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AKNEWS | 19.06.2011. original text

Bill to ban female genital mutilation before parliament

By Patrick Smith, contributions from Mohammed Abdul-Rahamn

Erbil, June 19 (AKnews) – The Kurdistan parliament will discuss a bill on domestic violence tomorrow, which proposes the criminalization of female circumcision.

The trend, is more widespread in Kurdistan than the surrounding countries, despite awareness raising campaigns carried out by civil society organizations and the media.

It is practiced particularly commonly in rural areas. A German-Iraqi study conducted in 2007/08 showed more than 77 percent of female interviewees aged 14 and over in the Kurdish province of Sulaimaniya had undergone the procedure.

The practice is often carried out at home and by people without medical training. When not done properly the girls, who are often as young as ten, can have lasting damage and in extreme cases die from loss of blood or infection.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report last year that showed that there are at least four factors driving this: a link to Kurdish identity, a religious imperative, social pressure, and an attempt to control a woman's sexuality.

"It's time for the regional government to step up to the plate and take concrete actions to eliminate this harmful practice because it simply won't go away on its own," said Nadya Khalife, HRW Middle East women's rights researcher.

It is estimated that more than 130 million women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, western and southern Asia and parts of the Middle East.

It is not clear how a law, seeking to stop a practice that is not carried out though official means, would be enforced.

Kurdistan's health minister, Taher Hawrami, said authorities are distributing posters to promote awareness, but he said religious leaders should do more to end the practice.

"The clerics should take on the main role. People need to have better understanding of religion in order to give up this phenomenon."

The bill also seeks to curb fathers beating their children and forced marriages.