Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation; Action in Asia is needed
By HIVOS and WADI
The Hague, Suleimania 5 February, 2014.
On the fourth official International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female genital mutilation (FGM), the practice is far from being eradicated. While the numbers of mutilated girls are decreasing in Africa after decades of concerted efforts, large regions where FGM is practiced are entirely neglected in this worldwide battle. This is particularly true for Asia. The practice is widespread in Indonesia and Malaysia, it exists in Iran, Iraq, and Jordan. In several countries of the Arabian peninsula FGM is practiced by relevant parts of the population.
These countries need to make an effort to fight FGM among their population. We also call upon Indonesia and Malaysia, where the practice is legally carried out in hospitals, to ban FGM and initiate a strong campaign against it. In some Arab countries and Iran the practice is not legal in hospitals, yet governments shy away from tackling the issue. As a first step reliable studies must be conducted and a campaign initiated. In some countries authorities must stop censuring voices that talk about FGM.
In Europe FGM deserves far more attention. The United Kingdom has seen an immense campaign this last year against the practice common among several migrant communities in Britain. France has taken some action. Yet, little to no campaigning has been seen in other European countries – even though migrant communities known to practice FGM are present in most European countries. It is more than likely that some have kept their tradition and practice FGM in their new homeland – just as has been found out for Britain. FGM can certainly not be viewed as a solely British problem. Governments and politicians all over Europe need to take initiative.
WADI and Hivos out of Africa approach
Currently, the United Nations and the World Health Organization estimate that 140 million girls and women have undergone an FGM procedure. Yet, data is mainly collected in Africa as last year’s, Unicef report on FGM worldwide showed. Activists need such data to support their demands; governments won’t act without it. Even the more, it was disappointing to find that plenty of countries had been forgotten in this overview.
Enough evidence exists which proves that FGM is not only an ‘African problem’ but also widespread in various parts of Asia including the Middle East. Not only in Iraq and Yemen, which are found on the FGM-map of the United Nations, but also in Indonesia, Malaysia, South Thailand, Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and many other places FGM is practiced. It stands to reason to estimate more than double the amount of FGM victims worldwide if all these countries were counted.
WADI and Hivos have taken it into their hands to bring the existence of FGM in these forgotten countries on the agenda and founded the initiative “Stop FGM Middle East” at the beginning of last year. A first field trip to Oman and a pilot-study were conducted. A prevalence of 80 percent in the capital of Oman – the most advanced and liberal part of the country – was found. This supports the thesis that FGM is indeed much more practiced in these countries than the often used phrase “practiced in Africa and pockets in the Middle East” implies.
The initiative “Stop FGM Middle East” has already yielded encouraging action. This year, people in Oman will be asked for the first time, about FGM in the UN designed Multi-Cluster Surveys.
In a next step, WADI and Hivos will hold a conference on FGM in the Middle East and Asia this May in Istanbul.
A promising example of what is possible to achieve in the fight against FGM in a remarkably short period of time can be witnessed in Iraq. Only three years ago, on June 20, 2011, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq adopted a comprehensive law against many forms of gender-related violence including FGM. It was a unique step in the whole region – and it was brought on the agenda by committed activists and NGOs. WADI, the organization at the heart of the combat against FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan, has been teaching and campaigning against FGM for nine years now. Since then, the rate of FGM has dropped rapidly in regions where WADI’s local teams campaigned against the practice – in some villages from more than 90% to zero.
Yet, also in the Kurdish region of Iraq, we are far from reaching the goal of eliminating FGM completely. The campaign must be kept up and extended. In central Iraq new campaigns are starting with the support of WADI.
Zero Tolerance Event
On February 10th, WADI will organize a round table discussion on FGM in cooperation with the consulate of the United States of America in Suleimania. Representative from one of the first Free FGM villages, local and international organizations, UNICEF and members of parliament will attend the event.
Note for the press:
For more information and suggestions for sources and speakers on the 6th of February, please contact the sender; see contact details below.
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