Global: In presence & absence of laws against, Female Genital Mutilation remains widespread Print E-mail


Tuesday February 06, 2018

Female genital mutilation painful, gory reality, world unites to end it

'Later when my menstruation began, because the opening was too tiny, the pain worsened even more.'
Deep in Ethiopia's desert region of Afar, about nine in 10 women and girls undergo female genital mutilation, many before their first birthday. (Representational Image)

Bekarredar (Ethiopia): The 25-year-old Kedija had her external genitalia removed and her vagina sewn up when she was just seven days old. She has faced a lifetime of pain.

"I was unable to hold my urine for long," she said.

"I isolated myself from socializing because of that. Later when my menstruation began, because the opening was too tiny, the pain worsened even more. And after I got married it was painful to have sexual intercourse with my husband."

Three childbirths later, she was diagnosed with near-fatal renal complications.

Deep in Ethiopia's desert region of Afar, about nine in 10 women and girls undergo female genital mutilation, many before their first birthday.

Campaigners on Tuesday marked the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM as they seek to end the practice. Nearly 200 million around the world live with its effects, the United Nations says.

Ethiopia's government has declared FGM illegal.

Addu Abdala Dubba used to perform the circumcisions. She sharpened a small blade against a steel rod to demonstrate how she prepared for the task.

"There were even times when I performed consecutive cuttings in one day with this one blade," she said. "But I carefully sanitized it after each circumcision by heating it in a fire or dipping it in hot water to avoid infection."

She once thought the job gave her a sense of purpose. She thought it helped women preserve their virginity and remain faithful in marriage - seen as essential to a family's honor.

But after attending trainings by the government and religious leaders, "I now understand this practice is wrong and it can destroy a child's future," she said.

Now she is a midwife and spreads the word about the dangers of FGM.

The lone primary hospital in Asaita, the former capital of Afar regional state, struggles to look after the women who have complications from FGM, especially during childbirth. A lack of funds has forced the hospital to operate with reduced staff for most of the past fiscal year.

Dr. Saleh Yusuf Imam, the medical director, said the hospital's counseling service has had some success in raising awareness.

After women who face difficulty with penetrative sex receive pain-free incisions in their vagina and post-treatment counseling, "we hear most of them vow to not let a single woman they know endure female genital mutilation ever again," he said.

There is still a long way to go in changing people's attitudes, he added.

Kedija, the 25-year-old, said she is determined to stop another generation of girls from suffering like she did.

"Whenever I find a parent that still insists on practicing female genital mutilation, I try to convince them otherwise," she said.

"But when my efforts are not enough to change their minds, then I always report them to local health facilities so that they can intervene.”
 Monday February 05, 2018

Three in four Bohra girls undergo genital mutilation: Study

Press Trust of India, New Delhi:

Representative image.

Every three in four girls from the Bohra community in India are forced to undergo genital mutilation during their pre-teens, according to a report made public today.

The findings of the study come in the backdrop of the Centre's affidavit in the Supreme Court, claiming that "at present, there was no official data or study (by the National Crime Records Bureau etc) which supported the existence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in India".

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), FGM comprises "all procedures that involve the altering or injuring of female genitalia for non-medical purposes and is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women".

The survey on the prevalence of FGM or "khafd" among the Bohras in the country also highlighted that in the urban areas increasingly doctors in medical facilities also performed FGM in addition to traditional cutters.

The report titled "The Clitoral Hood a Contested Site: Khafd or Female Genital Mutilation in India" was released by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor at an event here.

It has been prepared jointly by a survivors' collective called WeSpeakOut and Nari Samta Manch.

The study included responses from 94 participants, of which 83 were women survivors of FGM and 11 were men.

The survey was carried out in four Indian states with high concentration of the Bohras -- Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan -- as well as Kerala, where a few Sunni Muslim sects are known to practise FGM.

The Bohra community is a Shia sect of Muslims. Today there are three Bohra sects -- Dawoodi, Alvi and Suleimani who practise FGM.

The Bohra expats from Canada, the United Arab Emirates and the US, as well as traditional circumcisers and healthcare professionals, were also included in the sample.

The women surveyed were aged between 17 and 89 years. All the interviewees together had 81 daughters, of which six were too young, 55 were subjected to "khafd" and 20 were not.

This indicated that nearly 75 percent of the daughters underwent FGM, the study pointed out.

Further, these women cumulatively knew 1,248 women within their families who had undergone "khafd", i.e. each participant knew approximately 14 women in their family.

The study also included testimonies of survivors of FGM as well as traditional circumcisers.

One such cutter has been quoted in the report as saying that she has performed 6,000 "khafd" in 20 years of her practice and another confessed to cutting 4,800 to 6,000 girls over 50 years.

Often forceps, scissors, scalpels and blades are used to perform FGM.

Tharoor said that the findings of the study made the government's stance on the issue in the Supreme Court that there was no evidence of the practice "untenable".

The founder of WeSpeakOut demanded a law to ban the practice.

"By turning a blind eye and doing nothing about FGM, the government of India is denying women and girls their rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution. In keeping with its international human rights commitments under numerous treaty bodies, India must at once pass a law that bans the act of providing FGM," Founder of WeSpeakOut Masooma Ranalvi said.

Among the respondents subjected to "khafd", six were cut by medical doctors and 75 were cut by traditional cutters, the report said.

Those who have undergone "khafd" have reported painful urination, physical discomfort, difficulty in walking and bleeding immediately following the procedure. Some suffered from recurrent urinary tract infections and incontinence, in the long term.

Nearly 33 percent women subjected to "khafd" in the study said that it had negatively impacted their sexual life.

Many experienced fear, anxiety, depression, low self- esteem after undergoing FGM.

While supporters of the practice claim that "khafd" was practised by the Bohras and is just "a nick on the clitoral hood", the writer of the report said in reality what was practised was much more grievous.

"Most women subjected to khafd in India undergo Type 1 FGM or clitoridectomy which includes partial or total removal of the clitoral hood or clitoris. Very few younger women may be subjected to Type 4 FGM which includes pricking, piercing or cauterisation," Lakshmi Anantnarayan, writer of the report, said.

The report also warned that in the absence of a law banning the practice in India, the country was at the risk of becoming a hub for FGM for expat and foreign Bohra girls following a crackdown in Australia and the US.

A Bohra doctor was arrested in Michigan, the US, last year for allegedly performing female genital mutilation on two seven-year-olds.

In Australia, three people were convicted of FGM in a landmark trial in 2015.

An online petition initiated by WeSpeakOut on Change.Org has garnered over one lakh signatures. A copy of this was presented to Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi last year.

Subsequently, the minister promised to bring a law as well as write to the Syedna, the spiritual leader of the community, asking him to enforce a ban.

However, neither of these was done and the ministry has been maintaining a silence on this issue.

 Tuesday February 06, 2018

Lack of sex education contributing to female genital mutilation in India: Study

Absence of anti-FGM laws in the country has aided rise in incidents

FGM is being performed in the Bohra (a Shia Muslim sect) community and foreign girls in India, the study says. An absence of anti-FGM laws in the country has aided the rise in these incidents. File photo

A lack of sex education within families is an important factor contributing to the prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in India, according to a recent study titled "The Clitoral Hood A Contested Site."

FGM is being performed in the Bohra (a Shia Muslim sect) community and foreign girls in India, the study says. An absence of anti-FGM laws in the country has aided the rise in these incidents.

The main sources of sex education for the study participants were through friends, books or pornography. Most respondents had poor knowledge of women's sexual anatomy and were unfamiliar with proper language to discuss their body.

About 32% of study participants revealed that FGM had negatively impacted their sexual life. Several women had questions about FGM, its impact on women's sexual health, sexual pleasure and the anatomical structure. A majority of women did not know what was done to their bodies during FGM.

The study also revealed that about 75% of Bohra women in India (aged seven and above) are victims of FGM. In India, FGM is practised mainly in Dawoodi, Suleimani and Alvi Bohras in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and some Sunni sects in Kerala.

Recently, women have started to speak out against the practice of FGM and anti-FGM movements like WeSpeakOut and Sahiyo have succeeded in breaking the silence surrounding the practice.

Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi announced in May 2017 that the government intended to pass an anti-FGM law if the Bohra community did not abandon the practice.

However, no progress has been made till date. Moreover, the ministry has responded to the Supreme Court stating that “there is no official data or study which supports the existence of FGM/C in India.”

The study has revealed that around 37% of the women in Bohra community support FGM and around 65% are against it. The main reason behind the rise in the number of women against FGM is the daughters' strong position against FGM and confrontations with the parents due to pain and suffering.