female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM) is illegal in the Netherlands.

The Dutch health service (GGD) believes there are around 25,000 girls in the Netherlands at risk of FGM. The procedure is unnecessary, extremely painful and dangerous, say the health authorities. The trick is to bring the subject out into the open. Parents should be made to feel able to discuss why they want their daughters circumcised, says paediatrician Dr Feuth.

“We are trying to enter into a dialogue with parents and to inform them about the risks.  The procedure itself can cause infection or serious loss of blood. Girls can even die as a result. The health service lso informs parents about the social and psychological consequences for the child and about how she experiences sex later in life.”

Tradition
Most victims of FGM come from Africa. Although people in African countries do realise that it is genital mutilation and can be risky, many African migrants continue the practice.

As it is banned in the Netherlands, most girls are circumcised during holidays to their country of origin. Five years ago, 32-year-old Fatima Diallo from Guinea took her five-year-old daughter back home with her. Her circumcision was brought up almost immediately.

“My sister-in-law wanted to do it herself. I said: ‘Don’t touch her. Don’t touch my child. It is not going to happen.’ Then she told me, ‘It happened to your grandmother, your mother and your sister. Why shouldn’t it happen to you? Why?"

Change in mentality
"Sometimes parents do it because of their faith, sometimes they have different motives", says Somalian Zahra Naleie, of the Federation of Somalian Associations in the Netherlands, which has been campaigning against female genital mutilation for years.

“In Sierra Leone, they say it’s tradition. In Somalia and Sudan they say it’s to do with Islam. But more often than not it’s a cultural practice which people perpetuate.”

Naleie thinks banning the practice is not enough. Raising awareness should lead to a change in mentality. Female genital mutilation is taboo, even within families.

Official document
This is not the first attempt by the Netherlands to draw attention to FGM. Since 2009, migrant parents can sign a similar document at child health clinics. The main difference this time is that the document carries a stamp from the ministries of health and justice.

Ms Naleie thinks the declaration does make an impression when parents have to defend their decision to relatives: “It is an official government document, signed by two ministries. Real proof. My mother can show the family during my holiday that it’s illegal in the Netherlands.”

The declaration is translated into various languages so that relatives can read it themselves. Parents from countries where female circumcision is common practice are given a copy of the declaration when their child is born.

(nc/js)

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Related articles:
Reversing female circumcision remains taboo

External links:
Brochure on female circumcision/female genital mutilation
 

Discussion

avra cohen 3 June 2014 - 6:22am / United States of America

Re: "In my experience, this is not an African practice but an Islamic one and must be recognized as such."

Perhaps Dr. Anderson's experience is limited. FGM is neither confined to Africa nor to Muslim communities, though both may comprise the nexus for its prevalence.

Medical anthropologist Carla Obermeyer writes:
"Regarding religious differences, it is now generally recognized that even though a number of the countries where female genital surgeries are found are predominantly Muslim, the practices are not prescribed by Islam and are, in fact, found among non-Muslim groups such as the Coptic Christians of Egypt, several Christian groups in Kenya, and the Falasha Jews of Ethiopia. In CDI (Ivory Coast), the prevalence is 80 percent among Muslims, 40 percent among those with no religion, and 15 percent among Protestants, and in Sudan the prevalence among Christian women is lower than among Muslim women (DHS 1989-90). In Kenya, by contrast, prevalence is highest among Catholics and Protestants compared with other religious groups (MYWO 1991). Thus, there is no unequivocal link between religion and prevalence." - Carla Obermeyer, 1999

(Obermeyer, Carla Makhlouf. "Female Genital Surgeries: The Known, the Unknown, and the Unknowable", Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 13(1), March 1999 (pp. 79–106), p. 88)

Not only does this misperception foster religious prejudice and anti-Islamic hatred, it detracts from the sociological roots of FGM being seen as an extension of patriarchal control in cultures where women are still regarded as property of sorts.

I am reminded that in my own country (U.S.) when I was coming of age, it had only been a matter of a few decades that women had been allowed to vote. I was astounded by that notion then, and I still am. So as much as I abhor FGM and many other practices that oppress women, I am well aware that my own culture is only very recently evolved toward a somewhat (and only somewhat) more egalitarian view of gender relations.

Thus I am offended that someone, especially someone who should know better, would disparage an entire faith by blaming it for FGM. Religious views are but one of several factors that predict its practice. Different schools of Islamic jurisprudence have expressed different views on FGM ranging from obligatory to permitted to forbidden.

Islamic religious views against FGM revolve around the precept that mutilation of human beings is against Koranic teaching. The former Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa stated in 2007 that "excision is a practice totally banned by Islam because of the compelling evidence of the extensive damage it causes to women's bodies and minds." Egyptian Islamist scholars such as Mohammed Emara and Mohammad Salim Al-Awa have opposed FGM, arguing that it is not an Islamic practice and is not endorsed by Islamic jurisprudence.

"Doctor heal thyself."

Respectfully,
avra

Brian Anderson 13 April 2011 - 10:09am / New Zealand

I agree entirely that the erroneous term 'circumcision' should never be used for this practice. Another form of 'sanitizing' is referring to it as an African practice. I worked in Africa as a doctor for 3 years and saw many of these unfortunate women. Most of the ones I saw was while working at a hospital in North Ghana right on the border with Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) and, without exception, all the women came from tribes practicing Islam.
I note that the woman quoted in the article has the name 'Fatima' suggesting that she comes from an 'Islamic' African family.
In my experience, this is not an African practice but an Islamic one and must be recognized as such.
The obstetric complications of this practice are horrific often leading to incontinence of both faeces and urine from prolonged low obstruction and tearing. I found it difficult to understand how any woman could inflict it on her daughter - except, of course, under huge societal pressure!

Willem G 12 March 2011 - 1:23am / Netherlands

What is wrong with your Editors/Reporters? Is your command of English that poor? As knirb points out, why do you perpetuate the journalistic 'sanitizing' of the proper, and internationally accepted term - female genital mutilation?
Circumcision would be a proper noun if the hood of the clitoris were removed. But in these cases the hood, clitoris and labia are amputated.
Why do you continue to minimize how invasive this practice is by the use of improper and inappropriate language? Or are you just the stereotypical bull-headed Dutch males that won't admit when they are wrong? Didn't you learn anything from the comments to your previous coverage? (http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/reversing-female-circumcision-remains-...) Shame on you again!

Willem G 12 March 2011 - 1:23am / Netherlands

What is wrong with your Editors/Reporters? Is your command of English that poor? As knirb points out, why do you perpetuate the journalistic 'sanitizing' of the proper, and internationally accepted term - female genital mutilation?
Circumcision would be a proper noun if the hood of the clitoris were removed. But in these cases the hood, clitoris and labia are amputated.
Why do you continue to minimize how invasive this practice is by the use of improper and inappropriate language? Or are you just the stereotypical bull-headed Dutch males that won't admit when they are wrong? Didn't you learn anything from the comments to your previous coverage? (http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/reversing-female-circumcision-remains-...) Shame on you again!

user avatar
knirb 11 March 2011 - 3:08am

Again the sanitizing word "circumcision" is used when it is completely inappropriate. Your first paragraph should read "genital mutilation, also (erroneously) referred to as female circumcision".
For the sake of honesty, you would then drop the word circumcision unless it is an accurate descriptor rather than waffling back and forth. The only other acceptable term for this practice is amputation, which is the most common form of mutilation. I don't think there would be so much opposition to this practice if it were restricted to a tiny ritual cut.
There is no reason to mince words when the World Health Organization doesn't:
http://nowscape.com/islam/FGM-types.htm
Education and declarations are wonderful steps, but without the political will to follow through with mandatory education and legal action this would be just another paper tiger. I see no mention of either.

ulaganathan.m 11 March 2011 - 1:39am / india

it is a heinous crime,that a very sensitive portion of vagina be mutilated.
m.ulaganathan
thiruneelakudi
india

jasmin 10 March 2011 - 3:41pm / India

Hope it helps..

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