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Genital-Mutilation or FGM

Aug 30 2017

MUMBAI: At a time when voices of dissent against khatna or female genital mutilation(FGM) performed on little girls in the Dawoodi Bohra community are getting stronger, a group of six Bohra women, including two doctors, have formed a group called Dawoodi BohraWomen for Religious Freedom (DBWRF) in support of female circumcision.

While the subject is still being debated in legal and medical circles in India, the involvement of two doctors as founders of the group endorsing khatna or khafz - a procedure where a pinch of skin from the clitoral hood of girls between the ages of six and twelve is sliced off on religious grounds, in silence and secrecy - can warrant action if brought to the attention of the 
Indian Medical Association (IMA), D


"DBWRF has been formed to give voice to mainstream Dawoodi Bohra women who have been taken for granted as a community. We are here to say that we have a right under the constitution to practise something that is harmless. We don't need a law that victimises a minority community," claimed Dr Fatema Jetpurwala, a homeopath and specialist in neuro-developmental disabilities at Saifee Hospital who is among the founders alongside Dr Alefiya Bapai, a gynaecologist and laparoscopic surgeon at Saifee Hospital; Nafisa Kagalwala, a teacher; Batul Ratlamwala, a home chef; Rashida Diwan, an educator; and Johra Attarwala, a counsellor.

The involvement of doctors in endorsing the act "goes against medical ethics" Aggarwal said. "IMA is a signatory to the 
World Medical Association's policy cleared at Taipei in October 2016. We condemn the practice of genital mutilation or cutting of women and girls, regardless of the level of mutilation. It is not scientific and we oppose the participation of physicians in these practices," he said.

Although DBWRF believes religion gives them the freedom to practise the custom and offers reasons for its continuation, "these reasons do not justify the 
considerable damages to a woman's physical and mental health in the long run", said Dr Duru Shah, scientific director of Gynaecworld in Mumbai. "There is no evidence-based material available that talks about the utility of female circumcision but enough to prove that it harms... No doctor should practise it," added Aggarwal.

Aggarwal said, "If I read a report or someone raises a complaint about a doctor propagating FGM, IMA will take it up. The doctor will have to show institutional permissions and offer scientific explanations since it is not an established procedure. We will also refer the matter to the ethical committee of the Medical Council of India for further probe."

While international organisations such as WHO and countries like the US, UK, Australia and some African nations are using laws to restrict, regulate, or ban the practice considered an extreme form of human rights violation, Jetpurwala insists 'female circumcision' and 'FGM' are different things. "Khafz is harmless and should not be mixed up with FGM. It is a travesty of justice to call khafz, FGM," reasoned Jetpurwala. According to DBWRF, the removal of a speck of superficial skin is a "simple gentle process in which there is negligible if any, pain". She claims that it is done to "satisfy the religious requirement of taharat (religious purity)" and argues 

that female circumcision is equivalent to male circumcision, which Shah and Aggarwal dismiss.
"Female circumcision has no medical benefit unlike in boys where complications may occur if the foreskin is not removed. In fact, many outside the community are getting circumcised to lower the risk of cancer," said Shah. In contrast, research reveals grave and permanent damage to health, including haemorrhage, infections, urinary retention, injury to adjacent organs, shock and severe pain, pointed out Aggarwal. "Long-term complications include severe scarring, chronic bladder and urinary tract infections, urologic and obstetric complications, apart from psychological and social problems," he added.


DBWRF's theories refute every line of reasoning that has surfaced in the anti-khatna movement in the last two years. "We do not accept that female circumcision is a mutilation. It is a harmless procedure and as such should not be termed FGM," reads DBWRF's explanation on their website.

Masooma Ranalvi, who was one of the first to bring the issue to light with her personal experience of undergoing khatna at seven, says: "It is shocking that educated people especially doctors after taking a Hippocratic Oath are supporting something that is in violation of that code. Not only are they tampering with what is God given but also committing a form of sexual assault."

Aug 14th 2017

On June 13 this year came the shocking news of Indian American doctor Jumana Nagarwala being involved in Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) of more than 100 Bohra Muslim girls in the United States. She was paid by a local mosque to do the procedures, and girls were as young as seven years old.

Female genital mutilation, or female ritual cutting, involves cutting or removing a part of the female genitalia. It is often done without anesthesia by medically untrained women. Despite restrictions, bans and protests, FGM is widely practised in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In Egypt more than 80 per cent of teenagers still undergo the procedure. The procedure is banned in countries like the US.

Nagarwala was arrested and has been in custody since then. She awaits her trial at a US District Court. Based on Nagarwala’s testimony, another Indian origin doctor Fakhruddin Attar and his wife Farida Attar have also been charged in the case. Fakhruddin Attar let Nagarwala use his Livonia, Michigan, clinic to perform the procedures, while Farida Attar held the girls down.

The arrests and the details that have emerged from these two cases have ignited a debate around FGM in America. The question of how these practices continue secretly and how much of it is culture consciousness. Also, are these cases fueling the already fragile anti-immigrant sentiment?

“In Bohra Indian Muslim culture, from which Dr. Attar comes, it is just a symbolic removal of a small piece of genital tissue. While in no way condoning this behavior, one should see it in perspective and realize a person, even if he is a physician, may exhibit ‘cognitive dissonance’ and may not envision he is breaking the law when he is following the edicts of his conscience,” writes Dr Surendra Kelwala, a practising Psychiatry doctor in Livonia, for Indian Abroad.

Dr Kelwal argues that these practices rooted in the culture once involved experts and a ‘scientific reasoning.’ Over time, they have become redundant and are merely symbolic. The law should thus take into consideration “the mindset of the transgressors whether they did it with a criminal intent or simply they were victims of their own upbringing and unable to oppose the strongly internalized moral codes of conduct instilled in them by their religion,” he says.

In 2015, The Atlantic magazine published an interview with anthropologist Bettina Shell-Duncan that discussed the nuances of the genital mutilation debate. While the interview received a lot of flak for ‘trying to justify’ the practice, Duncan’s views revealed that FGM is a complicated debate and to stop these practices one needs to understand the cultural and social aspects of it.

“Some people in Africa believe that bodies are androgynous and that all male and female bodies contain male and female parts. So a man’s foreskin is a female part. And for a female, the covering of the clitoris is a male part. The idea of becoming a wholly formed female includes being cut—having any part that is somewhat male-like removed from the body.”

In the countries where FGM is practised, studies have proved that the support for the practice is stronger among women than among men. The Michigan case reveals that the involvement of educated women and trained medical practitioners has ‘institutionalised’ the practice.

But many believe that the Michigan case has also added a new dimension to the debate on Genital Mutilation. In the first ever federal case of Female Genital Mutilation in tUS the defence lawyers have argued that FGM is a religious right. There are worries that it is stoking an anti-Muslim sentiment.

“I don’t want to be pro the practice, but I don’t want it to be exaggerated into something completely barbaric,” said Maryah Haidery, who comes from a Bohra family, speaking to the New York Times. Haidery believes that the Michigan doctor has been ‘vilified unjustly’.

And there are women belonging to the Bohra community, born and brought up in the US, for whom the Michigan case has come as a reason to speak up against the practice.

“This Michigan case made me think I want to speak out. To me it’s very much like a rape survivor. If you don’t say anything, then how are you going to expose it and bring awareness?,” says Nazia Mirza, 34, who was cut at the age of six in her hometown in Houston.

 

Aug 5th 2017

“Circumcising her will enable her to control this (sexual) urge so she can stay with her husband without jumping from one man to another,” Muniyat Lamidi rationalises female genital mutilation (FGM).

A petty trader in Oyo, one of the south-west states with a high prevalence of female genital mutilation, Lamidi is adamant and convinced that a woman’s sexuality should be guided, tamed – or it might bring her downfall.

“If it is not done, the girl will be promiscuous and her sexual urges will be too high that she will begin to sleep around,” Lamidi tells Sola Fagurosi of the OneLife Initiative for Human Development, a non-governmental organisation that campaigns against FGM.

Lamidi is not the only one who holds this view, it is the popular narrative of those in defence of mutilation.

Her view finds its roots in the patriarchal structure of the Nigerian society where inequality of the sexes manifests so blatantly that even a gender equality bill promoting equal education opportunities has failed to become a law.

Women’s sexual needs and urges, especially in rural communities, are demonised, policed or at best seen as secondary to a man’s sexual needs.

To prevent promiscuity, Muniyat as well as many other “cutters”, believe the clitoris must be done away with.

And even though it has been internationally recognised as a violation of the human rights of girls and women; and criminalised in Nigeria, FGM still occurs on a scale of massive proportions, especially among the less educated.

According to data from the Nigeria Demographics and Health Survey, 24.8 percent of Nigerian girls and women aged 15 to 49 have been circumcised, with states in the southeast region accounting for 45 percent of FGM cases; and south-western states accounting for up to 55 percent.

Osun state has the highest prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting in Nigeria with a prevalence of 76.6%, Ebonyi comes next with 74 %, Ekiti has a 72.3% prevalence rate while Imo has a 68 % rate and Oyo, a 65. 6% rate.

The report also shows that cutting occurs mostly at early childhood with 82% of women in Nigeria getting circumcised before the age of five.

One of such cases in the south-west, Ondo precisely, is that of Janet Ajanni, a teaching support staff.

Ajanni narrated her daughter’s ordeal as a victim of FGM to Fagurosi.

She said her daughter would have been long dead had it not been the intervention of medical consultants and surgeons at the University Teaching Hospital in Ibadan.

Ajanni said her mother-in-law caused the circumcision of her daughter, something she tolerated because she had been totally ignorant of FGM and its effect until 2003 when she got married, got pregnant and had the baby.

As many cases of FGM, this case did not end well.

“Six months after I left Ondo for Ibadan, Oyo state with my baby,” Ajanni narrated, adding that it was not until her daughter turned three years that she discovered a growing bump on her genitalia.

“When my girl turned three years, I noticed that where she was cut had swollen. I wondered what it could be whenever I bathed her. By the time she was 8-years-old, it had grown very big.”

Ajanni said when her kid turned eight, she decided to inform her mother-in-law who proffered a re-circumcision as the solution.

This time Ajanni did not heed but by 2010, when her child turned eight the keloid had grown so big that it was alarming.

That was the beginning of the rather tortuous journey to healing, healing that will never be complete as Ajanni’s daughter had got part of her genitalia cut – an act that is irreversible.

“I took her to a clinic in our neighbourhood and was opportune to see a matron. She inserted a syringe into the keloid and said it was mucus that accumulated in it. She recommended some drugs, I paid for her drugs and it was administered on her.”

The drugs made Ajanni’s daughter so drowsy that she slept through school on that day and afterwards, Ajanni said her daughter began to “lose her memory”.

“This made me stop the medications.” she said.

The swelling was still there showing no signs of abating, so Ajanni decided to talk to someone about the situation.

“I explained to one of my customer that works at the University College Hospital, Ibadan post-mortem department,” she said.

“He exclaimed and chastised me for keeping it to myself. I followed his advice and took her to UCH, Ibadan. After the back and forth at the hospital, we eventually saw the doctor who referred us to the laboratory for test. After these series of test, we were asked to come for drugs. (First of all, it was) monthly, then bi-monthly and then weekly.

“When we are almost rounding off her treatment we were asked to see the doctor again, he tested her and told us that the keloid had to be operated.”

Ajanni spent N35,000 naira on the surgical procedure to take out the keloid that was caused by the FGM procedure which cost just N500.

“Without the surgery at the hospital. I would have lost my daughter from complications that followed her circumcision.”

Ajanni’s daughter’s life is no longer in danger yet the circumcision and the attendant trauma cannot be reversed.

Ajanni then decided to stay off circumcising her other child.

“Her sister who I had after her is not circumcised and she is fine,” she said with a tinge of regret in her tone.

In Kajola, a local government with the highest FGM prevalence rate in Oyo, a certain reverend simply identified as Olawuwo, defended the FGM as a fundamental aspect of culture.

Olawuwo, like the other Oyo residents interviewed during this project, believes circumcision upholds a woman’s virtue – stops her from being promiscuous.

He had tattoos on his arm that carried the name of his sisters. He explained that the tattoos were in commemoration of his sister’s circumcision.

“If I had two girls, I would circumcise one and not the other and will warn the uncircumcised one that immediately she shows sign of promiscuity, I’ll get her cut,” said the reverend.

A slightly different reason for FGM in the south-south

In Cross River, the reason for female circumcision is slightly different. FGM, in that culture, signifies a coming of age for women, a readiness for marriage and then preparation for marriage. Yet it is rooted in a culture that deeply ties a woman’s worth to marriage and the appearance of her genitalia.

According to UNICEF, some of the other social and cultural factors for FGM include it being considered as  “a necessary part of raising a girl, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.”

“FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered acceptable sexual behaviour. It aims to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a woman’s libido and therefore believed to help her resist extramarital sexual acts. When a vaginal opening is covered or narrowed the fear of the pain of opening it, and the fear that this will be found out, is expected to further discourage extramarital sexual intercourse among women with this type of FGM. Where it is believed that being cut increases marriageability, FGM is more likely to be carried out.

Gift Abu, a social worker at the Centre for Social Value and Early Development explains that this practice is done in Cross River state for a number of reasons.

“It is a thing of pride and recognition and a sign that the girls who are mutilated have become women”, she says.

Another anti-FGM advocate, Margaret Onah of safe haven Nigeria, says ending FGM in the state is a daunting one as it is deeply entrenched.

In Cross River where she spreads the anti-FGM campaign, she says it is an expensive rite to passage of womanhood and indigent parents actually “stretch themselves” to ensure their girls go through a practices that involves a girl stay in a fattening room where she is fed food to make her appealing for marriage.

“FGM is an initiation to womanhood and if you do not do it you are regarded as incomplete,” Onah claims.

“It is usually done in these communities on eight day old girls and even on adults. In some communities it is done when the girl is between ages 10 and 15. For some, it is done on the night when the bride price is paid and in cases where the girl gets pregnant and she is yet to be mutilated, it is done seven months into the pregnancy.”

Gift Abu explains that there have been a number of deaths and complications arising from effects female genital mutilation. It is, however, difficult to prove to locals who patronize Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) and hospitals as they allude the cause of death and complications to other reasons.

Are the laws efficiently putting a stop to FGM?

After nearly 13 years of trying to make a law against FGM in Nigeria, the government of Goodluck Jonathan finally outlawed FGM in 2015.

This was a milestone in the talk and walk against FGM as it signified a governmental backing against a practice that held sway in Nigeria.

Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) 2015, the anti-FGM law, was endorsed by the Nigerian senate on May 2015.

A victim narrates her experience in Imo state

 

According to the law, “a person who performs female circumcision or genital mutilation or engages another to carry out such circumcision or mutilation commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 4 years or to a fine not exceeding N200,000 or both.”

But till date, no one has been convicted despite the prevalence in Nigeria.

According to Rachel Arowolo, whose parents are firm believers in FGM, it is simply hard to condemn or report family members who are usually the culprits of female genital mutilations.

For FGM, as with many other gender based crimes, it stays in the family.

“It will be difficult for one to take anyone to court because of how closely knitted our society is. We must do more in terms of bringing about behaviour change”

Why FGM should stop

FGM has no known medical benefits to women and girls. In fact, according to the UNFPA, the attendant consequence of FGM are dire.

“Complications include severe pain, shock, haemorrhage, tetanus or infection, urine retention, ulceration of the genital region and injury to adjacent tissue, wound infection, urinary infection, fever, and septicemia. Haemorrhage and infection can be severe enough to cause death,” UNFPA says.

“Long-term consequences include complications during childbirth,  anaemia, the formation of cysts and abscesses, keloid scar formation, damage to the urethra resulting in urinary incontinence, dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse), sexual dysfunction, hypersensitivity of the genital area and increased risk of HIV transmission, as well as psychological effects,” the organisation continued.

Some key FGM facts

§  Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

§  The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.

§  Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.

§  More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated1.

§  FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.

§  FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

§  There are four types of FGM

Type 1: Often referred to as clitoridectomy, this is the partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals), and in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).

Type 2: Often referred to as excision, this is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), with or without excision of the labia majora (the outer folds of skin of the vulva ).

Type 3: Often referred to as infibulation, this is the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching, with or without removal of the clitoris (clitoridectomy).

Type 4: This includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.

This project was done with support from Code for Africa and with research materials from Sola Fagurosi of OneLife Initiative for Human Development.

Data credit: Code for Africa

Follow us on twitter @thecableng

Copyright 2017 TheCable. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to 
www.thecable.ng as the source.

 

Aug 3rd 2017

UNICEF in 2016 reported that about 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM and at least 2million girls are at risk of been genitally mutilated annually and Nigeria has a quarter of this number. UNICEF expressed concern that if the tempo on the war and interventions against FGM is sustained, about 4.1 million females will be cut annually by 2050 and 130 million girls would have been spared of this obnoxious injury, but if no interventions are provided, the number of girls and women that would have been cut will grow from 133 million in 2013 to 325 million by year 2050 [4,25]. FGM has no health benefit rather subjecting women to often permanent physical and psychological trauma [27]. The magnitude of this trauma is yet to be fully estimated. The extent and complication of the procedure is not often explained.

Aug 1st 2017

Female genital mutilation is a form of human trafficking that Maine legislators are currently choosing to allow in their state, say child advocates.

Maine will try again on Aug. 2 to become the 25th state to ban the barbaric Third World practice that involves cutting the genitals of young girls.

Liz Yore is an attorney who has served as general counsel to child welfare agencies and a former member of the National Center for Missing and Exploited children. As an international child advocate, she said she never thought she would see such a gruesome practice taking root in America, preying on its defenseless little girls.

Yet, it’s been a struggle to get some lawmakers to see the necessity of passing state bans on the FGM.

The fickle nature of the federal FGM ban, adopted in 1996, was exposed for all to see under President Obama – his Department of Justice under Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch simply closed its eyes to female genital mutilation, never prosecuting a single case.

That lack of interest in a form of torture on young girls persisted even though the evidence is now breaking open, thanks to a federal investigation in Detroit launched by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

What Sessions’ staff is discovering is that it’s not just Minnesota and Michigan that are at risk. There’s a secret underground of at least eight states involved.

Maine has been identified as one of the eight “high risk” states, largely because of its large population of Somali refugees. More than 97 percent of women in Somalia have had their genitals mutilated by the time they reach adulthood. The numbers are similar in Egypt, Sudan and Indonesia.

Yore said FGM bears similarities to human trafficking.

“In the 1990s when I was at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, we were seeing Muslim fathers abducting their children born in the U.S., and the mothers left behind were telling me about FGM, and that’s when I first became aware of it,” Yore told WND.

“I thought I had seen everything but to have this brutality imported into our country is extremely troubling,” she said. “It’s especially heinous, and very much like human trafficking.”

Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transporting, or harboring, of persons by means of abduction, coercion, fraud and deceit. It involves an abuse of power, for the purposes of exploitation.

“The difference is there’s a profit motive in regular human trafficking. Otherwise, it’s identical with FGM. Trafficking usually involves sexual exploitation or labor, but these little girls are brought to their mutilators often across state lines, or trafficked overseas and then brought back to their homes,” Yore said. “It’s done in secret. Money changes hands, but it is primarily for to fulfill a religious custom.”

Thanks to the federal investigation into the Detroit area mutilations, the methods of the FGM network in America are beginning to come into focus.

“These little girls were trafficked from Minnesota and other states to Michigan, with the case now expanding to Chicago, New York and L.A., and what was originally believed to have been just two young victims is now more than 100,” Yore said.

Maine’s bill to criminalize FGM, dubbed L.D. 745, has been voted down multiple times by state lawmakers who are putting personal politics above the protection of their youngest citizens, she said.

“The trafficking of humans has been described as modern-day slavery that robs individuals of their freedom and dignity,” Yore said. “FGM is exploding in the United States because of the growth of migrants and the conspiracy of silence among its traffickers.”

The silence in Maine and Minnesota, both of which have tried but so far failed to pass bans on the grisly practice, is deafening to activists such as Yore.

But another key vote is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 2. If Maine does not pass this bill, Yore said the state will become a safe harbor for human traffickers and child abusers who perform these unspeakable horrors, which involve cutting off part or all of a girl’s clitoris, depriving the girl of future sexual pleasure while instilling a life of pain and misery.

Victims of FGM often face problems later in life, including painful urination and menstruation, painful intercourse, infections and even death.

“It’s only because of the FBI hotline that we are beginning to uncover the network, and breaking through this code of silence that’s been in existence for many years,” Yore said. “This doctor in Michigan has been operating on girls since at least 2005.”

 

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was charged in Detroit Wednesday with mutilating the genitalia of young girls.

That doctor is Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44, an Indian Muslim who worked as an emergency room doctor at Henry Ford Hospital in Dearborn. She performed FGM on girls between the ages of 6 and 9 in her private, unnamed clinic in Lavonia, Michigan. She is part of the Dawoodi Bohra sect of Shia Muslims based in western India, but the practice of FGM is widespread among both Shia and Sunni Muslims across Africa, parts of Asia and the Middle East.

“Now, I think the doors have been flung open and here come the floodgates, and we’re going to begin to be able to put the pieces together because of this confidential hotline,” Yore said.

Even if the practice were limited to the Dawoodi Bohra, this sect has 22 mosques across the United States.

“That is a lot of potential victims, a lot of mutilators, and that’s just one cult,” Yore said.

But Yore believes the Dawoodi Bohra represent just the tip of a much larger network of FGM operating in the United States.

That belief is buttressed by the Centers for Disease Control’s 2016 estimate that 513,000 girls and young women are at risk of having FGM done to them in the United States.

‘It just hasn’t been on anyone’s radar’

“Nobody has been looking at this in the United States until now, it just hasn’t been on anyone’s radar. You have to look at this network like you look at human trafficking – it’s a network that is secret, and they’re luring girls in with lies, things like ‘you’re going to be on vacation, it’s a big party,’ and then the girls are held down while their genitals are cut off.”

“This is mothers taking their little girls to have a sexual abuse done on them.”

The scars are emotional as well as physical.

“The reconstructive surgery that has to be conducted on women, so it’s not as simple as the ACLU lawyers are arguing, it’s a severe mutilation and the recovery is a lifetime for these girls,” Yore said.

“I’ve done hundreds of child-abuse investigations, and what you find is these children who are abused have been silenced, intimidated into silence, and it’s only when they get older and learn what is criminal and what is not criminal, that they will speak up.”

She said public awareness has been raised, thanks to the Detroit investigation, but like all human trafficking it’s going to take time and years of commitment by both the federal government and the states to knock out FGM in America.

“It’s going to be a very tough slog to identify the victims, identify the mutilators, and break up the network,” she said.

Politicians will have to stand up to the ACLU, which is on the record as a powerful voice against banning FGM at the state level. ACLU lawyers use several arguments, all of which are bogus and deceitful, Yore said.

One of the arguments is that there is already a federal law against FGM, so states don’t need to enact duplicate legislation.

This is deceitful because the ACLU knows the feds don’t have the time or resources to go after all of the FGM cases, but rather will try to make an “example” of a few doctors.

“The ACLU demanded states have stalking laws, even though there is a federal stalking law. They demanded states pass human trafficking laws when there is already a federal law against that, so this argument doesn’t hold water,” Yore said.

‘Religious freedom’ argument opens door to Shariah in U.S.

Another argument against the ban is religious freedom. This is the argument being claimed by Dr. Nagarwala’s attorneys, and if it is accepted by the courts, then doors will swing wide open to the legalization of other Islamic practices, such as honor violence, polygamy and child brides.

The freedom to practice one’s religion does not extend to killing, maiming or other law-breaking, and this is backed up by hundreds of years of natural law in Western civilization, not to mention legal case law.

So Yore believes the ACLU and other leftist organizations are hiding the real reason for why they refuse to go to bat for little girls facing FGM torture.

“They worship at the altar of cultural diversity and tolerance as opposed to protecting voiceless and precious little girls,” Yore said.

“And in Maine there are some female legislators who give lip service to stopping violence against women, and then they are silent on FGM,” she continued. “I can’t imagine a more abusive practice against women and girls, and yet on the left so many so-called feminists are silent. It’s shocking to me. They should be at the forefront of fighting this battle. Little girls are being sexually disfigured for life, they should be outraged.”

“But they are afraid of being labeled as Islamophobes.”

It’s interesting that this fear of criticism extends to no other religion other than Islam in today’s world.

“Would we have claimed religious freedom for the bizarre practices of Jim Jones or Warren Jeffs? What about the Children of God cult? No, and nor should we claim this right for Islam,” Yore said.

“This is where we have to make a stand. If we cannot call this out for what it is, sheer brutality toward little girls and oppression of their femininity, and the pursuit of happiness, that is what this is all about,”she adds. “They are denying little girls the future of having sexual pleasure and bringing children into the world without this barbaric practice.”

‘Not backing down’

Yore said she, for one, will not back down to any pressures from Islamic apologists or multicultural blindness.

“This is child abuse 101 and they can try to minimize it but if you read the affidavit from the FBI case in Detroit it just sends chills up your spine,” she said. “Their attorneys say ‘oh it’s just a little nick.’ That’s a lie. We have got to draw the line.”

The Obama administration turned a blind eye, but President Trump’s Justice Department seems willing to make FGM a priority. The moment for states to act in like manner is now, Yore says.

“Because if we allow this to continue, it’s Katie bar the door, it’s honor killing, it’s throwing gays off buildings, it’s child brides.”


Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2017/07/the-slicing-child-abuse-101-carried-out-by-secret-islamic-networks-in-u-s/#aHEuPYukW634HID3.99

July 30th 2017


Some members of the Pokot in Amudat district are adjusting to life without practising female genital mutilation or FGM, a treasured cultural practice in their community. Out of the 225 villages practising FGM in Karamoja, 96 have publicly abandoned the practice. In Amudat, 34 villages have since been declared FGM free.

Some members of the Pokot in Amudat district are adjusting to life without practising female genital mutilation [FGM], a treasured cultural practice in their community.
 
The practice, which involves altering of female genitalia for non-medical reasons, was outlawed in 2010 but the Pokot still carry it out in secret places. As government and human rights organisations intensify campaigns against FGM, communities that still treasure the practice also develop more skillful means to carry it out.
 
While in the past FGM would attract bigger ceremonies and chants, the practice is now done in quiet and isolated areas. According to the head teacher of Alakas primary school, Simon Dicobobo, girls after getting cut continue with normal errands and wear clothes. He observes that the girls from reachable families have had the opportunity to go to school. He notes that while anti FGM campaigns are famous in trading centres; hard-to-reach areas practice FGM at liberty.
 
Dicobobo says that his school receives more than 90 girls in primary one every year but less than five complete primary seven. The school with only two girls in primary seven this year starts noticing high dropouts among girls in primary four.
 
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Although scientists have cited health complications especially during child birth, the Pokot tag more dowry to girls who are cut.
  
Florence Chelengat, a pupil at Alakas primary school says her educated sister fetched only 15 cows because she was not cut yet uneducated girls who have undergone FGM fetch more than 30 cows as dowry. She however notes that much as the cut girls regret their choices, the cultural influence and perception compels them to run for FGM. 
 
The minor, now in primary seven, notes that it takes courage and strong backing from the family to remain uncut. "My parents have been very supportive of me to reach this level. All my friends ran for FGM and some are married now with children but my mother ensures that am safe," Chelengat narrates. 
 
Priscilla Nakolio, a resident of Kamuteken village in Lochengenge parish in Amudat town council, says many people stand up against FGM during public functions but do the contrary in their villages. Nakolio blames the local leaders for fearing to face the communities on issues of FGM. 
 
"Our leaders work undercover. They fear facing the community on FGM. Even when they hear that some girls have been mutilated, they keep quiet or inform police but warn not be identified as police informers," Nakolio told URN
 
Docus Chelaini, the Amudat district vice chairperson agrees that politicians fear speaking directly about banning FGM. "It will be difficult for us to go back to the voters in the next election. We talk about it but we tackle it indirectly. We tell communities that government has intelligence officers in all villages to report those cutting girls," Chelaini said in an interview. 
  
Marrianna Garafolo, the FGM specialist working with the UN children's agency, UNICEF, says more efforts have been employed to reach all communities to abandon the practice.    
 
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Out of the 225 villages practising FGM in Karamoja, 96 have publicly abandoned the practice. In Amudat, 34 villages have since been declared FGM free.
 
The Pokot since 2009 celebrate their culture day every 1st day of July but the celebrations for this year were pushed to July 27th over financial constraints among other issues. This year's celebrations emphasised community to community outreaches as an effective means to promote FGM abandonment.
  
Last year, UNICEF published a report indicating that at least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone FGM. This is double the number recorded the previous year by the World Health Organization.
 
In 2009, Uganda passed a law criminalizing FGM. The Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Act imposes harsh penalties for those participating in the practice, including a 10-year-jail sentence for any person convicted of practicing FGM and life imprisonment for incidences that lead to death, disability or result in the victim's infection with HIV/AIDS.
 
Despite the ban, however, the cultural ritual is still being practiced among the Pokot, Sabiny and Tepeth tribes in the districts of Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo. Other countries where FGM is practiced include Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Egypt and Indonesia.

 

July 27th 2017

Disturbing new trend is making headlines, but legislation is moving forward to avoid safe harbor for FGM

Incredibly, Democratic legislators in Maine have submitted to the dictates of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others determined to prevent the state from criminalizing the mutilation of little girls’ genitals. If this decision stands, Maine risks becoming a safe harbor for mutilators.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) defies all standards of humanity, and the United Nations and the World Health Organization have condemned it as a hideous violation of human rights. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nonetheless estimates that more than 513,000 girls are at risk of FGM in the United States alone — including untold numbers in Maine.

Why would an organization ostensibly dedicated to civil liberties use its money and power to oppose legislation designed to protect young girls and other females from being involuntarily disfigured for life? The stated reasons don't hold up to scrutiny.

The claim that FGM is not occurring in Maine is belied by anecdotal evidence from emergency rooms required to repair the damage done. The assertion that federal law banning FGM makes similar state prohibitions unnecessary is contradicted by the Maine Association of District Attorneys, which has strongly argued that they need explicit legislation to prosecute perpetrators.

Most unconvincing of all is the ACLU's argument that the prospect of mutilations doesn't warrant adding to the Maine criminal code. Really? The organization is renowned for petitioning for more legislation on all manner of issues, so why not this one?

The same question arises with respect to Democratic members of the Maine House of Representatives. Do they really want to have even one more girl or woman in Maine become the victim of a lifetime of pain and psychological and medical problems because of their inaction?

Evidently, the ACLU and — with few exceptions — Maine House Democrats are willing, in effect, to protect the perpetrators of female genital mutilation, rather than their would-be victims, for one unstated reason: They do not wish to "give offense" to the state's growing population of Somali refugees, who believe the Islamic code known as Sharia requires them to hack away at their girls' genitals.

Like it or not, acknowledge it or not, the presence of this community and its tradition with respect to female genital mutilation is why the federal government considers Maine to be in the top tier of states at risk of FGM. Legislators' cowardly determination not to give offense is a shameful formula for giving girls in Maine a lifetime of suffering and health problems.

By contrast, lawmakers in Michigan recently protected such potential victims in their state. They acted after federal prosecutors brought charges against an alleged mutilation ring said to have operated for years near Detroit. Earlier this month, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a comprehensive and tough package of anti-FGM statutes, sending a strong message in Michigan that this criminal assault on little girls will not be tolerated — and, thereby, establishing a model for Maine and the 24 other states that have yet to enact such prohibitions.

Fortunately, the Maine legislature appears to have an opportunity to reconsider its failure to protect the state's defenseless girls and women from female genital mutilation, with another chance for a vote in early August. It must not be missed.

Elizabeth Yore is an international child rights advocate and head of the new initiative EndFGMToday.com.

 

July 20th 2017

Female genital mutilation (FGM) was long seen as an “over there” problem; it is now an “everywhere problem.” In a Skype conversation, London-based FGM survivor Hibo Wardere said the Detroit FGM trial has forced Americans to open their eyes to a brutal practice that happens within their own borders.

For Americans who have been focusing on necessary temporary travel bans as a way to curtail a clash of values between tribal culture and liberalism that champions the individual above the collective, the recent landmark FGM trial has opened eyes to see that some of these third-world practices are already comfortably practiced in the United States.

FGM is a ritualistic and violent cutting off of a girl’s clitoris. Riding under the false defense of a religious right, the heinous crime puts more than 500,000 girls in the United States at risk, often just as they’re entering puberty. The measure is in most cases initiated by a girl’s own mother, and is designed to curb an emerging woman’s sexuality.

Earlier this year, a 44-year-old American-born Muslim emergency room physician, Dr. Jumala Nagarwala, from the Detroit Bohra Muslim community, initiated the practice against two seven-year-old girls. Rather than in a back alley, she performed this on-site at a medical clinic owned by another Muslim doctor. In the office after hours, two trusting little girls were ushered in by their parents for a cut that has irreparably mutilated them and destroyed their ability to feel the most sensitive parts of themselves, even after they marry later in life.

American Muslims Stand Up to Oppose FGM

Guest hosted by Jason Vines, Detroit’s WJR radio station recently featured a two-part series on FGM that brought the bright light of the public eye into a dark practice. Organized by the America Matters Safe Space for Muslim Dialogue, the segments championed the voices of four North American Muslims who came together to speak out against FGM. A reformer, an analyst, an asylum attorney, and a scholar unified their position in a “safe space” that shelters disruptive Muslim thinkers who challenge the status quo and are often viciously targeted for speaking up. Today, that status quo is Muslim communities that struggle to integrate with Western societies.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and a U.S. Navy veteran, has been at the forefront of the battle. Writing for Gatestone Institute, the American Muslim physician urged the medical community, the legal community, and civil rights activists to stop defending this abuse of girls and women. Jasser denounces any moral equivalency between the misogynistic practice of FGM and male circumcision.

He has also challenged a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics, in which two American doctors have proposed a compromise for FGM that includes nicking the clitoral hood to satisfy cultural practices and prevent families from taking their daughters abroad for the practice. Jasser argued proponents of this compromise are “still accomplices in the primary intention of this procedure which is the de-sexualize women.”

With other Muslims vocal against FGM, Jasser calls for Americans to look at the response of major Muslim organizations in Detroit and elsewhere on this issue if those organizations believe they are working against oppression. Activists and thought leaders who have long been trying to stir up community awareness and response say the first line of defense against ritualistic and tribal practices is the American Muslim community itself.

How to End This Practice Without Destroying Families

Oz Sultan, founder of Our House NYC and a data and counterterrorism analyst who breaks down complex problems affecting Muslim American communities, also spokewith Vines. For Sultan, the community needs to address FGM with education. Rightly avoiding a broad stroke that paints all Muslim sects and cultures as a monolith, Sultan believes there’s a need to “separate cultural challenges inside the communities with the understanding of the religious understanding of who these communities are.”

“What is being done should have not have a place in civilized societies,” he adds, continuing by asking the question, “What do you do in these immigrant communities where this is something where it might have been practiced by a mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother, inside of their cultural community overseas, and now coming over here? There has to be an education and process to basically diffuse that.” Recognizing the need for both education and legal responses, Sultan emphasizes the opportunity to intercede in a manner that protects young girls without disrupting the family unit.

Attorney and policy analyst Supna Zaidi points to a 1996 federal statute criminalizing FGM that supports immigrant women coming to the United States, an area where Zaidi has experience working on behalf of asylum seekers. In an interview with Vines, Zaidi added the statute speaks to women at risk, underscoring that, “FGM is illegal, not your fault, and you have access to U.S. agencies where they will help you and not criminalize you if you’re in a situation where this procedure is potentially making you or someone in your family a victim.”

More recently, Zaidi points to Maine legislation that supported community outreach and education, while Michigan passed a law going into effect in October that focuses on criminal penalties including putting failing parents in jail. For Zaidi, the fundamental question is how to address these issues in our communities.

“The real question of recognizing the harm that comes out of FGM is to ask the question of how do we address it in the communities?” she asks, urging lawmakers to consider the best way to educate and end the practice without destroying the family. “What is the best way to firstly educate and end, and not create a new window of further harm where we’re potentially permanently removing children from their parents, which can have a whole new slew of long-term negative effects on families?”

Religion and Culture Interact But Are Not the Same

The challenge of having a dialogue on the landmark Detroit FGM case is most salient when studying the parallels between religion and culture, and where they intersect. Developing a firm understanding of that distinction will enable lawmakers not well-versed in a 1,400-year-old faith (and even older culture) to understand the complexities in play today.

The academic dean of Critical Loyalty, an online college of Islamic sciences, Shaykh Uthman Khan speaks powerfully on FGM, segregating the practice between an “Islamic practice” and a “Muslim practice.” As an academic and Islamic scholar, Khan argues that dismissing the issue as being linked to faith is an amateur move.

Often a provocateur among religious traditionalists with bold challenges to patriarchy and advocacy of feminist values, Khan believes “Muslims need to stand up and recognize this is a Muslim practice done in the name of Islam. When something is culturally practiced in a society and then a religion is brought into it, then the association of culture and religion create a problem where those practicing it think the culture is the religion.”

Khan is a product of two worlds (east and west), and in this practice sees what he refers to as a paradox. As a child in the faith he was told to follow religion blindly, but was also raised in the West and exposed to critical thinking. For Khan, the religion of Islam empowers women with rights while an older culture that has survived through attachment to a religion urges taking away a woman’s right.

“It’s a theological mess,” he confides to Vines. Referencing a paper he’d written titled “Imam Who,” Khan believes imams are a first line of defense because Muslims have a habit of resorting to imams to address issues even beyond a religious framework. However, as outlined in his paper, imams are often failing communities because they’re foreign transplants who have little grasp of Western values, let alone training in counseling or social services paired with resistance to reaching outside the Muslim community to solicit aid. Advocating for theological inquiry, Khan shares a frustration that many Muslims are not able to prioritize agreement on practices that define what it means to be Muslim.

We Can Protect Little Girls Together

How Americans of all backgrounds discuss FGM will be critical to our ability to eradicate the practice, giving it no sanctuary under the pretense of a religious right and bringing the crime to justice with the full power of our laws while respecting the dignity of families. American laws are important and instrumental in underscoring American values, and more importantly universal human rights.

States like Michigan are to be applauded for taking all necessary measures to pass bills that protect little girls under the law and seeing their right to life and happiness as a greater call to action than protecting the culture FGM rides to our shores on. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is also to be recognized for launching a pilot program on FGM outreach at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. In many cases, young girls from ethnic communities will be taken on a summer holiday overseas to have FGM performed on foreign soil.

Americans need to put partisan politics to the side and come together to eradicate a cruel act of sexual violence and child abuse against little girls. Between government organizations, elected leaders, and the American people, we need to do the right thing to protect society’s most vulnerable—children.

 

July 18th 2017

Yasmin Mumed remembers the brand new pale pink dress with embroidered flowers.

She remembers the morning trip to the busy market with her grandmother. And the candy she got to eat. It was a sunny, happy day.

Then her mind flashes to the dark room filled with women. The blindfold. Being laid on her back. The confusion, the fear and the piercing pain.

When it was all over, and the blindfold came off, she remembers looking down and seeing a patch of blood on her dress, just below her belly button.

Mumed was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting, at the age of 6 in her village in Ethiopia before immigrating to Canada. She grew up in Scarborough and, now 23, studies at the University of Guelph. She is one of more than 200 million girls worldwide who have been cut.

An ongoing Toronto Star investigation has revealed that the federal government is aware of cases in which Canadian girls have been taken abroad to be cut. Canada has failed to address and measure the scope of the problem.

Unlike the United Kingdom, which has undertaken research and is tracking FGM cases, Canada has not collected data on Canadian women who, like Mumed, are living with the physical and psychological effects of FGM, regardless of where and when it happened to them. In the U.K., there are an estimated 137,000 women and girls affected.

Experts say there is also a lack of local services for women in Canada, and far too few trained professionals, such as doctors and counsellors, to offer support.

Mumed was cut three years before she immigrated to Canada at the age of 9. She is now fundraising to go to California to have reconstructive surgery.

“I know there’s a lot of young girls out there who are just like me, with a similar background, similar childhoods, who have never heard anyone that looks like them talk about this,” says Mumed of what is often a stigmatized and incredibly private topic. She never spoke about her cutting with her grandmother, who raised her and took her to have it done. She has also never spoken about it with her mother.

There are no health benefits to FGM, which varies from partial removal of the clitoris to its most severe form, a procedure known as infibulation, in which the clitoris and labia are excised and the vulva stitched together, leaving only a small opening.

Mumed’s clitoris and part of her labia were cut, preventing her from feeling sexual pleasure in the same way other women do. She looked for support services in the Toronto area to help her live with the anxiety and confusion she was feeling, and to help her navigate day-to-day life, including dating.

She didn’t find any.

Instead, Mumed found Dr. Marci Bowers in California, who has placed her on a wait list for a surgery, which some consider controversial, that would remove the scar tissue on her clitoris. It has given her some hope.

For the past several years, after she became sexually active, Mumed has relived the vivid memories of the day she was cut. At times, the flashbacks have left her with crippling anxiety.

She remembers walking back to her village from the market with her grandmother and stopping at her great-grandmother’s home, which was at the end of a row of houses. It was sunny outside, but dark inside. A group of older women were huddled together, with one very elderly woman sitting and holding a bowl of water.

The women then took hold of Mumed, some holding on to her arms and others, her legs. Another, her head.

“I just started panicking and didn’t know what was going on … I was just kind of freaking out and trying really hard to get out of the situation,” she says. “I didn’t understand what was happening. There was no conversation about what was happening.”

She was blindfolded and put on her back. That’s when she felt the pain shoot through her body. “I just remember screaming,” she says. Because she was fighting so much, the square-shaped razor the size of a paint chip that the woman used to cut her clitoris slipped and also cut part of her labia. When she stood up, the blood wasn’t just on her new dress but also pooling on the floor.

“I remember standing up and I remember my grandma sitting in the crowd, looking at me. It was like she was sad but also trying to be strong. She gave me this look to also stop crying,” says Mumed. “I always wanted to make my grandma proud and for her to know that I’m strong.”

Her great-grandmother made a paste of herbs to place on the wound to help stop the bleeding. For the next several days Mumed stayed in bed, as family members, neighbours and even acquaintances from nearby villages came to bring treats of sweet tahini halvah and say hello. Her great-grandmother checked in on her often to make sure there was no infection.

“I just remember people celebrating, people looking at me,” she says. “I felt kind of happy after. I guess the way people were acting with me was very proud. I felt I was at this different stage of my life.”

Soon, Mumed pushed the day out of her mind completely. She moved with her grandmother to Ethiopia’s bustling capital, Addis Ababa, to live with her uncle, leaving behind the village, with its open fields and nights lit by oil lamp. Her mother immigrated to Canada when Mumed was a toddler, after her husband, Mumed’s father, died. She had remarried and was trying to bring her only daughter to Canada.

At the same time, her grandmother was also preparing to leave Ethiopia because of the persecution of her Oromo ethnic group. One day, Mumed woke up and the woman who raised her was gone, having left for a refugee camp in Kenya. Mumed stayed with her uncle until her immigration paperwork came through. The only reminder of her cutting, her pink embroidered dress, was now stained with brown spots from where the blood had faded over the years.

She continued to wear the dress. It was the nicest garment she owned.

For many years — growing up in public housing in Scarborough, learning English, adapting to life in Canada — Mumed, whose Oromo name, Galme, is a reference to the book that holds the history of her people, never thought of her cutting. She took care of her younger half-brother. She spent most of her free time at the local community centre that became her refuge. Her relationship with her mother, who had her when she was just 15 years old, was rocky. When she was a teenager, Mumed left home, sleeping on friends’ couches before a family in her neighbourhood took her in.

The first time she thought at all about the issue of FGM was in her early teens. She was watching an episode of America’s Next Top Model, when a Somali contestant tearfully shared she’d been cut and couldn’t experience sexual pleasure. “Even then I still didn’t make the connection,” she says.

Soon after, when Mumed was in Grade 11, she had her first sexual experience. “When I found out something was different with me, I immediately started having all these flashbacks,” she says. She turned to the internet and discovered a familiar story. Of the hut. The ambush. The group of women holding down flailing arms and legs.

She became depressed. “It’s like my whole life had been kind of a lie,” Mumed says. “I just felt like I wasn’t woman enough or I wasn’t whole. Like I wasn’t normal.”

Then she became angry. By that time her grandmother had been granted refugee status in the U.S. and was living in Seattle. “I remember I would be angry to even want to talk to her,” she says.

Looking back on it now, though, Mumed does not feel resentment towards her grandmother, who died three years ago.

She believes that the woman she loves, and whom she credits with teaching her how to be the resilient person she is now, wanted her to be cut because she knew her granddaughter was destined to live in another culture.

“It was her trying to protect me,” Mumed says. “She knew I was going to be raised in a world that’s completely different … It came from a really loving place and a place of just genuinely trying to pass something down to me that she genuinely felt was really important.”

FGM is practised in 29 countries around the world, mainly in Africa, the Middle East, India and other parts of Asia. It is seen by some as a rite of passage into womanhood or a condition of marriage. Though it is not considered an Islamic practice — it predates the religion — for some, it is a religious ritual or requirement and there is tremendous societal pressure placed on families to have it done.

In her village in Ethiopia — a country where, today, 63 per cent of women are believed to have been cut, according to UNICEF — it was the norm. “If anything, for people who weren’t cut, I remember that they would feel that they didn’t fit in or something was weird with them,” says Mumed.

That’s not to say she believes that any young girl should endure what she did. She worries for her little cousins — three girls under the age of 5.

Mumed believes the best way to tackle FGM is by “complicating the conversation” — by humanizing the people who are often demonized for perpetuating the practice, but who often do it out of love, and by girls like her speaking out about it in a way that shows respect and sensitivity, and takes the issue out of the shadows.

“If we’re talking to each other and we’re tackling it within ourselves, that’s the only way any type of real change, real understanding, is going to happen,” she says. She and her friends talk about the complexities of the issue and how they don’t want to continue the tradition with their own children.

“We talk about it stopping with us,” Mumed says.

It wasn’t until last fall that Mumed began searching for resources, to help her talk about the traumatic memories of her cutting, or her body image or dating as a young woman. The urge came about because she had met someone she liked through mutual friends. They started talking through FaceTime. But the fact that she might have to tell this person about such a private thing filled her, again, with anxiety. She started losing sleep.

“When (I’m) not in an intimate relationship, I don’t have to think about it, but as soon as something happens where I might have to be intimate with somebody or I’m attracted to somebody, that’s something that automatically comes out of nowhere,” she says.

While every woman’s experience and memories are different, FGM can cause post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, says Dr. Jasmine Abdulcadir, a gynecologist working at a specialized clinic for women with FGM at the Geneva University Hospitals in Switzerland. Negative public messages about FGM and warnings of serious complications, such as lack of sexual pleasure, that are aimed at preventing the practice in future generations can also contribute to the stigmatization of women who are already cut, Abdulcadir says.

Mumed looked on the web for anything in the Toronto area that might help her — a support group, specialized health-care professionals, an organization that focuses on FGM. She couldn’t find anything. Her case demonstrates that there is a lack of local services available for women living with FGM, experts say.

“It’s still something that people think doesn’t happen,” says Reyhana Patel of Islamic Relief Canada, whose organization has done research on the issue, adding that if there are services here, “no one knows about it.”

Patel and her organization are calling on the Canadian government to do more, starting with conducting research to understand the issue nationally.

“When you get a sense of what’s happening, you can start applying appropriate services,” she says.

In the U.K., for example, the Royal College of Nursing has undertaken efforts to create an enhanced data set on FGM. In 2015-16 there were 5,700 new FGM records, including 18 cases in which FGM had been undertaken in the U.K. There is also a government-funded national centre that provides support for survivors of FGM, including directing them to local resources.

Mumed is waiting for her reconstructive surgery with Bowers, a gynecologist who specializes in transgender surgery. In her clinic south of San Francisco, she has performed more than 250 operations on women who have had FGM. Bowers learned how to do the operation — which removes the scar tissue from the clitoris and cuts ligaments around it, allowing it to descend, in the hopes of giving the woman back some sensation — from Dr. Pierre Foldes in Paris, who pioneered the technique.

A non-governmental organization called Clitoraid, based in Las Vegas, covers the cost of the surgery, but Mumed is fundraising for her airfare and accommodation, as well as prescription drugs. She is also required to bring a friend for support. Her GoFundMe page has raised more than $3,000 of her $6,650 goal.

In order to get approval for the surgery, Mumed had to see a gynecologist in Canada to send confirmation to Bowers’ office that she had indeed been cut and that her clitoris had been damaged.

The entire process was a negative experience, she says. When she went to the walk-in clinic to get a referral, the doctor there didn’t seem to know what she was talking about, Mumed says. When she went to see a gynecologist in December, she says the doctor told her he didn’t think she needed the surgery because she had not been cut enough to cause problems with going to the bathroom or giving birth.

“He said, ‘You’re perfectly fine.’ I said, ‘That’s not what I’m here for,’” Mumed says, adding that the doctor made her feel as though she existed only to give birth.

She left the office and cried.

Bowers’ office let her send in photographs instead to qualify for the surgery.

“It’s heartbreaking to see your friend go through that,” says Mumed’s friend Shabina Lafleur-Gangji, who was with her at the gynecologist’s appointment. “It’s just one more hard and difficult step.”

In 2003, former midwife and anti-FGM campaigner Kowser Omer-Hashi co-authored a book with Beverley Chalmers about giving proper obstetric care to women who have had FGM. At the time, she heard from dozens of women who reported hearing hurtful comments from caregivers. “It really makes me sad,” she says. “Years later we are sitting here discussing the same issues.”

While Omer-Hashi says she’s grateful for Canada’s health-care system, she says there should be more education and training about FGM.

Not all doctors agree on Dr. Bowers’ technique.

In 2012, Foldes, the doctor who invented the surgery, and his colleagues published a study in the medical journal the Lancet, which found that after a one-year followup of 866 patients, most reported an improvement in clitoral pleasure and just over half experienced orgasm.

In response to Foldes’s study, a group of British doctors wrote to the Lancet, saying his claims were not “anatomically possible.” (Foldes rejected their remarks.)

While Mumed hopes the surgery will work, she is not certain it will. Her decision to pursue it is, more than anything, about making her own choice about her own body, she says.

“It’s something that was taken away from me without my consent,” she says of her cutting, adding that she is pursuing the surgery to have “that power back.”

“I’ve made a decision over my body and I’m choosing to do it. Not everyone makes the same choice. Everyone needs to do their own journey.”

Jayme Poisson can be reached at jpoisson@thestar.ca or 416-814-2725.

 

July8th 2017

“There is a Somali saying that says that there is no use taking a girl to school as her education will stay in the kitchen. People in my community actually believe this. The birth of a girl is not met with joy. You will hear a father say, ‘This girl will bring shame to this family.’ Her fate is sealed even before her life has begun.

“I am a refugee. I was born and raised in the camps. I was very lucky to have a mother who believed that my life would be better if I went to school; most of the girls I grew up with underwent FGM, then they were forcibly married off young to men who went on to mistreat them. Once a girl has been circumcised, child birth becomes a problem. A lot of them die while giving birth.

“I grew up knowing that I would change the lives of girls in my community, and I started four years ago. I had nothing other than overwhelming need to effect change. I started with a Facebook page and a computer that was given to me by a friend. I would wander into homes and the school at the camp to talk to the girls. I had just one message for them: stay in school. I truly believe that this is the only weapon that a girl can wield against these retrogressive cultural practices.

“Now my campaign is bigger. I have more people coming on board to support me. I am an Akili Dada fellow. Now I lead my campaigns by telling powerful stories of refugee girls and women on my blog and on social media. I have heard hundreds of stories of refugee women and I have shared hundreds of them.

“I remember people were very closed off when we began. Women would just look at me and then ask me whether I was not scared of getting attacked. Now they can see that there is truth in the messages I give.

“There are still financial challenges. There are still days that internet access is a problem. I have however learnt to ask. On days like these, I will walk to other organisation offices and ask to use their internet. The worst thing that can happen, I now know, is that I will be told ‘no’.

“It’s not a waste what I do because there is no one else to tell these stories. The ultimate goal for me is to have the refugee girl valued, protected and given equal opportunities at life.”

 

July 2nd 2017

The Banda Traditional Council has passed a law to ban Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other outmoded, harmful, traditional, cultural and customary practices in the area.

         Mr. Kwabena Badu, the Council’s Secretary told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview on behalf of Okokyeredom Kwadwo Sito I, the paramount chief of the area on Thursday at Banda-Ahenkro in the Banda District of Brong-Ahafo Region. 


June 29th 2017

Mona Charen: Puberty suppression and FGM

By MONA CHAREN
Michigan is set to become the 26th state to join the federal government in criminalizing female genital mutilation, even as two Detroit area doctors and one of their wives await trial for inflicting the procedure on a number of young girls. 

FGM, which is common in some parts of Africa and the Middle East, involves using a razor to remove all or part of a girl’s clitoris and parts of the vulva.

By Western standards, this amounts to child abuse and criminal assault. FGM defenders claim that the practice makes girls feel “clean;” that it helps them to fit into their subculture; and that it promotes good marriages.

We’re not swayed by such rationalizations — but can we see past our own cultural blind spots?

Our clinics are performing their own mutilations on perfectly healthy people — delaying puberty in boys and girls with “gender dysphoria.”

While adults are free to make their own decisions about their bodies, and there may well be some percentage of the population who are happier to live as a simulacrum of the opposite sex, the rapid adoption of puberty-blocking hormone treatments for children — with a view to facilitating sex reassignment surgeries at age 18 or above — is nearly as disturbing as FGM.

Children, after all, are not capable of making irrevocable decisions about their own welfare, and, as Drs. Paul Hruz, Lawrence Mayer and Paul McHugh object in the spring edition of The New Atlantis (“Growing Pains”), the use of puberty-blocking hormone treatments is “drastic” and highly experimental.

These drugs have been in use only since 1993 for rare cases of “precocious puberty” (before age 8 in girls and 9 in boys). The use of such drugs to delay puberty until a normal age, Hruz, Mayer and McHugh argue, is justified because doctors understand what causes “precocious puberty.” They do not have a comparable grasp on the causes of gender dysphoria, and for that reason among others, the resort to puberty-blocking hormones is not good medicine.

The physical effects include retarding growth (which may or may not be reversed by later cross-hormone treatment), reduced bone density, possible increased susceptibility to cancer, obesity in natal males and, if followed up by sex reassignment surgery, permanent infertility. In addition, all transsexuals are consigned to a lifelong regimen of cross-sex hormones, the effects of which have not been well studied. If such drugs were proposed to treat anything other than a sexual complaint in children, the medical community would be in an uproar.

Children must rely on parents and other adults to see them through developmental stages and safeguard their welfare. Parents, in turn, rely on experts to advise them about childhood problems, and that’s where our current rage for transgender identities becomes disturbing and unhinged. Whereas the normal protocols for medical interventions include careful testing, clinical trials, and follow-up studies, the medical establishment is heedlessly plunging into “affirmative treatment” for gender dysphoria. Rather than helping the child to align his or her identity with his or her biological sex, the model encourages affirmation of the child’s delusion. Puberty suppression is presented as a completely reversible pause in development — an opportunity for the child to “explore” his identity unconfused by the hormonal changes of puberty.

But that benign interpretation is dubious. Though data are scant because of the very small samples of gender dysphoric children who have actually been studied, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders claims that somewhere between 2 and 30 percent of males and 12 and 50 percent of females experiencing gender dysphoria will persist in their nonconforming gender identity post-puberty. Dr. Michelle Cretella estimates that between 85 and 90 percent of gender dysphoric children outgrow it when they pass through puberty.

The psychological effects of puberty suppression are probably even more profound than the physical. A child who has spent years acting and being treated as the opposite sex, especially by parents, cannot be said to be a blank slate ready to “reverse” the effects of puberty-blocking drugs later if the child so wishes. His or her self-concept will already have been markedly affected. Further, as Hruz, Mayer and McHugh note, there are no large-scale studies that have tracked patients who withdrew from treatment and then progressed through normal puberty. Nor is it clear that delaying puberty helps a child through the psychological terrain of evolving identity. Normal sexual development very likely helps that process in most cases. Doctors are prescribing powerful drugs to interfere with something — puberty — that is not a disease.

We are living in the midst of a rage for sexual mutability, and rising numbers of children are reporting cross-sex identification. But is this a cultural fad we’re unconsciously imposing on them? Before resorting to dire and irreversible “treatments” on otherwise healthy children, we ought to remove our own cultural blinders.

June25th 2017

When Alifya (Ally) Sulemanji first disclosed on Facebook that she opposed female genital cutting, she got unfriended by a handful of women in her religious community.

But the backlash got worse.

Now, says the New York activist, some women at her mosque won't talk to her or look at her. And even those who support her views, she says, ignore her at religious gatherings out of fear of being shunned themselves.

Sulemanji is not alone.

Read more:

Genital mutilation victims break their silence: 'This is demonic'

Religious defense planned in landmark Detroit genital mutilation case 

Number of girls and women at risk of genital mutilation triples in U.S.

In the wake of the federal government's historic female genital mutilation investigation in metro Detroit involving the Dawoodi Bohra, a small Indian Muslim sect, advocates seeking to end genital cutting say they are getting backlash like never before from fellow members of their sect for speaking out against the practice.

The backlash has largely occurred on social media where, advocates say, they’ve come under attack by a fledgling overseas group of Bohra women who are fighting to keep what they call female circumcision legal in India.

In recent weeks, a group called the Dawoodi Bohra Women for Religious Freedom has launched campaigns on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook,  seeking to preserve female circumcision in India, calling it a religious rite of passage.

"We have been demonized and misunderstood and absent from the narrative that involves us for far too long," the Dawoodi Bohra group wrote in an e-mail to the Free Press, which has extensively covered the issue. "Our organization was formed as a spontaneous coming together in reaction to the sustained negativity about us. We want to tell you our side of the story."

The group maintains it does not condone female genital mutilation and that it only practices a form of female circumcision that involves no cutting — just  a minor nick of the clitoral hood.

'This is nonsense'

Advocates working to end genital mutilation, including some Bohra women who underwent the procedure as young girls, dispute that it involves a minor nick. They say the Bohras have launched a hate campaign on those who disagree with them or speak out against them.

For example,  according to activists, the Bohra group is telling its followers to put a thumb down on certain YouTube videos that feature genital mutilation survivors talking about their ordeals and condemning the practice. The goal, activists say, is to get so many negative reviews of the video that YouTube will take the videos down.

Similar tactics occurred on Instagram, where anti-female genital mutilation posts were getting inundated with negative comments by those supporting female circumcision.

Some Bohra activists say their families are also getting ostracized by the religious community and pressured into telling their daughters to stop denouncing female circumcision — also known as khafz or khatna.

"We’ve always had backlash, but the intensity of it really increased in the last couple of weeks," said Mariya Taher, a Massachusetts activist and vocal opponent of female genital mutilation. "Some (Bohras)  were really angry that we were speaking out about this."

Taher, a Bohra who was subjected to genital mutilation when she was 7 during a vacation in India, is cofounder of a group called Sahiyo, which means "friend" in Bohra Gujurati. The group's mission is to end female genital cutting and empower women in the Bohra community and in Asia.

Taher believes Sahiyo in particular has come under attack by the Bohra community, citing a new hashtag that has cropped up on the Internet: #Sahiyoisnotmyvoice and Instagram images that depict that hashtag. One of Sahiyo's cofounders in India also was advised by a cousin not to go to mosque because people were unhappy with her views.

"We started getting inundated with messages from people who supported them and angry women claiming that we are putting a bad face on this, that we're really not Bohras," Taher said.

Taher, however, is not giving up her fight to end female genital mutilation in any form — be it cutting, shaving or nicking.

“This is violence. This is wrong,” said Taher, who can’t fathom why her religious community can’t see that. “It’s still shocking because to me it makes common sense. … I’m trying to do what I feel is right. And so getting attacked like that is — I don’t know — It makes me stop and wonder … but I know it’s worth it.”

She also stressed: "Our intention has never been to put a bad name on the community, but to end a harmful practice and to bring it out to the public from its secretive nature."

Sulemanji, who  was subjected to genital mutilation when she was 7, is also frustrated by the pushback in her religious community. She's especially outraged by the claims that there's no cutting.

"I went to the doctor and got myself checked. And she said that they did cut the top of the clitoris."

"They can say whatever they want, but this is what it is,"  Sulemanji said. ”They literally cut. ... I don't believe this is scraping of skin — this is cutting the hood of the clitoris."

And even if it is just scraping, she said, that's wrong, too.

"Why do you want to scrape? All the little girls around the world who are not (Bohra)... their parents are not scraping their girls. ... This is just plain nonsense." 

'We were judged and damned'

In the criminal case unfolding in Detroit, prosecutors have expressed concerns that the Farmington Hills mosque — where the local Dawoodi Bohra worship — is interfering with the investigation.

As Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward said during the arraignment early this month of a fourth defendant: “We have concerns that obstructive conduct has taken place at the mosque.”

But the organization that oversees the local mosque has repeatedly said that it does not condone its members violating any U.S. law and that it has issued a directive instructing members not to engage in any practice that could be construed as genital mutilation.

“It is an important rule of the Dawoodi Bohras that we respect the laws of the land, wherever we live," the group, known as Anjuman-e-Najmi Detroit, has stated. “This is precisely what we have done for several generations in America. It is unfortunate if anyone has not abided by the laws of the country.”

Despite these words of caution, the group, however, stops short of condemning female circumcision as practiced by Bohras.

In the metro Detroit case, six Bohra members —  including two doctors, a physician's wife and and two mothers — are charged with subjecting several young girls in some fashion to genital mutilation procedures. So far, the government has identified six minor victims: four from metro Detroit; two from Minnesota.  Federal prosecutors believe the chief suspect in the case, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44, of Northville, may have performed the procedure on up to 100 young girls over the past dozen years.

It is the first such prosecution in the U.S., though the Bohras were the focus of a 2015 mutilation prosecution in Australia.

A movement also is under way in India's Supreme Court to criminalize all versions of female genital mutilation, even the ceremonial nick practiced by the Bohra.

The Bohras are fighting back, claiming the anti-genital mutilation movement is putting a bad face on its religion and mischaracterizes female circumcision as practiced by the sect. Their procedure, they maintain, is extremely minor, not harmful and involves only a nicking of the clitoral hood. They say it's not done to suppress a woman's sexuality, but as a requirement for purity.

"We hope that the U.S. understands that khafz is not FGM," the Dawoodi Bohra Women for Religious Freedom said in its letter to the Free Press. "It does not mutilate, it does not harm. Our faith would never advocate anything that harms. Khafz is far less invasive than male circumcision that is legal in the U.S."

But four Bohra women now living in the U.S., who each said that they had their clitorises cut when they were 7 years old, described the procedure in interviews with the Free Press as painful, horrifying, cruel and "a form of gender violence and child abuse." 

The group also denies attacking Bohra members who have spoken out against the religious practice.

"We have not heard of anyone in the U.S. or anywhere else come under attack," the group said.

The Bohra organization, however, said it does take issue with Sahiyo's approach to ending genital mutilation, stating: "What we find wrong with their approach is that they have attempted to discredit the community, and especially its leadership and have shamed the community's women."

Moreover, the group claims: "We were judged and damned and portrayed as child abusers and archaic religious zealots. (Sahiyo) might say that they meant no harm but cause harm they did. ... Our garb marked us out, and we felt persecuted, vulnerable and stripped."

Bohra women typically dress in a hooded waist-length cape and a long skirt with colorful embroidery.

The group also insists is it opposed to female genital mutilation.

"Khafz is not FGM,"  the group said.  "And we live peaceful productive lives as Dawoodi Bohras do — causing neither ourselves nor anyone else any harm. Then the Sahiyo burst upon the scene in a flurry of sensational media reports that clearly targeted Dawoodi Bohra women accusing them of FGM, while ironically claiming to speak for them. We were shocked to find ourselves in the eye of a storm. We were relentlessly bombarded with one-sided articles in most major papers in India that were often accompanied by lurid graphics — like women wearing (our traditional garb) holding a blade dripping with blood or bloody surgical instruments."

Why the secrecy?

"We are Muslim women. The veil assures our privacy. Obviously any discussion of our genitals is going to be private. There is no great sinister conspiracy about this as seems to imply," the group states, adding the open discussion by critics about "our most private body parts, is for us, unforgivable."

Girls were 'publicly shamed’

According to social activist and child advocate Insia Dariwala, an award-winning international filmmaker who lives in Mumbai and is a member of the Bohra faith, the Detroit case put the community on high alert.  

As the movement to end genital mutilation gained momentum and the case made international headlines, she said, the Bohras in India sprang into damage control to protect their image and launched a full-on attack on whoever spoke out against female circumcision.

“The backlash was tremendous. We were trolled on social media.  Our personal lives were attacked. Our loyalty to the faith was questioned.  And on a more personal level, young girls known to me were publicly shamed,” Dariwala wrote in an e-mail to the Free Press. “Their parents were humiliated and also threatened with ostracism when they spoke up for us. The families were traumatized.”

But she’s not backing down.

“Naturally, it was upsetting for me, but I chose to  vent my feelings in an article,” said Dariwila, an advertising graduate of the prestigious Fashion Institute  of Technology in New York.  “The backlash, in fact, reinstates our belief that we must be doing something right to make them feel so threatened.”

However,  she noted, the fight to end female genital mutilation in India appears to have hit a roadblock.

“Honestly, a lot has changed since the Detroit case happened.  While in the beginning we were positive that something good was going to come out of it, today we are not so certain of that,” Dariwala said.

According to Dariwala, the movement to ban genital mutilation in India seemed to gain momentum following a declaration last month by India’s Women & Child Health Ministry that the practice is illegal and should be banned in India. However, she said, the government official has since met with Bohra religious leaders and said the government has decided to handle this sensitive issue on its own.

“Needless to say, we are not very hopeful on the outcome of this promise now. There is serious doubt of any legal ban on FGM coming through in India, with the recent developments on the legal front,” Dariwala said, noting pressure to preserve genital mutilation is coming from all over. “ It’s not the just the Bohra community in India, but from all over the world, who have come together to fight for their rights to practice their religious beliefs.  Herein lies the biggest problem.“

Dariwala is exasperated, arguing the Koran nowhere mentions female circumcision as a mandatory practice. She believes the Bohras  are armored with misplaced religious beliefs and are afraid to question the practice and authorities.

“The faith of a community, or the rights of anyone practicing their religious beliefs, cannot rest on the genitals of a little girl,” Dariwala said. “It’s deplorable, no matter which religion you belong to.”

She added: “We are saddened to see how women are rooting for other women to continue the suffering.”

 

June 23rd 2017

Mona Charen: Puberty suppression and FGM

By MONA CHAREN
Michigan is set to become the 26th state to join the federal government in criminalizing female genital mutilation, even as two Detroit area doctors and one of their wives await trial for inflicting the procedure on a number of young girls. 

FGM, which is common in some parts of Africa and the Middle East, involves using a razor to remove all or part of a girl’s clitoris and parts of the vulva.

By Western standards, this amounts to child abuse and criminal assault. FGM defenders claim that the practice makes girls feel “clean;” that it helps them to fit into their subculture; and that it promotes good marriages.

We’re not swayed by such rationalizations — but can we see past our own cultural blind spots?

Our clinics are performing their own mutilations on perfectly healthy people — delaying puberty in boys and girls with “gender dysphoria.”

While adults are free to make their own decisions about their bodies, and there may well be some percentage of the population who are happier to live as a simulacrum of the opposite sex, the rapid adoption of puberty-blocking hormone treatments for children — with a view to facilitating sex reassignment surgeries at age 18 or above — is nearly as disturbing as FGM.

Children, after all, are not capable of making irrevocable decisions about their own welfare, and, as Drs. Paul Hruz, Lawrence Mayer and Paul McHugh object in the spring edition of The New Atlantis (“Growing Pains”), the use of puberty-blocking hormone treatments is “drastic” and highly experimental.

These drugs have been in use only since 1993 for rare cases of “precocious puberty” (before age 8 in girls and 9 in boys). The use of such drugs to delay puberty until a normal age, Hruz, Mayer and McHugh argue, is justified because doctors understand what causes “precocious puberty.” They do not have a comparable grasp on the causes of gender dysphoria, and for that reason among others, the resort to puberty-blocking hormones is not good medicine.

The physical effects include retarding growth (which may or may not be reversed by later cross-hormone treatment), reduced bone density, possible increased susceptibility to cancer, obesity in natal males and, if followed up by sex reassignment surgery, permanent infertility. In addition, all transsexuals are consigned to a lifelong regimen of cross-sex hormones, the effects of which have not been well studied. If such drugs were proposed to treat anything other than a sexual complaint in children, the medical community would be in an uproar.

Children must rely on parents and other adults to see them through developmental stages and safeguard their welfare. Parents, in turn, rely on experts to advise them about childhood problems, and that’s where our current rage for transgender identities becomes disturbing and unhinged. Whereas the normal protocols for medical interventions include careful testing, clinical trials, and follow-up studies, the medical establishment is heedlessly plunging into “affirmative treatment” for gender dysphoria. Rather than helping the child to align his or her identity with his or her biological sex, the model encourages affirmation of the child’s delusion. Puberty suppression is presented as a completely reversible pause in development — an opportunity for the child to “explore” his identity unconfused by the hormonal changes of puberty.

But that benign interpretation is dubious. Though data are scant because of the very small samples of gender dysphoric children who have actually been studied, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders claims that somewhere between 2 and 30 percent of males and 12 and 50 percent of females experiencing gender dysphoria will persist in their nonconforming gender identity post-puberty. Dr. Michelle Cretella estimates that between 85 and 90 percent of gender dysphoric children outgrow it when they pass through puberty.

The psychological effects of puberty suppression are probably even more profound than the physical. A child who has spent years acting and being treated as the opposite sex, especially by parents, cannot be said to be a blank slate ready to “reverse” the effects of puberty-blocking drugs later if the child so wishes. His or her self-concept will already have been markedly affected. Further, as Hruz, Mayer and McHugh note, there are no large-scale studies that have tracked patients who withdrew from treatment and then progressed through normal puberty. Nor is it clear that delaying puberty helps a child through the psychological terrain of evolving identity. Normal sexual development very likely helps that process in most cases. Doctors are prescribing powerful drugs to interfere with something — puberty — that is not a disease.

We are living in the midst of a rage for sexual mutability, and rising numbers of children are reporting cross-sex identification. But is this a cultural fad we’re unconsciously imposing on them? Before resorting to dire and irreversible “treatments” on otherwise healthy children, we ought to remove our own cultural blinders.

 

June 23rd 2017

LANSING, MI — Doctors, parents and others involved in female genital mutilation could go to prison for up to 15 years under a tough, 13-bill package approved by both chambers of the Michigan Legislature and now on the way to Gov. Rick Snyder, who is expected to sign it. Female genital mutilation, or FGM as it is known, has been illegal in the United States for two decades, but federal prosecutors have said that as many as 100 Michigan girls have undergone the procedure, a religious rite of passage in some cultures.

The proposed Michigan law is tougher than the federal statute, which carries a five-year prison sentence. Legislators said imposing tougher penalties in Michigan may make parents think twice before transporting their daughters across state lines to have the internationally condemned procedure.

FGM procedures, which have no health benefits, can range from membrane scraping to removal of outside genitalia, and are intended to curb the sexual desires of girls and women. Serious health consequences can result, including chronic pain, infections, infertility, complications during childbirth and psychological problems.

The House of Representatives gave final passage to FGM bills Thursday, making Michigan the 26th state to pass statutes outlawing the practice.

Four people have been charged with female genital mutilation in the case, the first court test of the federal FGM statute. They include Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44, of Northville; Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and his wife, Farida Attar, 50, of Farmington Hills; and Tahera Shafiq, 48, of Northville.

They are accused of conspiring to perform FGM on two 7-year-old Minnesota girls who traveled to Fakhruddin Attar’s clinic in Livonia with their parents. All are members of the Muslim sect Dawoodi Bohra, but FGM is practiced in other cultures as well, including majority Christian nation such as Ethiopia. It is also common in other parts of Africa, and in parts of Asia and the Middle East.

Here are five things to know about the legislation:

Why Michigan got tougher on FGM than other states: The Michigan law is one of the toughest in the country by design. Rep. Klint Kesto, a Commerce Township Republican who sponsored the legislation, says it sends a strong message that Michigan isn’t the place to go for female genital mutilation, the Associated Press reported.

“We can’t have Michigan be a destination for this criminal activity, this suppression of women’s rights, this oppression of girls,” Kesto said.

Who opposed FGM legislation and why: Rep. Martin Howrylak, a Troy Republican, was one of two House members who voted against the bills in their original form. He opposes FGM, but favors legislation that would have taken cultural differences into account, the Detroit Free Press reported.

“Will families avoid medical care for fear of being penalized and having their kids taken away and possibly being deported for something that where they grew up was a way of life and they didn’t know anything else?” he said. “Why don’t we just rely on the federal crime?”

Rep. Rose Mary Robinson, a Detroit Democrat, opposed an earlier version of the legislation because it extended the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits, but not on criminal charges, The Detroit News reported. The legislation was amended.

Women have longer to seek legal recourse: Girls subjected to the procedure would have 10 years, or until their 21st birthday, whichever is later, to file criminal charges, and could sue in civil court for damages until their 28th birthday, which is longer than the two-year window to bring civil lawsuits after the discovery of harm.

Amanda Parker, senior director of a AHA Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit group that defends women and girls against violence, told the AP that Michigan lawmakers are “really ticking all the boxes” with the legislation. Few states have extended the statute of limitations on criminal FGM charges, giving victims who were too young to understand what was happening them legal recourse as adults.

“This is a procedure that happens to little girls who are typically so young that not only do they not know what’s happening to them, they don’t know that it’s wrong,” Parker said. “They don't know that they have the option to stand up for themselves.”

Education program sets Michigan apart: The Michigan legislation brings conversations previously only whispered about out of the shadows. It requires the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to develop and administer an education program the dangers of FGM with the state’s new immigrant populations, who may be at risk for FGM. Teachers, police and physicians would also receive training.

When FGM isn’t a crime: Female genital mutilation wouldn’t be a crime if performed on girls under the age of 18 for sound medical reason. Arguments that FGM is a cultural custom or ritual could not be used as a defense.

In the federal case filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, defendants have said through their lawyers that FGM is a religious ritual protected under the First Amendment — a defense may take the case into new First Amendment territory.

 

June 22nd 2017

WireService.ca Media Release (06/19/2017) Toronto, ON The RINJ Foundation, a Canadian-based Women's Rights Group has accused Facebook of smothering RINJ warnings to families about the perils of Female Genital Mutilation.

In a statement published on its public relations web site, The RINJ Foundation says it has filed a complaint to Facebook about the Social Media's site's proclivity to 'smother' public service announcements that talk about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

The Women of RINJ claim that FGM is a continually growing problem in the United States among right wing so-called Christian extremists as well as among a small percentage of the 1%-of-total-America Muslim Community.

Despite a mid-90's U.S. federal law in banning Female Genital Mutilation, there is a work-around surgical procedure done on children from two to six years of age. Like other elective vaginal surgery, the procedure is for the well-heeled costing as much as vaginal tightening or a breast augmentation. The procedure involves severing the nerves to the clitoris. It has the same effect as the complete removal of the clitoris which was the most common surgery, but done ib in very crude ways.

The impact on the patient, say the RINJ doctors and nurses, is exponentially worsening past puberty and eventually can lead to serious depression and even suicide, along with a bevy of other side-effects nobody would want to endure, especially when this sexual assault takes place in childhood.

Facebook, the RINJ group claims, has blocked their warnings to families to stay away from this practice.

 

June 18th 2017

Among social activists and feminists, combating female genital mutilation (FGM) is an important policy goal. Sometimes called female circumcision or female genital cutting, FGM is the cutting of the clitoris of girls in order to curb their sexual desire and preserve their sexual honor before marriage. The practice, prevalent in some majority Muslim countries, has a tremendous cost: many girls bleed to death or die of infection. Most are traumatized. Those who survive can suffer adverse health effects during marriage and pregnancy. New information from Iraqi Kurdistan raises the possibility that the problem is more prevalent in the Middle East than previously believed and that FGM is far more tied to religion than many Western academics and activists admit.

Many Muslims and academics in the West take pains to insist that the practice is not rooted in religion[1] but rather in culture. "When one considers that the practice does not prevail and is much condemned in countries like Saudi Arabia, the center of the Islamic world, it becomes clear that the notion that it is an Islamic practice is a false one," Haseena Lockhat, a child clinical psychologist at North Warwickshire Primary Care Trust, wrote.[2] True, FGM occurs in non-Muslim societies in Africa. And in Arab states such as Egypt, where perhaps 97 percent of girls suffer genital mutilation,[3] both Christian Copts and Muslims are complicit.

But at the village level, those who commit the practice believe it to be religiously mandated. Religion is not only theology but also practice. And the practice is widespread throughout the Middle East. Many diplomats, international organization workers, and Arabists argue that the problem is localized to North Africa or sub-Saharan Africa,[4] but they are wrong. The problem is pervasive throughout the Levant, the Fertile Crescent, and the Arabian Peninsula, and among many immigrants to the West from these countries. Silence on the issue is less reflective of the absence of the problem than insufficient freedom for feminists and independent civil society to raise the issue.

Detecting Female Genital Mutilation

It is perhaps understandable that many diplomats and academics do not recognize the scope of the problem. Should someone wish to understand the sexual habits of Westerners, he would not face a difficult task. He could survey personal advertisements, watch talk shows, and read magazine articles explaining the best ways to enhance sexual experience, not to mention numerous scientific publications on sex and gender relations. Public knowledge of trivial and even painful matters is incumbent in Western culture. The multitude of sexual habits and gender relations represents a vital element of life in the West, much the same as the economy, politics, sports, and culture.

If, however, someone wants to study sexual relations and habits in Middle Eastern societies, it would be difficult to find comparable traces in public. Almost everything connected with sexuality and personal relations is hidden in a private sphere. Advisory books and research on sexual habits are almost nonexistent beyond comprehensive rules and prohibitions outlined by Islamic law or, in Shi'ite societies, beyond the questions and responses submitted to senior ayatollahs. Sex education is not taught at the university, let alone in any high school. Psychology remains a shadow discipline, almost absent in the eastern Middle East and only slightly more present in North Africa where more than a century of French rule offered more opportunity for it to take root. The Library of the British Psychoanalytical Society, for example, holds only one journal on psychotherapy or psychoanalysis in Arabic. Arab psychoanalyst Jihad Mazarweh gave an interview in the German weekly Die Zeit in which he said, "For most people, speaking about sexuality, as it happens in psychoanalysis, is almost unthinkable."[5] It would be a mistake to interpret lack of public discussion of many sexual issues in the Middle East as indicative of a lack of problems. Rather, the silence only reflects the strength of taboo.

Female genital mutilation has been a top priority for United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) for almost three decades. As early as 1952, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution condemning the practice.[6] International momentum against the practice built when, in 1958, the Economic and Social Council invited the World Health Organization to study the persistence of customs subjecting girls to ritual operations.[7] They repeated their call three years later.[8] The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women denounced the practice,[9] and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child identified female genital mutilation as a harmful traditional practice.[10] According to the Demographic and Health Surveys Program, a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development to assist in undertaking medical and reproductive health surveys, FGM affects 130 million women in twenty-eight African countries.[11] Rather than diminishing as countries modernize, FGM is expanding.[12]

Anthropologists and activists identify three main types of FGM. Pharaonic circumcision refers to the removal of the entire clitoris; the labia minora and medial part of the labia majora are cut with both sides of the organ stitched together to leave only a small opening. Clitorectomy requires the removal of the entire clitoris along with part of the labia minora. Sunna circumcision, the most common form in the Islamic world, requires removal of the prepuce of the clitoris.

Genital Mutilation: An African Phenomenon?

Many experts hold that female genital mutilation is an African practice. Nearly half of the FGM cases represented in official statistics occur in Egypt and Ethiopia; Sudan also records high prevalence of the practice.[13] True, Egypt is part of the African continent but, from a cultural, historical, and political perspective, Egypt has closer ties to the Arab Middle East than to sub-Saharan Africa. Egypt was a founding member of the Arab League, and Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser came to personify Arab nationalism between 1952 until his death in 1970. That FGM is so prevalent in Egypt should arouse suspicion about the practice elsewhere in the Arab world, especially given the low appreciation for women's rights in Arab societies. But most experts dismiss the connection of the practice with Islam. Instead, they explain the practice as rooted in poverty, lack of education, and superstition.

Few reports mention the existence of FGM elsewhere in the Middle East, except in passing. A UNICEF report on the issue, for example, focuses on Africa and makes only passing mention of "some communities on the Red Sea coast of Yemen." UNICEF then cites reports, but no evidence, that the practice also occurs to a limited degree in Jordan, Gaza, Oman, and Iraqi Kurdistan.[14] The German semigovernmental aid agency, the Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit, reports that FGM is prevalent in twenty-eight African countries but only among small communities "in a few Arab and Asian countries (e.g., Yemen, a few ethnic groups in Oman, Indonesia, and Malaysia).[15] Some scholars have asserted that the practice does not exist at all in those countries east of the Suez Canal.[16] Such assertions are wrong. FGM is a widespread practice in at least parts of these countries.[17]

Latest findings from northern Iraq suggest that FGM is practiced widely in regions outside Africa. Iraqi Kurdistan is an instructive case. Traditionally, Kurdish society is agrarian. A significant part of the population lives outside cities. Women face a double-burden: they are sometimes cut off from even the most basic public services and are subject to a complex of patriarchal rules. As a result, living conditions for women are poor. Many of the freedoms and rights introduced by political leaders in Iraqi Kurdistan after the establishment of the safe-haven in 1991 are, for many women, more theoretical than actual.

In early 2003, WADI, a German-Austrian NGO focusing on women's issues,[18] started to work with mobile teams to take medical aid and social support to women in peripheral Kurdish areas such as in the Garmian region of Iraqi Kurdistan. These all-female teams consisting of a physician, a nurse, and a social worker built trust and opened doors in local communities otherwise sealed against outsiders. After more than a year of working in the area, women began to speak about FGM. Kurds in the area practice Sunna circumcision. Midwives often perform the operation with unsterilized instruments or even broken glass and without anesthesia on girls four to twelve years old. The extent of mutilation depends on the experience of the midwife and the luck of the girl. The wound is then treated with ash or mud with the girls then forced to sit in a bucket of iced water. Many Kurdish girls die, and others suffer chronic pain, infection, and infertility. Many say they suffer symptoms consistent with posttraumatic stress disorder syndrome.[19]

Subsequent research found that 907 out of 1,544 women questioned had undergone genital circumcision, a cutting rate of nearly 60 percent.[20] Follow-up research in the Irbil and Kirkuk governorates suggests rates of FGM consistent with those in Garmian. Nearly every woman questioned declared FGM to be a "normal" practice. Most women referred to the practice as both a tradition and a religious obligation. When asked why they subject their daughters to the operation, many women respond "it has always been like that." Because the clitoris is considered to be "dirty" (haram, the connotation is forbidden by religion), women fear that they cannot find husbands for their daughters if they have not been mutilated; many believe men prefer sex with a mutilated wife. Others stress the religious necessity of FGM even though Islamic law is unclear with regard to FGM. While Western scholars may dismiss the religious roots of the practice, what counts is that many Islamic clerics in northern Iraq advise women to practice FGM. Should a woman consider abandoning the practice, she must be aware that she could appear as disreputable in the public eye.[21] Men usually avoid offering a clear statement about whether FGM is a good practice; rather, they refer to FGM as a female practice in which men should not interfere. None of the men said he had ever discussed the question with his wife.[22]

The reaction of locals to the findings has been instructive. When confronted with the study results, only a few women's activists in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya expressed surprise although most said they did not realize just how high a proportion of women was affected.[23] While a local researcher and women's rights activist Ronak Faraj had published a study on female circumcision in Sulaimaniya in 2004,[24] the fact that an international NGO had become aware of the problem bolstered public attention. While many Kurdish authorities were at first reluctant to address the issue for fear that the Kurdish region might appear backward, they now acknowledge the problem and are working to confront it with both an awareness campaign and with legislation.[25] But some members of influential Islamic and Arabic organizations in the diaspora scandalized the findings, accusing WADI of trying to insult Islam and spread anti-Islamic propaganda. Tarafa Baghajati and Omar al-Rawi, both members of the Initiative of Muslim Austrians, called the data part of an "Islamophobic campaign" and declared no FGM exists in Iraq.[26] That Islamic and Arabic organizations in Austria, for example, make such arguments is indicative of the problem affecting FGM data: these groups believe that if there are no such anti-FGM campaigns or studies, then they can bypass an embarrassing problem.

Such campaigns take time. In Egypt, anti-FGM education campaigns inaugurated in the mid-1990s are only now bearing fruit.[27] The idea that rooted practices cannot be changed is false. For centuries, foot-binding crippled Chinese women. An anti-foot-binding society formed only in 1874, but the activists were successful in scaling back and, eventually, eliminating the practice.[28] In Western societies, too, open public discourse on sexuality became possible only by persistent struggle in the face of stark opposition. The heated reactions to the 1948 Kinsey Report—and the portion concerning female sexuality published in 1953—are a case in point.[29]

How Widespread Is Female Genital Mutilation?

The discovery of widespread FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan suggests the assumption to be incorrect that FGM is primarily an African phenomenon with only marginal occurrence in the eastern Islamic world. If FGM is practiced at a rate of nearly 60 percent by Iraqi Kurds, then how prevalent is the practice in neighboring Syria where living conditions and cultural and religious practices are comparable? According to Fran Hosken, late founder of the Women's International Network News and author of groundbreaking research on FGM in 1975, "There is little doubt that similar practices—excision, child marriage, and putting rock salt into the vagina of women after childbirth—exist in other parts of the Arabian Peninsula and around the Persian Gulf." [30] That no firsthand medical records are available for Saudi Arabia or from any other countries in that region does not mean that these areas are free of FGM, only that the societies are not free enough to permit formal study of societal problems. That diplomats and international aid workers do not detect FGM in other societies also should not suggest that the problem does not exist. After all, FGM was prevalent in Iraqi Kurdistan for years but went undetected by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and many other international NGOs in the region. Perhaps the most important factor enabling an NGO to uncover FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan was the existence of civil society structures and popular demand for individual rights. Such conditions simply do not exist in Syria, Saudi Arabia, or even the West Bank and Gaza where local authorities fight to constrain individual freedoms rather than promote them.

But the problem is not only that autocratic regimes tend to suppress the truth. There also must be someone in place to conduct surveys. Prior to Iraq's liberation, it was impossible to undertake independent surveys on issues such as malnutrition and infant mortality. Saddam Hussein's regime preferred to supply data to the U.N. rather than to enable others to collect their own data which might not support the conclusions the Baathist regime desired to show. The oft-cited 1999 UNICEF study claiming that U.N. sanctions had led to the deaths of 500,000 children was based on figures supplied by Saddam's regime, not an independent survey.[31] The U.N. undertook its first reliable statistical research on the living conditions in Iraq only after liberation.[32] Syrian, Saudi, and Iranian authorities simply do not let NGOs operate without restriction, especially when they deal with sensitive social issues.

Taboo—not social but political—is another factor undercutting research on FGM in Arab countries. Many academics and NGO workers in the region find it objectionable to criticize the predominant Muslim or Arab cultures. They will bend over backwards to avoid the argument that FGM is rooted in Arab or Muslim cultures even though no one argues that FGM is exclusively an Arab or Muslim problem. Statistical data from African countries indicate no clear relationship between FGM and a specific religion.[33] Still, this does not mean that the causes of FGM do not vary across regions and that religion has no influence. As California State University anthropologist Ellen Gruenbaum has explained, "People have different and multiple reasons [for FGM] ... For some it is a rite of passage. For others it is not. Some consider it aesthetically pleasing. For others, it is mostly related to morality or sexuality."[34] Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, an internationally known expert on FGM who spent years in Kenya, Egypt, and Sudan, explains that "it is believed in the Sudan that the clitoris will grow to the length of a goose's neck until it dangles between the legs, in rivalry with the male's penis, if it is not cut."[35]

Most studies speak of "justifications"[36] and "rationalizations"[37] for FGM but do not speak of causes since this could implicate Islamic rules relating to women and sexual morality. Islam is regarded as a wrong "justification," often with a citation that the Qur'an does not require FGM. That many women in northern Iraq—and presumably many women in Egypt—believe that the practice is rooted in religion is a factor ignored by Western universities and international organizations.

Islamic Scholars on Female Genital Mutilation

Islamic scholars disagree on FGM: some say no obligatory rules exist while others refer to the mention of female circumcision in the Hadith. According to Sami A. Aldeeb Abu Sahlieh, a Palestinian-Swiss specialist in Islamic law:

The most often mentioned narration reports a debate between Muhammed and Um Habibah (or Um 'Atiyyah). This woman, known as an exciser of female slaves, was one of a group of women who had immigrated with Muhammed. Having seen her, Muhammad asked her if she kept practicing her profession. She answered affirmatively, adding: "unless it is forbidden, and you order me to stop doing it." Muhammed replied: "Yes, it is allowed. Come closer so I can teach you: if you cut, do not overdo it, because it brings more radiance to the face, and it is more pleasant for the husband."[38]

Abu Sahlieh further cited Muhammad as saying, "Circumcision is a sunna (tradition) for the men and makruma (honorable deed) for the women."[39]

While some clerics say circumcision is not obligatory for women, others say it is. "Islam condones the sunna circumcision ... What is forbidden in Islam is the pharaonic circumcision,"[40] one religious leader explained. Others, such as the late rector of Al-Azhar University, Sheikh Gad al-Haq, said that since the Prophet did not ban female circumcision, it was permissible and, at the very least, could not be banned.[41]

In short, some clerics condemn FGM as an archaic practice, some accept it, and still others believe it to be obligatory. It is the job of clerics to interpret religious literature; it is not the job of FGM researchers and activists. There is a certain tendency to confuse a liberal interpretation of Islam with the reality women face in many predominately Islamic regions. To counter FGM as a practice, it is necessary to accept that Islam is more than just a written text. It is not the book that cuts the clitoris, but its interpretations aid and abet the mutilation.

Conclusions

There are indications that FGM might be a phenomenon of epidemic proportions in the Arab Middle East. Hosken, for instance, notes that traditionally all women in the Persian Gulf region were mutilated.[42] Arab governments refuse to address the problem. They prefer to believe that lack of statistics will enable international organizations to conclude that the problem does not exist in their jurisdictions. It is not enough to consult Islamic clerics to learn about the mutilation of girls in Islamic societies—that is like asking the cook if the guests like the meal. U.N. agencies operating in the region ignore FGM statistics saying they have no applicable mandate to gather such data. Hosken describes it as a cartel of silence: men from countries were FGM is practiced "enjoy much influence at the U.N."[43] and show no interest in tackling pressing social problems.

To tackle the problem, Western countries and human rights organizations need to continue to break down the wall of silence and autocracy that blights the Arab Middle East and better promote the notion of individual rights. They should withhold conclusions about the breadth of FGM and, for that matter, other social problems or political attitudes until they can conduct independent field research.

Thomas von der Osten-Sacken and Thomas Uwer are, respectively, managing director and board member of WADI.

Update from June 17, 2010: In this fresh study by Human Rights watch, which examines FGM in Kurdistan, the striking and disturbing thing is the extent to which Kurdish authorities have gone to minimize the problem and to ridicule the report's conclusion. This is a repeated feature of official responses to this and other problems across the region, where fear of embarrassment before world opinion carries greater weight than the damage done to women, young girls, and babies. -- The Editors

Update from February 4, 2016: The New York Times reports on a "new global assessment [that] documents for the first time that [FGM] is widespread in one of the most populous countries in Asia: Indonesia." This underscores that authors' claim that lack of reporting on the problem in a given country is not evidence that it doesn't exist.

Notes

[1] See, for example, Marie José Simonet, "FMG: Sunna oder Verbrechen aus Tradition," stopFMG.net, Vienna, June 24, 2005.
[2] Haseena Lockhat, Female Genital Mutilation: Treating the Tears (London: Middlesex University Press, 2004), p. 16.
[3] Weibliche Genitalverstümmelung: Geschichte, Ausmaß, Formen und Folgen (Vienna: Renner Institut, 2004), p. 6.
[4] See, for example, Innocenti Digest: Changing a Harmful Social Convention: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (Florence: UNICEF, 2005).
[5] Die Zeit (Hamburg), May 11, 2006.
[6] See, for example, Changing a Harmful Social Convention, p. VII.
[7] "Fact Sheet no. 23, Harmful Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children," U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva, accessed Aug. 11, 2006.
[8] ECOSOC resolution 821 II (XXXII); ibid.
[9] "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women," U.N. General Assembly resolution 34/180, Dec. 18, 1979.
[10] "Convention on the Rights of the Child," U.N. General Assembly resolution 44/25, Nov. 20, 1989, art. 24, 3.
[11] Dara Carr, Female Genital Cutting: Findings from the Demographic and Health Surveys Program (Calverton, Md.: Macro International, 1997), p. 1.
[12] Gerry Mackie, "A Way to End Female Genital Cutting," Female Genital Cutting education and Networking Project, Tallahassee, Fla., accessed Aug. 4, 2006.
[13] Eiman Okro, "Weibliche Genitalverstümmelung im Sudan," PhD dissertation, Humboldt University, Berlin (Hamburg: Akademos Science Publishing House, 2001); "Female Genital Mutilation in Africa: Information by Country," Amnesty International, accessed Sept. 1, 2006.
[14] Changing a Harmful Social Convention, p. 3.
[15] "What Is Female Genital Mutilation?" Gesellschaft fuer Technische Zusammenarbeit, Frankfurt, Ger., 2005, accessed Aug. 4, 2006.
[16] See, for example, "Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Africa, The Middle East and Far East: Where, Why and How It Is Done," Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, updated Mar. 2005.
[17] Fran P. Hosken, The Hosken Report: Genital and Sexual Mutilation of Females (Lexington: The Women's International Network News, 1993), pp. 275-8.
[18] WADI, offices in Frankfurt and Sulaimaniya.
[19] Janet Menage, "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Women Who Have Undergone Obstetric and/or Gynecological Procedures. A Consecutive Series of 30 Cases of PTSD," Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 11(1993): 221-8.
[20] Data derived from WADI field research in the Garmian region of Iraqi Kurdistan, 2005; Christian Science MonitorAug. 10, 2005; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Jan. 21, 2005; "Widespread FGM in Northern Iraq," Global Health Council, Jan. 6, 2005; "Iraq: Decades of Suffering, Now Women Deserve Better," Amnesty International, London, Feb. 22, 2005.
[21] Mackie, "A Way to End Female Genital Cutting."
[22] WADI field research, 2005.
[23] U.N. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Mar. 16, 2005.
[24] Ronak Faraj, "Female Circumcision," Women Information and Culture Center, Sulaimaniya, Iraq, 2004.
[25] The Irish Times (Dublin), Oct. 25, 2005.
[26] Judith Götz, " Anmerkungen zu einer Veranstaltung‚ Die politische Lage im Irak," Jan. 28, 2005, accessed Oct. 11, 2006.
[27] NBC News, Oct. 21, 2004.
[28] Mackie, "A Way to End Female Genital Cutting"; Marie Vento, "One Thousand Years of Chinese Footbinding: Its Origins, Popularity and Demise," paper, City University of New York, Mar. 7, 1998.
[29] "American Experience: Kinsey in the News," Public Broadcasting Service, Jan. 27, 2005.
[30] Hosken, The Hosken Report, p. 278.
[31] Michael Rubin, "Sanctions on Iraq: A Valid Anti-American Grievance?Middle East Review of International Affairs, June, 2002.
[32] "Iraq Living Conditions Survey 2004," United Nations Development Program, Baghdad, 2005.
[33] Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. A Statistical Exploration (New York: UNICEF, 2005), p. 10.
[34] Ellen Gruenbaum, The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), p. 33.
[35] Hanny Lightfoot-Klein. "Prisoners of Ritual: Some Contemporary Developments in the History of Female Genital Mutilation," presented at the Second International Symposium on Circumcision in San Francisco, Apr. 30-May 3, 1991.
[36] Julia M. Masterson and Julie Hanson Swanson, Female Genital Cutting: Breaking the Silence, Enabling Change (Washington, D.C.: International Center for Research on Women and the Center for Development and Population Activities, 2000), p. 5.
[37] "Female Genital Mutilation: A Joint WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA Statement," Geneva, 1997.
[38] Sami A. Aldeeb Abu Sahlieh, "To Mutilate in the Name of Jehovah or Allah: Legitimization of Male and Female Circumcision," Medicine and Law, July 1994, pp. 575-622.
[39] Ibid.
[40] Razor's Edge: The Controversy of Female Genital Mutilation, IRIN, Mar. 2005; Sheikh Omer, interview, IRINnews.org, U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Mar. 8, 2005.
[41] "Appendix: Is Female Circumcision Required?" Jannah.org, accessed Aug. 11, 2005.
[42] Hosken, The Hosken Report, p. 277.
[43] Ibid., p. 375.

June 15th 2017

Sweden prides itself as a recognized champion of human rights. However, its recently imported cultural values from the developing world may eventually shatter Sweden's shining image. Tens of thousands of women have been found to be suffering from genital mutilation, despite the fact that this immensely painful procedure is illegal.

The number of Swedish women who have undergone genital mutilation has been estimated to be at least several times higher than previously expected, a new survey has found.

In 2015, the National Board of Health estimated that there were approximately 38,000 women who have been victimized by female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Nordic country, which had for decades ranked at the top of various equality ratings.

The most recent survey, however, placed Sweden among the countries with the highest proportion of FGM sufferers, with a staggeringly morbid estimation of 150,000 in a nation of 10 million, Swedish Radio reported. Since genital mutilation is a very private and shame-laden, it remains largely unreported, with the actual number of victims potentially being still higher.

What makes matters worse, genital mutilation is being carried out among girls of immigrant descent in families that have been settled in Sweden for a long time. Despite the fact that FGM is strictly prohibited by Swedish law, tradition and religious prescriptions may sometimes overcome legal ramifications. In immigrant circles, girls are known to have been taken to their respective home countries to have this procedure performed.

The unexpectedly large and obviously still-growing number of genitally-mutilated women in Sweden places new demands on Swedish healthcare and school system, Swedish national broadcaster SVT wrote.

"Women who come to our reception have big problems. We remove the damaged parts in the lower abdomen area. But there are many more affected women in our society today, women we have to discover and offer help," Bita Eshragi, a physician from Amelmottagningen, Sweden's only clinic for FGM victims, told SVT.

Female genital mutilation, which is also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. The practice is found in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East and is mostly carried out for religious or spiritual reasons. According to a 2016 estimation by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), around 200 million women living today have undergone this procedure.

Depending on the country, FGM is carried out at various ages ranging from days after birth to puberty. The practice is rooted in ideals about women's chastity and purity, and failing to comply may result in social exclusion.

The exact amount of surgery (mostly carried out in field conditions) varies from country to country, yet typically includes the removal of both inner and outer labia and parts of the clitoris. Adverse health effects may include recurrent infections, difficulty urinating, chronic pain, infertility and complications during childbirth — with no known benefits whatsoever.

June 13th 2017

We may like to think that the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation is a Third World relic, happening only in distant and uncivilized backwaters. Not so. FGM is happening right here in America, in communities of successful and highly educated people.

Here’s some unfortunate evidence. In April, the FBI arrested Jumana Nagarwala, an emergency-room doctor and native-born American citizen, on charges of cutting two seven-year-old girls. Two more people, including another doctor, were arrested soon thereafter for allegedly being part of the same scheme (autoplay video at link).

This is the first-ever prosecution under a federal law that bans FGM. But it may just be the tip of the iceberg: prosecutors assert Nagarwala has been doing this to girls since at least 2005. A 2012 report by the CDC found that over half a million women and girls in the U.S. were in danger of FGM, a statistic that’s brought grimly to life by this case.

At a pretrial bail hearing, Nagarwala’s defense attorney Shannon Smith admitted that her client performed a medical procedure on the girls, but insisted that it wasn’t FGM. Instead, she claimed that it was a religious ritual practiced by a branch of Shia Islam called the Dawoodi Bohra, which both Nagarwala and the girls’ parents belong to. Allegedly, this procedure involves removing a small, symbolic scraping of tissue from their genitals, which does no permanent harm.

But as the judge found, there’s an obvious problem with that excuse: If this was so innocent, why did they take such pains to keep it secret?

“I think there’s clear and convincing evidence that your client poses a danger to the community,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Mona Mazjoub said during the hearing, in which she pressed the defense to explain why Nagarwala performed these procedures at a clinic late at night, but never kept any records or billed for them.

According to the criminal complaint, the two girls who were cut were told not to talk to anyone about it. A wiretap also captured one of the defendants telling parents “to deny to law enforcement that the procedures were being performed”. All this lends credence to the theory that the doctors knew what they were doing was illegal and had to be covered up.

Up to this point, it wasn’t looking good for the defendants. But according to new reporting, they have another horrifying argument to present: even if it was FGM, they have a religious right to perform it!

“We know there is female genital mutilation. No one is saying it doesn’t exist. But what we’re saying is this procedure does not qualify as FGM,” Chartier said.

“And even if it did, it would be exempt because it would violate their First Amendment rights. They believe that if they do not engage in this then they are not actively practicing their religion.”

Just for the sake of some perspective on what this “religious freedom” argument would permit, see this column by Tasneem Raja. She’s a member of the same sect, the Dawoodi Bohra. She speaks from experience when she says that this is no minor symbolic scraping, but major trauma:

As little girls, nearly all my female Bohra friends and I underwent khatna, the sect’s term for this practice… Some of us bled and ached for days, and some walked away with lifelong physical damage. In interviews with investigators, one of the girls Nagarwala performed on said the procedure hurt so badly that she screamed in pain and “could barely walk afterward.” She drew a picture of the room where it happened, and marked an “X” to show where she bled on an exam table.

…Privately, many Bohras have been praying for the clergy to end this practice for years, even decades. More than one mother I know wept when she learned she was bearing a girl, dreading what she might have to do to her child.

Despite decades of assimilation, the practice hasn’t died out among Bohras. It’s still carried out in secret, enforced with threats of excommunication and shunning. Bohra clergy have issued pious statements calling on their followers to obey the law, but that are widely seen as containing veiled language urging believers to just be more careful not to get caught.

While the Bohra sect is one of the worst offenders, it would be a distortion to think of FGM as a problem confined to Muslims or to immigrants. It also happens in white, Christian communities – anywhere that sexuality is viewed as shameful and women as a source of sin:

In 1947, Renee Bergstrom was 3, living with her white, fundamentalist Christian family in rural Minnesota. When her mother saw her toddler touching herself, she worried.

“So, she took me to a doctor who said, ‘I can fix that,’ and removed my clitoris,” Bergstrom told CNN.

The misogynist beliefs that drive FGM occur across cultures, but in nearly all cases they trace back to religion and its degradation of the female body. As long as these beliefs stay in the shadows and are treated as cultural secrets, they’ll persist. Whenever we can catch them, we absolutely should prosecute the people who inflict this torture on innocent girls. But ultimately, it’s only by publicizing awful stories like these, ripping off the veil of secrecy and shame, that we can have any hope of ending it permanently.

 

June 12th 2017

As more details emerge about the first-ever charges of female genital mutilation in the United States, the case is opening a window onto a small immigrant community, while stirring impassioned discussion about genital cutting among women who have experienced it.

At a hearing in Michigan this past week, a federal prosecutor said the defendants — two doctors and a clinic manager from a small Shiite Muslim sect — were believed to have arranged cutting for up to 100 girls since 2005. The prosecutor, Sara Woodward, said investigators had identified eight girls.

The unprecedented charges provide an unusual case study of a practice outlawed in the United States two decades ago but still seen in parts of Africa, the Middle East and, less frequently, South Asia. The focus on the Dawoodi Bohra, a sect of about 1.2 million based in western India, with clusters in the United States, Pakistan and elsewhere, is spurring Bohra women to describe their experiences publicly. Some are doing so for the first time, defying the sect’s historical secrecy about cutting and taking a risk that they or relatives will be ostracized.

“This Michigan case made me think I want to speak out,” said Nazia Mirza, 34, who was cut at age 6 in her hometown, Houston. “To me it’s very much like a rape survivor. If you don’t say anything, then how are you going to expose it and bring awareness?”

The case prompted Tasneem Raja, 34, a journalist, to write about being cut in New Jersey. She said she had received “an outpouring of emails from people saying thank you.”

But Raja said the case was exposing a spectrum of feelings. Even among Bohra women who oppose cutting, she said, views range from “women who say this has greatly impacted their sex life and their ability to enjoy sex, to people like me who walked away with lifelong emotional trauma, to people who say, ‘I don’t see what the big deal is.’”

Some worry the case is stoking anti-Muslim sentiment, though cutting is not in the Quran or practiced in many Muslim societies. And some Bohras who oppose cutting nonetheless feel the defendants are being unfairly demonized for a practice endorsed by their religion’s leadership.

“I don’t want to be pro the practice, but I don’t want it to be exaggerated into something completely barbaric,” said Maryah Haidery, 37, who comes from a Bohra family in New Jersey and had never spoken publicly about her cutting before.

Haidery, who does medical writing for pharmaceutical companies, said she was “very concerned about this violation” in Michigan, but also “taken aback by how vilified that Michigan doctor had become.”

Prosecutors, citing phone records, texts, interviews and surveillance video, accuse Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, an emergency medicine physician, of cutting the genitals of two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota. Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, an internist, is accused of letting Nagarwala use his Burhani Medical Clinic in Livonia. His wife, Farida Attar, the clinic’s office manager, is accused of holding the girls’ hands during the Feb. 3 procedures and urging others to deceive investigators.

According to a criminal complaint, one of the Minnesota girls told investigators that it was a “special girls’ trip” for a procedure “to get the germs out.” A medical examination showed that the girl’s labia minora had been “altered or removed,” that the clitoral hood was “abnormal in appearance” and that she had scar tissue and small lacerations.

The other girl said that she “‘got a shot’ and it hurt really badly and she screamed,” and that “after the procedure, she could barely walk, and she felt pain all the way down to her ankle,” the complaint said. An examination found a small incision in her clitoral hood and a small tear to her labia minora.

Attar said Nagarwala occasionally used his clinic to see 6- to 9-year-old Bohra girls for “problems with their genitals, including treatment of genital rashes,” the complaint said.

The Minnesota girls’ parents have not been charged. At least one girl was briefly removed from her parents’ custody.

Michigan’s Child Protective Services has initiated petitions to terminate custodial rights of several Bohra parents whose daughters are believed to have undergone cutting, including Nagarwala’s 12-year-old daughter and the Attars’ 8-year-old daughter. The Attars were released on bond, confined to house arrest; Nagarwala remained in prison.

Michigan’s Dawoodi Bohra mosque, Anjuman-e-Najmi, where the defendants worship, said in a statement after the arrests that “any violation of U.S. law is counter to instructions to our community members” and “does not reflect the everyday lives of the Dawoodi Bohras in America.”

Recently, the Dawat-e-Hadiyah, an organization overseeing smaller Shiite Muslim sects, hired two well-known lawyers, Alan Dershowitz and Mayer Morganroth, to help the defense, The Associated Press reported.

Nagarwala, 44, who was born in the United States, received her medical degree from Johns Hopkins and worked at Henry Ford Health System, which fired her after the arrest and said no cutting had occurred at its facilities.

Her lawyer, Shannon Smith, said Nagarwala acknowledged “removing a sesame seed-sized amount of mucous membrane” from the clitoral hood.

“What she did does not meet the definition of female genital mutilation,” Smith said, calling it “a ritual nick” and “a protected religious procedure.”

Attar’s lawyer, Mary Chartier, said her client was at a bookstore when prosecutors claim he met Nagarwala at the clinic. But she said “he knew that this century-old religious rite of passage was being conducted at his clinic” and believed “it wasn’t female genital mutilation.”

Lawyers for the Michigan defendants argue that their clients’ practice is milder than male circumcision.

“With what my client was doing,” Smith said, “we’re talking removal of the mucous membrane, and the girls are walking out the door 10 minutes later just fine.”

But while male circumcision has opponents, it is legal, and some medical experts link it to health advantages. In contrast, the cutting of female genitalia can cause serious difficulty or pain during sex, pregnancy or childbirth.

“Health providers know the harms and the short-term and long-term complications,” said Dr. Nawal Nour, director of the African Women’s Health Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who is experienced in treating such patients.

For the Dawoodi Bohra sect, which encourages education, particularly on a path toward medical and engineering professions, cutting increasingly generates debate.

In 2015, three Bohras in Australia were convicted of performing cutting. Afterward, leaders in India circulated letters to mosques worldwide, saying Bohras should follow laws of the countries where they live. Later, however, several Bohra women recalled, the highest Bohra leader gave a speech saying Bohra traditions should continue despite Western opposition.

Khatna, like many cutting traditions, is performed by women; men often say they are unaware of its occurrence. Justifications for it vary, including to curb sexual promiscuity, preserve tradition or, said Raja, “take a bad bug or a germ out of you.”

Mirza mostly remembers “a woman holding me — I was screaming.” Married with two children, Mirza, who left the sect, said cutting had “totally affected me in terms of my intimacy and struggling to feel pleasure.”

Haidery’s experience is complex. Cut by a relative with medical training using an anesthetic, she remembers little pain, saying she was told that “I had to do this in order to be fit to be married.” When an obstetrician examining her during pregnancy noticed nothing unusual, “I thought maybe it’s not a huge deal,” she said.

Still, she said that “I was shocked” when Bohra friends in New Jersey mentioned getting their daughters cut and was “very happy that I didn’t have a girl.”

Mariya Taher, a co-founder of a Bohra anti-cutting group, Sahiyo, which conducted a 2015 survey of Bohra women, said some Bohras considered cutting a “social norm” and “if you don’t get it done you’re doing something wrong and you’re not helping your daughter out.”

But more women now consider it “gender violence,” especially serious because “it’s happening to little girls,” she said.

“You’re tampering with female genitalia,” Mirza said. “It violates you as a human being and it shouldn’t be done, end of story.”

June 12 2017

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FGM, Islam, and Sexuality: One of these Doesn’t BelongJune 11, 2017 by  2 CommentsWritten by Sameera QureshiGiven the recent events concerning Dar Al-Hijrah and the statements made by Imam Shaker regarding the religious permissibility of female circumcision (i.e. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting – FGM/C), I feel the strong need to share points of discussion that aren’t being considered in most circles. Given that I have worked extensively in the field of sexual health and not religious scholarship, many of my points relate to the former field with some elucidations to religious contexts with the support of an expert.For those who are not aware of the situation, this recent Washington Post article will shed some light.The following points are worth considering:1. A valid explanation of “hypersexuality” is the following: “While some people mistakenly think that hypersexual disorders and sex addiction merely refers to an unusually high sex drive, it is much more complex than that. It is very similar to other addictions, which is evident upon closer examination of the various sex addiction signs.” Hypersexuality is not included in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness, Fifth Edition, which is used by psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose mental illnesses. Looking at other sources of information relating to hypersexuality elucidates that it consists of a complex and interwoven set of factors and symptoms that should not and cannot be simplified to “overactive libido/sexual desire.” Women (and men at that) who experience sexual desire and arousal are NOT hypersexual – they’re normal. Therefore, Muslim women and men who experience sexual desire and arousal are NOT hypersexual.Furthermore, groundbreaking research in the field of female and male sex desire points to one conclusion that completely shatters the use of the term “hypersexuality” in the context used during Iman Shaker’s talk: only 15% of women experience spontaneous sexual desire whereas 85% of men do. Women’s sexual desire is more linked to context, not spontaneity. If anyone is going to be hypersexual in the manner the term is used in Imam Shaker’s talk, it’s men, not women.*Mic drop*Emily Nagoski’s research on male and female sex drivesAnd while we are on the topic of hypersexuality – albeit in the context used by Imam Shaker – it’s only fair to mention the increasing rates of pornography use and addiction by Muslim men and the double standard regarding this topic being discussed in public forums. For example, the recent LaunchGood campaign for “Purify Your Gaze” which had immense success in their fundraising and received positive attention and praise from many community circles. The same certainly doesn’t hold true in relation to sexual health issues faced by women, especially when the most prevalent – sexual assault/violence and sexual dysfunction – are not as a result of choices women make. Women are victims and survivors in both of these cases. While many argue that men “fall victim” to pornography, that’s certainly not the case during the initial stages of accessing pornography under their own free will. While pornography addiction (experienced by a large number of men who access pornography, but not all) down the road involves the neurological circuits of dopamine and neurologically changes how a man is aroused, again, the initial stages of pornography use are under free will/choice. Sexual health education is needed to prevent this epidemic.Therefore, using hypersexuality to credit female circumcision/FGM/C is not only based on false premises and contradicts research in the field of sexuality, it’s also incredibly hypocritical.2. The center of sexual desire and arousal for both men and women are NOT their genitalia – it’s their brain. We must steer away from a genital-centric view of sexuality. Scientific research into the sexual response cycles of women and men clearly point towards the brain as the most powerful sexual organ. So too does Islam, as it was revealed in the Quran that the prescribed (cognitive) methods to enjoin chastity by both men and women is to practice modesty, lower the gaze, control one’s thoughts and seek marriage – not the removal of genitalia (Quran 24: 30 – 33).3. The problem is also a pseudo-interpretation that is based on misogynistic culture that views ‘women as fitna‘ (inherently bad) due to their sexuality and that they are temptresses for men that need to be controlled and subdued. Unfortunately, this feeds this type of understanding and the global double standard that male sexuality is fine yet female sexuality is a problem that needs to be controlled. The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) made it clear that the sexual act was to be enjoyed equally for both the husband and wife and they are a source of peace and tranquillity to each other.4. The other key issue is that it is important to contextualize the practice in relation to the maqasid of sharia (objectives) of Islam which are: Protection of life, Faith, Lineage, Sanity and Society/Property. FGM/C violates all these objectives. It is a practice that pre-dates Islam and has its roots in ancient Egypt with the most extreme practice being the Pharaonic method and again, the way of the Prophet was to differ from and distance from the practices of jahiliyah (pre-Islamic practices). Also, as far religious scriptural evidence, the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) did not practice this with his daughters and wives. The hadith that are often used in support of FGM are incredibly weak.5. There are various types of FGM/C, but all of them impact the clitoris. The clitoris has one function and one function only – pleasure. Meanwhile, the penis has four: sensation, penetration, ejaculation and urination. The clitoris is not solely “the little nub on the top of the vulva.” Rather, it is “far-ranging mostly internal anatomical structure with a head emerging at the top of the vulva.” (Nagoski, 2015). Research into female sexual pleasure indicates that only 30% of women will achieve orgasm with intercourse whereas 70% through clitoral stimulation. The clitoris contains a myriad and complex network of nerve endings that as described above, travel down through the vulva and surrounds both the urethra (where women urinate from) and the vagina. Given that the sole function of the clitoris is pleasure, and the Islamic rights given to wives in the context of marriage to receive sexual pleasure during intimacy (and before her spouse at that with the added right that she can divorce her husband if she is not sexually satisfied) – are all indicative of the Divine design of female sexuality. The clitoris was designed with this intentional purpose – and going back to the above mentioned point – the Quran provides cognitive-based techniques for enjoining chastity among both men and women.The conclusion of this argument is that female circumcision/FGM/C not only has dire medical, psychological and spiritual impacts, but it also has irreversible consequences on a woman’s experience of pleasure during sex. Female circumcision/FGM/C denies women their Islamic rights to sexual pleasure and is additionally debunked by the vast amount of research in the field of female sexuality.I have said this many times, and I will continue to repeat the mantra: Our community is in dire need of comprehensive sexual health education.This recent incident shows that as Muslims, we lack sexual health literacy from both scientific/health perspectives and Islamic orientations. Education is prevention for so many of the sexual health issues we’re seeing among Muslim communities – and that also exist within greater society. I’m sure that even within this post, I have used terminology that may not be familiar to many readers. That is completely alright and it gives you a starting point to expand your own knowledge. Here are some suggestions:1. The book titled “Islamic Guide to Sexual Relations” by Adam Ibn Al-Kawthari is an excellent, easy-to-read and well compiled resource on the religious scriptures related to intimacy and pleasure. I recommend everyone read this book. The book title links to a PDF version.2. Enhance your knowledge about both how male and female sexuality works. I strongly recommend reading “Come As You Are” by Emily Nagoski – her book is a user-friendly guide to the most current research in female sexuality and compares it to male sexuality.3. Look into valid and credible sources of religious interpretations of sexualilty, written by both male and female experts in the field. The book suggested in point 1 is a good start. I also recommend “Sexual Ethics and Islam” by Kecia Ali. Another important book is “Living West, Facing East” by Dr. FIda Sanjakdar – she is unique in that she has her PhD in both Islamic studies and sexual health.I hope that this information is useful to critically think and analyze not only FGM/C, but also the topic of sexual health overall. I would like to acknowledge the religious resources provided by Alyas Karmani, a sex therapist and Imam from Bradford, UK who has spent over twenty-five years in the field of counseling Muslims and Islamic sexual health education.     Terms of Service  | Patheos Privacy Policy

June 9th 2017

A Virginia imam has been placed on leave after advocating for the controversial practice of female genital mutilation.

Imam Shaker Elsayed of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, made the controversial comments on a video, posted to the center’s YouTube page, that has since been removed. It was first picked up by Middle East Research Media Institute (MEMRI), a non-profit that monitors and translates Iranian and Arab television channels, as well as sermons in the West.

“We thought it important to publish this sermon on the topic of FGM [female genital mutilation] because it has been in the news recently,” MEMRI Executive Director Steven Salinsky told Fox News. 

MOSQUE CONDEMNS IMAM'S COMMENTS ON GENITAL MUTILATION

“(Circumcision is) a sunna [traditional Islamic practice] for the boys, and the honorable thing to do – if needed – for the girls. This is something that a Muslim gynecologist can tell you if you need to or not,” Imam Elsayed said in the video.

He went on to describe a woman who performed the practice, saying “she is expected to cut only the tip of the sexual sensitive part in the girl, so that she is not hyper-sexually active. This is the purpose.”

He then seemed to suggest the practice is so controversial because people don’t understand it.

“Of course, if that lady or surgeon cut more than the tip, it causes serious harm in the sexual life of the child when she grows up, and this is why the West thinks of (it) as sexual mutilation,” he said.

After talking about unqualified people performing the practice, damaging “the sexual sensuality of the woman” as she grows older, he says this “mistake in practice” is used to “prohibit the tradition.”

He said that in societies that prohibit the practice, “hyper-sexuality” takes over.

“And a woman is not satisfied with one person, or two, or three,” he said. “This is, God forbid, now happening even in Muslim societies where they prohibit circumcision.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes female genital mutilation as “procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” It said the procedure can cause many problems, including severe bleeding and infection as well as later complications during child birth and can even be fatal and “has no health benefits for girls and women.”

FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION CASE INCLUDES VIDEO OF GIRLS BEING TAKEN INTO A MEDICAL FACILITY

“Although the practice, which is sometimes also called female circumcision, has no basis in the Koran or in the Bible, experts say it is perpetuated in large part because of false claims about religious obligations and health benefits, societal pressures and the desire to suppress female sexuality,” according to the Washington Post

Prominent members of the Muslim community have denounced Elsayed’s comments, and some are calling for his ousting.

Fox News reached out to the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center via e-mail but the center has not responded. On Monday, board members released a statement saying they did not condone or support female genital mutilation.

“The reference to “hyper-sexuality” is offensive and it is unequivocally rejected,” the statement said. “The Board of Directors is particularly disturbed by such comments.”

They added that female genital mutilation is “prohibited in Islam as well as the laws of the land.”

It also included a statement by Elsayed that sought to clarify his position.

“Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is considered by Islam to be a very harmful to women’s sexual health. And in Islam anything harmful is prohibited” which is why, he said, he “referred the audience to their OBGYN to inform them why it is illegal and harmful.”

But he did apologize for his choice of words.

“Regarding the statement I made on hyper-sexuality, I admit that I should have avoided that,” he said. “I hereby take it back. And I do apologize to all those who are offended by it.” 

On Wednesday, the Board of Directors took action, putting out a second statement saying they “agreed with Imam Shaker Elsayed that he will be placed on administrative leave until further notice.” 

June 8th 2017

A Virginia imam advocated for female genital mutilation last month, describing it as the “honorable thing to do” for young girls because it prevents “hyper-sexuality.”

The board of directors at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, immediately condemned Imam Shaker Elsayed’s words, saying the center does not “condone, promote, or support any practice of FGM,” the Washington Post reported.

Elsayed’s controversial comments were taken from a May lecture on child rearing and family life, and video of the remarks were shared earlier this month by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

In his lecture, Elsayed advised congregants to contact a Muslim gynecologist to determine whether or not their young daughters need to undergo FGM. The Muslim leader said FGM — or female circumcision — is done by cutting off “the tip of the sexual sensitive part in the girl so that she is not hyper-sexually active.”

Elsayed did say extreme FGM can be dangerous to the young girls, though he warned that “in societies where circumcision of girls is completely prohibited, hyper-sexuality takes over the entire society and a woman is not satisfied with one person or two or three.”

FGM, which has been condemned by the World Health Organization as a human rights violation and is outlawed by most developed nations, is common among some Muslim and Christian sects in Africa and parts of Asia, the Post reported.

The dangerous procedure ranges from a small incision in or a partial removal of the clitoris to a complete removal of the clitoris and the labia. In the most extreme cases, FGM can include infibulation of the vaginal opening, which the WHO says can lead to severe infections, excessive bleeding, complications in childbirth, and even death.

The leaders at Dar al-Hijrah said Monday they have rejected Elsayed’s extreme opinions and noted that FGM is “prohibited in Islam as well as the laws of the land.”

Elsayed also tried to retract what he said, claiming when he suggested congregants seek a Muslim gynecologist, he was referring “the audience to their OBGYN to inform them why it is illegal and harmful.” He also said he regrets his comments on women’s “hyper-sexuality.”

“I admit that I should have avoided it. I hereby take it back,” he said. “And I do apologize to all those who are offended by it.”

The statement didn’t go far enough, though, for some leaders at Dar al-Hijrah. In fact, two mosque officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Post that the center’s second imam and outreach coordinator, Johari Abdul-Malik, was threatening to quit if Elsayed wasn’t fired.

This is not the first time Elsayed has found himself in hot water.

Earlier this year, the controversial imam reportedly called on Muslims in the United States to wage jihad in the name of Islam, according to The Daily Caller.

“The enemies of Allah are lining up. The question for us is, are we lining [up] or are we afraid because they may call us terrorists?” he allegedly told a crowd of Ethiopian Muslims in Alexandria, Virginia.

Dar al-Hijrah is one of the nation’s largest mosques, boasting around 3,000 regular attendees from more than 20 countries. The center has worked to change its image after being associated with terrorism in the past.

Two of the 9/11 hijackers — as well as the Fort Hood shooter, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan — reportedly worshipped at the Virginia mosque at some point.

News about the Virginia imam’s comments come not long after two Detroit-area doctors were arrested for performing FGM. The doctors involved have denied the charges.

 

June 5th 2017

In February, federal investigators uncovered a Michigan-based network of doctors and others who practice female genital mutilation (FGM) on girls as young as six at medical clinics in the state. FGM is the cutting of a girl’s genitalia with the aim to “purify” her and repress her sexuality. All defendants in the case are members of the Dawoodi Bohra, a religious Muslim group. One of the girls who underwent the procedure was reportedly told that she was going on a “special girls' trip” to “get the germs out.”

While the victim in this case may find justice in the courtroom, their lives and bodies have been irrevocably changed. Survivors of FGM whom I spoke to for my documentary film Honor Diaries tell of the physical and emotional pain that remains long after the abuse. Sexual intercourse and childbirth become horribly painful and traumatic experiences. Women may have chronic urinary tract infections and are often plagued with depression and other invisible scars.

The World Health Organization estimates at least 200 million women today live with the consequences of FGM. In the United States, 507,000 women are at risk or have undergone the procedure. In the U.S., there is a federal statute against the practice and it is criminalized in several states.  However, these laws have not prevented families from mutilating their girls or traveling overseas to undergo the process. All that might change.

The arrest and prosecution of the Michigan perpetrators is a groundbreaking moment for women’s rights activists in the United States and globally. I applaud the federal investigators and prosecutors who took a stand against gender-based violence. It is the first national prosecution of an FGM case and many important questions will be raised during the course of the investigation and trial.

Already, defendants attempted (and failed) to receive bond by using their religious freedom as a defense. Defendants asserted the practice should not be classified as FGM, but rather as a religious practice. U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth Stafford denied bond stating that religion would not be used “as a shield” in the case. However, it is likely that as the case continues, religious freedom will be argued again.

I am concerned for the maelstrom which may ensue when the case goes to trial. At that moment, will women’s rights be asserted or will they be diluted in favor of political correctness? In the past, I’ve witnessed the disintegration of women’s rights in favor of political correctness: my film Honor Diaries was censored (in Michigan, actually) when certain groups deemed it “Islamophobic” for bringing up FGM, forced marriage and honor killings.  Instead of focusing on the inherent misogyny of these practices, my film was vilified for having difficult conversations about cultural and religious practices.

The first federal FGM case will raise challenging questions. There is a simple metric we can use to evaluate competing claims: culture is no excuse for abuse. No religion or culture should be the impetus for hurting, mutilating or abusing anyone, and our children should be protected. For too long, FGM has been practiced under the radar in the United States. The arrest and prosecution of these individuals is a step in the right direction, but the true test will come at trial: will we allow our political correctness to coax us into complacency? Or will we use this moment to assert our loftiest convictions: that all people are equal and should be treated as such, regardless of their religion and culture? My hope for all women and girls is that we will stand for equality.

Paula Kweskin is an attorney specializing in human rights law. She is the producer of Honor Diaries and the founder/director of the Censored Women’s Film Festival, a response to the censorship she and other filmmakers have received for highlighting women’s rights. 

 

June 5th 2017

Twenty-six-year-old Sakina remembers the day “in vivid detail”. Her mother had made her wear a pink dress, and set off for the dargah. “I was just seven, but I was still baffled because I had never worn a dress to the dargah. We were in Bhendi Bazaar, Mumbai, and instead of going to the dargah, we entered a damp, dark house in a dingy lane. Inside was a woman, wearing a hijab. I was made to lie down. The woman held my legs and told me there was some haraam in my body, and that we need to get rid of it. I cried for days, because of the pain,” says Sakina, a Bohra Muslim woman who now lives in Mumbai.

Long after she became an adult, Sakina thought that khatna or female genital mutilation (FGM) was the religious obligation of every Muslim woman. “Just a couple of years ago, I realised that only we (Bohra Muslims) are subject to this.” Agitated at what she calls a “betrayal of faith”, she confronted her parents, to understand why they didn’t take a stand against the “horrific process”. The only answer that she got revolved around “traditions and customs”.

The Bohra ritual of khatna involves snipping off the tip or hood of a young girl’s clitoris, which is defined by the World Health Organisation as Type I FGM or clitoridectomy. This is done when a Bohra girl turns seven, in a clandestine manner by midwives or doctors in Bohra-run hospitals. It is rooted in the patriarchal belief that the sexuality of girls need to be curtailed so that they do not become “promiscuous”. Soon after a girl is cut, mothers hold a small celebratory lunch, where only girls who are “cut” are invited, and it is seen as a sign of growing up.

Over the years, a wave of disquiet has swept the community, as a new generation questions the discriminatory practice — and comes to terms with the trauma caused by this childhood violation.

Five years ago, Mumbai-based Samina, 26, came across an article describing the ill-effects of FGM. She confronted her mother, who apologised, admitting that she too had no clue why her great-grandmother insisted that all girls in the family to do it. When her best friend, also a Bohra, told her that “it’s done to enhance a woman’s sexual pleasure”, Samina was eager to believe it. “Truth is, I didn’t want to accept that my body had been violated beyond repair even though I could feel something was amiss,” she says.

“It’s like when you are molested, you know your body has been violated. You can’t prove it to the world but the trauma stays with you. I spoke about being cut after 40 years — it’s not like I wanted to but it still haunts me. Moreover, it is done unjustly,” says Masooma Ranalvi, who has been leading the anti-FGM movement under the banner of Speak Out On FGM since 2005. “Though there is no scientific proof and I can’t pinpoint it to FGM but the number of women in the community who have told me that they don’t feel aroused during sex is appalling,” she says.

A recent Supreme Court notice is forcing the community to confront these accounts of violence. Last month, the court sought a “detailed reply” from the Centre and four states — Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi — in response to a petition seeking a ban on FGM. While Bohra Muslim women have been working to mobilise the community against the practice for a few years now, the petition was filed independently by Delhi-based advocate Sunita Tiwari, who works in the field of child rights. “This practice violates children’s rights. I have nothing to do with the religious aspect but children should not suffer.”

There is disagreement within the community whether seeking a judicial fiat on khatna is the way to go. Ranalvi admits that the petition, which will come up for hearing in June, has left her unsettled. “Although it quotes us, we were never consulted. We have been working with the community, sensitising them, speaking out for a long time now. I am just apprehensive that if it is rejected, the doors of judiciary will be completely shut for us.”

Ranalvi, with the help of senior counsel Indira Jaising, has just released a law report. They plan to intervene in the petition in the Supreme Court to strengthen the case for a ban on FGM by demonstrating that only a separate law is the way forward. It has been submitted to the Women and Child Development Ministry. “Since we are right at the centre of this storm, we are in a better position to put facts on record. Most importantly, our voices should be heard,” she says.

The petition has also led to a backlash against activists by staunch supporters of the religious head, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin. Many women have been abused and threatened on social media.

Another group, called the Dawoodi Bohra Women for Religious Freedom (DBWRF), has been formed to counter the anti-FGM campaign. “Yes, many of us may well be circumcised, as were our mothers and grandmothers before us. The Constitution of India gives us this right to freedom of conscience and religion,” says Rashida Diwan, founding member.

Despite several phone calls and attempts to reach out, the Syedna’s office did not respond to our queries. In 2016, the Syedna’s office had released a press statement: “Male and female circumcision (called khatna or khafz) are religious rites that have been practised by Dawoodi Bohras throughout their history. Religious books, written over a thousand years ago, specify the requirements for both males and females as acts of religious purity. This religious obligation finds an echo in many other Muslim communities, particularly those following the Sunni Shafi’i school of thought…” Everyone does not have the right to perform khatna. To be a cutter, you require a razaa from the Syedna.

But as Irfan Engineer, 55, who has been actively involved in the anti-FGM movement for the last couple of years, explains, there is no mention of it in the Quran. “The Bohra religious leadership, however, refer to a text called Daimul Islam, written 300 years after the death of the Prophet by al-Qadi al-Nu’manin. It mentions khatna of seven-year-olds just once, on the authority of Imam Ali, the son of Prophet Mohammed,” he says. FGM is practised by all Bohra sects — Dawoodi, Sulemani and Alvi Bohras.

Over the last few years, a strong anti-FGM movement has taken root in the community, with a large number of women speaking out against the practice, and pushing for a ban.

In 2011, an anonymous Bohra woman filed a petition, also addressed to the government of India, asking for a ban on the practice, which also leads to medical complications. The petition gathered support from almost 3,000 people. Though the petition inspired other Bohra women to come out and talk about the gruesome practice, it soon withered as the movement had no face to it. On December 17, 2015, a group of women, a part of Speak Out on FGM, launched an online petition, which has till now gathered almost 90,000 signatures. This is significant as the community is extremely closely knit, and keeps a low profile about their problems, for the fear of being ostracised. The women have also sent several letters to the religious head of the Dawoodi Bohra community. They have not got any response.

Farzana (name changed) is a doctor, who has a razaa, but stopped conducting khatna five years ago. “I cut girls for over 20 years. I even cut my own daughter. But once she grew up, I realised what I had done to her. She was livid. She made me rethink the whole issue. I have stopped cutting since then,” she says.

Naeema (name changed), a 53-year-old resident of Rajasthan, says sensitisation is the key to eradicate this practice. She was cut in Kolkata at the age of seven. “I remember something had happened.

But I was so young that over the years, I forgot about the incident. It never stayed with me,” she says. But when a girl was born to her sister, both of them took a stand. “We ensured she doesn’t have go through what we did. It was a rebellious act, our protest. But it was worth it,” she says.

 

June 4th 2017

critical of forced marriage, genital mutilation

JENNIFER KABBANY - FIX EDITOR JUNE 2, 2017

 

DePaul University restricted access to a campus event Thursday evening meant to highlight gender inequality atrocities committed against women in Muslim-majority societies, organizers say.

Billed as a “Muslim Women Matter” discussion by student organizers, the June 1 gatheringincluded a screening of “Honor Diaries,” which highlights women who battle for the right to an education, religious freedom, and to be freed from practices such as forced marriages and female genital mutilation.

Afterward, the film’s creator, Raheel Raza, as well as Benjamin Bull of Alliance Defending Freedom, discussed the issue further.

“The discussion and movie went well, each speaker had good ideas on how address the issue of abuse of women in the name of Islam,” said Matt Lamb, a spokesman for Turning Point USA, whose DePaul chapter hosted the event. “Raheel Raza spoke about how the Left does not want to engage in discussion on this issue of abuse of women. She said feminists are often her biggest opponents, even though this is a feminist issue.”

Nearly 20 people attended, but perhaps many more could have if DePaul University officials did not restrict access to it, Lamb said.

At issue was DePaul Turning Point USA’s decision to change the event’s line-up roughly 10 days before it was to take place — and after campus officials had approved it, according to copies of emails between organizers and administrators obtained by The College Fix.

In a May 24 email to organizers from Amy Mynaugh, director of student involvement at DePaul University, she states DePaul Turning Point had originally sought a “meeting” with Charlie Kirk, its founder.

Their new proposal, she added, would mean the student group could host the movie with speakers, but must restrict attendance to only its members — an option that would also prohibit them from advertising it. They also had the option of opening it to the public, but that choice would mean they could only show the film, and not include the two speakers, Raza and Bull.

“This is consistent with how we’ve worked with other student orgs this academic year, when they’ve wanted to bring speakers. We have not allowed substitutions,” Mynaugh stated in her email.

In the end, DePaul Turning Point decided to go with the option of showing the film and hosting the speakers, which meant only their members could attend. Student Jason Plotzke, chapter president of the group, said in a statement to The College Fix that his university’s “position on free speech is illogical.”

June 3rd

Famed constitutional law scholar and attorney Alan Dershowitz has joined the defense team in the nation’s first female genital mutilation case in federal court.

The move adds legal firepower to a defense that appears to be focused on First Amendment issues and religious freedom. Federal prosecutors allege two 7-year-old girls who were brought to Metro Detroit earlier this year suffered illegal genital mutilation but defense lawyers say the girls underwent a benign religious procedure.

Dershowitz and prominent Birmingham defense attorney Mayer Morganroth were hired about three weeks ago by the Dawat-e-Hadiyah, an international religious organization overseeing a small sect of Shia Muslim mosques around the world.

“They hired us to protect the people charged and represent the religious organization,” said Morganroth, who has represented numerous high-profile clients, including ex-Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young, auto executive John DeLorean and Jack Kevorkian.

Dershowitz, meanwhile, is a retired Harvard Law School professor and lawyer who defended celebrity clients in some of the country’s highest profile criminal cases. His client list includes O.J. Simpson, Mike Tyson and British socialite Claus von Bulow.

“I’m sure Alan will show up,” for court hearings, Morganroth said.

Their hiring by the religious organization does not indicate leaders are targets of an ongoing grand jury investigation, Morganroth said.

“No more than the Vatican would be exposed to something done in a local church,” Morganroth said.

Three people have been charged in a case that is raising awareness about a procedure practiced by some members of the sect, the Dawoodi Bohra, a religious and cultural community based in India.

Some members of the community who have spoken against the practice said female genital mutilation is performed to suppress female sexuality, reduce sexual pleasure and curb promiscuity, according to federal court records.

The procedure has been illegal in the U.S. since 1996 and there are no health benefits for girls and women, according to the World Health Organization.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala of Northville is accused of mutilating the genitalia of two girls from Minnesota on Feb. 3 at a Livonia clinic owned by Dr. Fakhruddin Attar. The Farmington Hills man has been indicted along with his wife, Farida Attar, who is accused of helping arrange the procedure and being in the examination room during the procedure.

All three are members of the Dawoodi Bohra community. They are being held without bond pending an Oct. 10 trial in federal court in Detroit.

Fakhruddin Attar, 52, and Nagarwala, 44, face up to life in prison if convicted of conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

Farida Attar, 50, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of conspiring to obstruct the investigation.

The trio is accused of committing female genital mutilation, trying to cover up the crime and conspiring to cut girls as part of a procedure practiced by the Dawoodi Bohra.

Locally, most members of the sect belong to the Anjuman-e-Najmi mosque in Farmington Hills.

Defense lawyers say the procedure performed on the girls was not female genital mutilation and that the government is overreaching.

The procedures were benign, legal and religious, defense lawyers have said.

Nagarwala’s lawyer Shannon Smith said the doctor merely removed mucous membrane from the girls’ genitalia, placed the material on gauze pads and gave it to their families for burial.

Lawyers for the Attars attacked some of the government’s evidence, especially dark and blurry FBI surveillance footage from a secret FBI camera mounted outside the Livonia clinic.

The footage shows the Attars, Nagarwala and the victims at the clinic Feb. 3, the government claims.

The Attars’ lawyers said the poor quality of the FBI surveillance video prevents identifying anyone.

 

June 1st 2017

BY CARL ROSENSTEIN | In light of the recent federal indictment of two Michigan doctors charged with genitally mutilating two 7-year-old girls, the fact that Linda Sarsour was picked to be the commencement speaker at the CUNY School of Public Health is deeply troubling.

Opponents claim her virulent opposition to Israel disqualifies her from such an honor. The City University of New York has countered she has the right to free speech. But the First Amendment doesn’t mean that hate, bigotry and misogyny should be given a stage. Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, calls herself a “racial and civil-rights activist.” That’s a good one.

In 2011 Sarsour attacked Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a true champion of Muslim women seeking liberation from the cruel cultural practices of female genital mutilation imposed in the Middle East. Sarsour tweeted of Ali, “She’s asking for an ass whippin’. I wish I could take their vaginas away — they don’t deserve to be women.” That the CUNY School of Public Health is allowing an advocate for female genital mutilation to address the graduating class of health professionals is outrageous. To balance out the program, so there are no claims of sexual-mutilation discrimination, the warm up act should include a mohel from Williamsburg.

In 21st-century America, F.G.M. is now imported, along with carpets and baklava. Customs from the Middle Ages aren’t blocked at Customs and Immigration in airports. All the while, the Democratic Party and its liberal base remain silent. Their unholy alliance of political convenience with proponents of this misogyny is immoral and a betrayal of Muslim women globally, especially to the 500,000 Muslim-American girls who are at risk. To the culture police, denouncing this barbarism makes one a “racist.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was an F.G.M. victim when she was 5 years old in Somalia. First as a refugee, then as a Dutch politician, Hirsi Ali courageously denounced F.G.M., forced marriage and honor killings. Multiple fatwas were placed on her head, as they were for writer Salmon Rushdie for his authorship of “The Satanic Verses” and his portrayal of the prophet Muhammad. Hirsi Ali went underground and fled Holland, so not to suffer the fate of her colleague Theo Van Gogh, who was horrifically murdered in 2004 by a jihadist on the streets of Amsterdam. The pair collaborated on the film “Submission,” which deals with violence against women in Muslim societies.

Van Gogh was shot multiple times at close range. The murderer cut the filmmaker’s throat with a large knife and tried to decapitate him, after which he stabbed the knife deep into Van Gogh’s chest, reaching his spinal cord. He attached a note to the body with a smaller knife. The note was addressed to and contained a death threat to Hirsi Ali.

Hirsi Ali now resides in the U.S. and is the founder of the AHA Foundation, dedicated to protecting young Muslim women from these atrocities. For die-hard, politically correct liberals, the following graphic description should convince you — women’s rights are inherently incompatible with Islamic fundamentalism.

F.G.M. procedures include the removal of the clitoral hood and clitoral glands; removal of the inner labia; removal of the outer labia; and the closure of the vulva. In the last procedure, known as “infibulation,” a small hole is left for the passage of urine and menstrual fluid. This is not done in a hospital or clinic. The sick rationale for this horrific act is to ensure girls’ “purity” and virginity by desensitizing the female erogenous zone.

A month ago, in the first case of its kind in the U.S., a grand jury issued a federal indictment against two doctors, Jumana Nagarwala and Fakhruddin Attar. They were charged with performing F.G.M. on two minor girls at Attar’s medical office in Livonia, Michigan.

Daniel Lemisch, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said in a statement, “This brutal practice is conducted on girls for one reason, to control them as women. F.G.M. will not be tolerated in the United States.”

Prosecutors say they believe there are many other victims.

Sarsour, of course, was a leader of the Women’s March in D.C. Only in this twisted time can “feminists” assemble in mass to protest 10-year-old vulgar locker-room comments by Trump — yet be led by the worst sort of demagogue, whose beliefs would eliminate the last 100 years of victories for women’s rights and turn back the clock centuries.

In this new dark age of newspeak and groupthink beware the rise of Trojan Horse Linda Sarsour.

 

May 31st 2017

Six-member group claims to give voice to mainstream women from community

Mumbai: At a time when two doctors are in the dock in Detroit for genital mutilation of minor girls, a Mumbai-based gynaecologist and a homeopath from the Dawoodi Bohra community have come out in support of khatna.

The religious practice involves cutting part of the clitoral hood, or the prepuce, of girls as young as seven years old.

The two doctors, Alefiya Bapai and Fatema Jetpurwala, both practising at Saifee Hospital, are part of a six-member group that has launched an initiative called the Dawoodi Bohra Women for Religious Freedom (DBWRF). It is the first time that women who support genital cutting as a religious practice have come out from behind the shield of anonymity.

‘Unwarranted criticism’

Their voices come at a time when there is tremendous pressure building on the community to stop the practice, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) defines as a human rights and child rights violation. Most recently, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had made a strong statement on the government’s intention to bring a law to ban the practice if the community did not stop it voluntarily.

“We, the Dawoodi Bohra women, are extremely affected with all the articles that have been written and the Public Interest Litigation filed in the Supreme Court by a lawyer. We have been labelled as [someone who is] committing crimes,” said homeopath Dr. Jetpurwala, adding that the practice is followed because of the trust and belief in Shariat.

“But the kind of attention and criticism that it has garnered is unwarranted for,” she said.

While Dr. Jetpurwala said she did not conduct the procedure, she said it was harmless and equivalent to male circumcision. Calls and messages to Dr. Bapai went unanswered.

The newly launched DBWRF website says the group has been formed to “give voice to mainstream Dawoodi Bohra women who have been taken for granted as a community of whom anything could be said, and who would, in turn, do nothing”.

While the main trigger was the PIL in the Supreme Court filed by lawyer Sunita Tiwari, their social media campaigns target the two anti-khatna groups: Speak Out On FGM and Sahiyo. One of the hashtags they have been circulating says, “I am a Dawoodi Bohra woman and Sahiyo is not my voice”.

Anti-khatna activists say that open support from doctors for the practice is questionable. The WHO’s guidelines on management of health complications from female genital mutilation (FGM) state that “involvement of health-care providers in performing FGM is likely to confer a sense of legitimacy on the practice and could give the impression that the procedure is good for women’s health, or at least that it is harmless”.

Against global norms

“Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening in India. It is difficult to rationalise how a medical professional who has taken a Hippocratic Oath to ‘… abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman, bond or free’ can promote khatna in India,” said Shaheeda Tavawalla-Kirtane, co-founder of Sahiyo.

She added that in one part of the world, doctors from the community are being tried for violating the laws of their country, and in India, doctors are using the argument of religious freedom to advocate a practice that is performed for non-medical reasons on a non-consenting minor girl.

She said Sahiyo was saddened to be the target of deliberate slander, especially when messages being circulated on WhatsApp and other social media platforms are blatantly untrue. “To clarify a few doubts: Sahiyo has not started a petition addressed to the Syedna and we have not filed the PIL to ban khatna in India, either. We are only trying to engage with the community to break the silence around a practice we see as a gross violation of child rights and human rights,” she said.

‘Act of desperation’

Delhi-based Masooma Ranalvi, who was the first one to start the Speak Out On FGM campaign, looks at the countering voices as an “act of desperation”.

“Two big things happened in the last one month. The topmost court of the country admitted a PIL against the practice, and the Women and Child Development Minister, without mincing any words, expressed the thought of banning it. They obviously realised that the policy of silence was not working any more,” said Ms. Ranalvi, adding that resistance to the practice is much more, but women don’t come out openly due to immense fear.

 

May29th 2017

A group of women have started a campaign to end the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), sometimes called female circumcision, in India. The custom, followed in India only by Bohras, a Shia sub sect, involves partial or total removal of external female genitalia. International agencies describe it as child abuse and a violation of human rights.

Women, who include Bohras, have petitioned religious leaders and the Union government seeking a ban on the custom. They have said that while sections of the Indian Penal Code and child abuse laws can be used to punish offenders, there is no specific law prohibiting it. A lawyer Sunita Tiwari has filed a petition asking for a ban. Last week, Speak out on FGM, one of the groups campaigning against it, and the Lawyers Collective, a human rights group, released a document ‘A guide to eliminating the practice of FGC in India’ which, they said, could serve as a blueprint for a law against the custom.

The paper says that women who were forced to undergo the procedure, apart from being victims of human and child rights abuse, can, like under French law, also be recognised as disabled people because the practice leaves them with life-long mental and physical impairments. Speak out on FGM, which had earlier restricted its campaign to online petitions, has said they will join the legal fight against the practice.

The Bohra clergy has said the custom is a religious obligation, but refused to talk to the women campaigning to end it. The religious leaders, it seems, did not want to get into the debate. They have now announced the formation of a group called the ‘Dawoodi Bohra Women for Religious Freedom’ to defend the practice and challenge the court petition.

The group, which includes doctors, has not spoken to the media which has extensively covered the anti-FGM campaign.

In an e-mailed response to this newspaper, they said they have tolerated ‘an uninformed assault’ on them by the media, at the behest of a handful of women who do not represent them. They have called the petition in the Supreme Court ‘a damaging PIL (Public Interest Litigation) to stop us practising a harmless religious rite’. Referring to Tiwari, they said: She has claimed that “damage is being done to each and every girl and woman of this community in some way or other”. And therefore she has been compelled to file the PIL “on behalf of all those voiceless women who have suffered in silence”.

In a message forwarded to this newspaper, one member, Nafisa Kagalwala, said, “This practice, like all religious practices, is never forced upon anyone. So what is the need for all this hype and what is the need for passing a law against it?”

The group has said that circumcision, as they refer to FGM, has not ‘damaged’ them. “We have a membership of thousands of educated women, increasing by the day. We intend to show that the Petitioner does not speak on our behalf and has based her PIL on hearsay evidence, distortions and hysteria,” the group has said.

Dr Fatema Jetpurwala, a founder member of the group told HT in an e-mail reply: “India is known for its uniqueness in imparting religious freedom to all its citizens and I am convinced that our legal system will not take it away from me, a proud Dawood Bohra woman and the thousands of DBWRF who have joined me.”

Another member, Rashida Diwan, said, “We are a self-respecting, law-abiding community, never telling others what to do. We demand the same faith in our ability to practice our religion without harming ourselves or others.”

The FGM supporters said that the country’s freedom of religion allows them to practice the custom.

We are disappointed that the Supreme Court gave notice to the respondents without affording us, the target of the PIL, an opportunity to have our say. We will now intervene at the Supreme Court to ensure that the numerous false statements made in the PIL are exposed and the right to practice religion granted to every citizen of India is not denied to us,” said a supporter.

With the fight pitting one group of Bohra women against another, the anti-FGM campaigners are preparing for an antagonistic debate. “It is going to be a long-drawn legal fight,” said Masooma Ranalvi, convener of Speak out on FGM.

 

May 28th 2017

A new Commission for Countering Extremism will be able to clamp down on "unacceptable cultural norms" such as female genital mutilation.

It will also ensure that women's rights are upheld in all of Britain's ethnic and religious communities, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Saturday.

She was fleshing out further details of the commission proposed in the Conservative manifesto for the June 8 General Election.

The commission will help the government identify policies to defeat extremism and promote pluralistic values, she said.

May described her "harrowing" visit to Manchester Children's Hospital to meet victims of Monday's suicide bomb attack at a pop concert in the city, saying the atrocity was "particularly sickening" because it targeted young people.

"What was clear to me was the intense trauma of this. There are the physical injuries that people go through and that have to be treated in hospital.

"But there is also the impact of the memories of what you have seen and what you have been through. It must have been horrific for parents to receive that phone call."

Experts have suggested suicide bomber Salman Abedi's decision to target a pop concert attended by teenage girls may have been driven in part by radical Islamists' opposition to the freedoms enjoyed by women in Western societies.

And the prime minister made clear that the commission will be expected to stand up for women's rights as extremism often goes hand in hand with poor treatment of women and girls.

A Conservative government would give the commission teeth by making it a statutory body with a legal responsibility to identify extremism and support people and organisations in resisting it, she said.

It will advise the government on new criminal offences and policies to defeat extremists and will offer assistance to public sector bodies in identifying extremism and stamping it out.

May 28th 2017

Aji Nana Taal, a facilitator and a member of the Novascotia Gambia Association (NSGA), has said that many people have misconceptions about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Ms Taal made the statement recently at a daylong workshop held at the Faraba Bantag Upper Basic School, organized by Yeswecan for Children Foundation to sensitise the children on the bad effects of FGM.

 She added: “If you go down to the grassroots and talk to them about FGM activities you will realise that there is a lot of gaps.”

She said Yeswecan for Children Foundation, in partnership with the Girls Generation, started the campaign to end FGM in schools, communities and also holds radio programmes.

Ms Taal said they also talk to people about the laws on FGM and penalties if one violates those laws, adding that the programme embarked upon was to sensitise the people on the dangers of FGM.

She said the programme embarked upon has yielded success stories from the participants, adding that the training they hosted earlier centered on the misconceptions about FGM and the law.

She said they also face challenges because in schools they speak English to reach out to those kids but in communities they find it very difficult.

Ms Taal also said norms and values were other challenges they faced in communities with regard to the anti-FGM campaign.

May 28th 2017

GOVERNOR Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, on Saturday, restated his administration’s commitment towards the protection of children against abuse.

In an interview with journalists to commemorate the Children’s Day’s march past held in Ibadan, said that the nation would benefit immensely if the parents re-orientate and instill sound morals into their wards.

He condemned violence against children, saying the inhumane and barbaric tradition of female genital mutilation and the current trend of child abuse would no longer be condoned.

“The current trend of violence through child trafficking, child forced marriages, sex exploitation and abduction would no longer be condoned. The protection of the child and the promotion of their well-being are closely linked to development and well-being of the society.

“Violence against children, like child labour, takes place more in the developing countries and can have devastating long term impact on the well-being of the children as well as the progress of the society,’’ he said.

The governor said that his administration would continue to evolve policies and initiatives aimed at grooming the children for success and future of the country.

Master Akinyele Olanrewaju, who spoke on behalf of the children, said that taking care of the children was tantamount to taking care of the future of the society and human race.

Meanwhile, Oyo State is targetting about 1.5million children which is around 85 per cent coverage of children under five years of age as the beneficiaries of Vitamin A supplements during the forthcoming Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) week, it said on Saturday.

The state’s Commissioner for Health, Dr. Azeez Adeduntan, disclosed the figure in Ibadan while giving update on the preparation of the government towards the MNCH week coming up between May 29 and June 2, 2017.

He said parents of children between six months to 59months are expected to bring their wards to the health facilities and outreach centres provided by the government for the programme, adding that Vitamin A is essential for the targeted children in order to boost their immune system, improve their sight as well as to prevent measles and other related skin diseases.

This amount to 1404 selected locations where the MNCH week will hold.

“During the MNCH week, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children between 0-59 months will be the beneficiaries of free Nutrition and Health interventions including Vitamin A, HIV Screening, Malnutrition Screening and  there will also be provision of Family planning commodities, birth registration, deworming tablets for children of 12-59 months as well as provision of Malaria drugs for pregnant women.

“Pregnant women and Nursing mothers are therefore reminded that this 5-day nutrition and health interventions are free. Based on our consultations, we can reliably say that Ramadan does not prevent pregnant women from taking tetanus toxoid vaccines,” Dr. Adeduntan emphasised.

May 27th 2017

The American Civil Liberties Union launched a vocal opposition this week against a Maine bill criminalizing female genital mutilation (FGM), Mainely Media reports.

Republican Rep. Heather Sirocki is sponsoring the bill, saying that it would classify performing FGM as a Class B crime in the state, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. The bill would also punish the parent or guardian of the victim.

However, the Maine ACLU staunchly opposes the protection. ACLU spokesman Oamshri Amarasingham said that the risk of mutilation isn’t worth expanding Maine’s criminal code. The Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault also supported the ACLU, arguing that FGM is not happening in Maine. (RELATED: Husband And Wife Arrested For Performing Female Genital Mutilation At Detroit-Area Clinic)

Sirocki, however, pointed to a 2012 report from the Center for Disease Control, which found 500,000 victims of FGM in the US. Furthermore, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement found that 400 individuals have been arrested and 785 deported for FGM violations nationwide since 2003.

Maine, Sirocki said, is one of the eight highest-risk areas in the US for FGM. The practice has proven to be so rampant in the state that it has received special federal funding to combat it.

Sirocki’s bill would also criminalize “vacation cutting,” the practice of flying briefly overseas to subject minors to FGM in nations that haven’t banned the practice. (RELATED: Lawyer: Why The Religious Freedom Clause Doesn’t Protect Female Genital Mutilation)

While FGM has been a crime federally since 1996, Maine is one of the highest-risk areas in the country for the practice, and Sirocki said that law enforcement needs to be able to try offenders on the state level.

“Federal prosecutors take a very small amount of cases,” Sirocki said. “The state of Maine deals with thousands of cases. If a situation would occur and this is the issue, if the federal government doesn’t have enough prosecutors, it doesn’t get prosecuted.”

The bill, LD745, only criminalizes the practice on those under 18. It does not apply to adults who choose to undergo mutilation, “though it probably should,” Sirocki said. If the bill passes, Maine would be the 25th state to protect its residents against FGM.

Sirocki said that the Committee of Criminal Justice and Public Safety was divided in its support of the bill, but eventually recommended the bill favorably with a 7-5 vote. The Maine House of Representatives will first review the bill, then it will go to the members of the state senate.

May 27th 2017

An Excisors Reconversion Seminar on the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has taken place at at Pusiga in the Upper East Region.

FGM, also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the ritual of cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. The practice is found in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The three-day seminar, therefore, sought to eliminate FGM by helping excisors who have practiced FGM to get them to sincerely confess, give up the practice and get converted.

The seminar also sought to support excisors to become ambassadors to their fellow women practicing FGM to put an end to the act.

More than seventy (70) participants, comprising three different categories, former FGM excisors, assistants and mothers of FGM victims from Ghana and Togo attended the seminar.

It was organized by Belim Wusa Development Agency (BEWDA-Ghana) in partnership with Kpaal n' paal (Togo), Organisation Regionale pour le Promotion Sociale et Agricole (OREPSA-Togo) and Groupe d' Action pour Development Durable (GA2D-Togo).

In an address to open the seminar, Mr Abdul Razak Yakah, Pusiga District Co-ordinating Director, who spoke on the theme "Why conserving this heinous and dehumanizing tradition?", commended BEWDA-Ghana and its development partners for organizing the seminar which, he said, would serve as a platform to advocate against the practice and elimination of the dehumanizing tradition of FGM.

Mr Yakah disclosed that more than three million young girls and women underwent the barbaric act in Africa, with research indicating that the victims had suffered an associated series of short to long-term risks to their physical, mental and sexual health. He, therefore, called on all stakeholders to help combat the practice.

In a statement, Mr Benson Azure, Pusiga District Health Services Director, disclosed that victims of FGM could contract Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and urinary tract infections, have difficulty during child birth, suffer from anemia (loss of blood) and infertility, adding that FGM posed increased risk to new born deaths.

Mr Azure, therefore, lauded the partnership between Ghana and Togo in the fight against FGM in their respective countries and appealed to the participants to desist from the practice of FGM which, he said, was a heinous and dehumanizing act on young girls and women. He pledged the support of his office to the worthy cause of eliminating FGM.

On his part, Papa Toussaint, Coordinator, INTACT Africa, Benin, appealed to participants to abandon the practice of FGM or face the full rigours of the laws forbidding FGM.

 


May 17th 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Representatives passed a bill on female genital mutilation (FGM) on the floor of the House Monday afternoon.

Members of the House voted 124 to 4 in favor of H.F. 2621, to increase the penalties for those who are complicit in the act of committing FGM in the state of Minnesota.

As reported by Alpha News, Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) introduced legislation to increase penalties for individuals who are found to have knowledge of an FGM procedure being performed on an individual.

“Minnesotans were shocked when they heard FGM had come to our state. I was appalled to learn that parents who abuse their girls in this life-scarring way are not held responsible for the crime,” Franson said, when she first introduced the bill.

Members of the House spent more than 30 minutes debating on the particulars of the bill.

“[The bill] it’s going to save lives,” Franson told her colleagues on the floor. “What if it was a cultural norm to chop off a penis?” Franson asked. “It would be a different conversation.”

Rep. Debra Hilstrom (D-Brooklyn Park) offered the A-11 amendment, which clarified that only those who commit FGM in the United States would be held liable, not those who have had it done before they immigrated to the United States.

“We can do this differently, we don’t need to bring more people into the criminal justice system,” Rep. Rena Moran (D-St. Paul) told the House. Explaining that she would vote no on the bill because she had an issue criminalizing a cultural piece, equating it to parents spanking their child.

“It’s a drastic step, but we haven’t done enough about this [FGM],” Rep. Susan Allen (D-St. Paul) told members of the House in agreement with Moran’s statement.

“This cannot be equated to spanking,” Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) said. Scott further said she believed that parents knew that they were doing something illegal, which is why they left the state to have the procedure done.

Rep. Tina Liebling (D-Rochester), who is also running for Governor, shared her concerns about the bill. “I’m struggling with this,” Liebling said, “I don’t think this bill does that,” in response to parents who may be deported after receiving a felony.

Liebling also shared similar sentiments with Moran and Allen raising concerns over separating families, stating that separating kids from their parents or deporting the parents could cause more harm than good.

Rep. David Bly (D-Northfield) joined Moran, Allen, and Liebling in their decision to vote no against the measure.

“I’ve wept more for the people who were not taken out of the home, over those who have,” Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center).

Rep. Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls) shared a similar testimony as Cornish explaining, “kids love parents despite their treatment.”

The bill’s passage in the House comes as the Senate is currently looking through its companion legislation.

 

May 17th 2017

Reporting FGM & child abuse: Staff worried about being perceived as racist

Some 28.8 per cent of education staff are concerned they may be perceived as prejudiced or racist should they report concerns regarding honour-based abuse and child abuse linked to faith and belief, it has been reported.

According to the latest survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), it was also revealed that 31 per cent of staff are worried about reporting female genital mutilation (FGM), honour-based abuse or child abuse linked to faith or belief, because they lack confidence in their own judgement.

Nearly a fifth of respondents also worried that reporting these types of child abuse could harm their relationship with the child or young person in question. In addition to this, 14 per cent worried about damaging their relationship with the child’s family.

Only 16 per cent of those surveyed cited uncertainty regarding reporting procedures as a cause of concern.

On the plus side, however, 97 per cent of education staff said that they were confident and they understood their responsibilities as a professional regarding the safeguarding of pupils and students.

Nevertheless, the survey found that 29 per cent of staff had not been given information or training to identify and report FGM, while over 50 per cent have not been provided with training to identify and report forced marriage.

More than 60 per cent of respondents had not been given information or training to identify and report honour-based abuse of child abuse linked to faith or belief.

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted commented: “While it’s positive that 71 per cent of members we surveyed have had training in how to identify and report FGM, it is vital that the 29 per cent who haven’t are given the information and training they need to feel confident about reporting concerns.

“Most staff need more information, guidance and training about honour-based and child abuse linked to faith, the time to implement policies relating to child protection, and access to health, social care and police resources and support to help them protect children and young people who are vulnerable to abuse.”

Across England and Wales, it is believed that there are as many as 137,000 women living with the consequences of FGM. To tackle this issue, the Home Office has taken a proactive approach by launching a free online FGM training package.

This course will be useful for those interested in gaining an overview of FGM, particularly frontline staff in healthcare, police, border force and children’s social care.

May 17th 2017

On a cold, windy morning at The Karen Hospital, a team of specialists from the US perform life-changing reconstructive surgeries to women who underwent female genital mutilation (FGM) while young.

These women, who have lived with an unwanted scar in their body, felt their sense of womanhood has been stolen from them and they want it back.

This has traumatised them mentally and lowered their self-esteem. However, for two weeks, hope has shone in the lives of these women, some married with children, others single.

Dumped by lovers

At exactly 12.20pm, 29-year-old *Fatma Noor (not real name) is wheeled out of the theatre. Clad in the green-coloured hospital outfit for patients and covered in white sheets, tears of joy roll down her eyes.

She tries to sit upright to wipe her tears, and whispers: “I am a now a complete woman.”

She is then taken to the ward, where she will be monitored for about 24 hours before she goes home.

“I am crying because the surgery has brought back dark, painful memories. I was just seven years old. Nobody cared about my feelings because it was a rite of passage that every girl in my community had to undergo. Luckily, my tears right now are not of sorrow but of joy,” Noor says as she wipes a tear and smiles while looking up to the ceiling.

*Ann Njeri, 62, also underwent the cut when she was just 13. The mother of two says the cut in her body led to her being rejected by men after they saw her scar.

“This happened to me so many times. They were never clear that about what made them dump me but I know it was because of my scar. But I am happy I found man who married me the way I was and God blessed us with two children,” Njeri said.

Both her babies were delivered through caesarian section because of the damage the cut left in her body. She spoke volumes about her sex life, which she termed as horrific and painful.

“I have never enjoyed sex. It has always been painful. I felt like I was a sex gadget, only doing it to please my husband. All my life, I have always wanted to know what it feels like to have an orgasm,” she said.

On Thursday, she walked out of the theatre with a different feeling; closure to traumatising past and a new lease of life after she regained her identity.

These women are just a handful of those who underwent FGM when they were young without their consent and are lucky enough to have undergone a second cut. Only this time, they were getting their identity back and will be able to enjoy sexual intercourse.

How the surgery works

This is the first such surgery to be done in Kenya. The surgeries were done by doctor Marci Bowers, who specialises in sex reassignment surgery in the US.

Nearly 50 women between the ages of 21 and 62 years were operated on. Bowers said most of them had undergone the first two types of mutilation.

Half of them had undergone Clitorodectomy, which is the partial or total removal of the clitoris. The other half went through excision, the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia manora (the inner folds of the vulva) with or without the excision of the labia majora (the outer folds of the skin of the vulva).

In a 30-minute procedure, Bowers dissects the scar left on the girls’ clitoris and releases the remaining part of the clitoris. Before the women are wheeled into the theatres, they are examined by the doctor to establish the extent of the damage. They are then put under a local anaesthesia.

“Most people think the clitoris is a small part of the body. It is actually around 10–11cm long. What is usually cut during the mutilation process is in only 5 per cent,” Marci said.

The clitoris is a complex organ, and when a woman undergoes cutting, only the visible part of the clitoris is cut off. It has a root about 10cm long that lies beneath the surface, arching around the vagina. It is this that reconstructive surgeons use to rebuild a working organ.

Bowers added: “Once the remaining part of the clitoris has been pulled out to the surface, it is then sowed into its natural place. It’s not just about the restoration of sexual sensation. The number one reason is restoration of identity. Women who have been cut feel their sense of womanhood has been stolen from them and they want that back. It’s about not being different anymore.”

For those who had their clitoris and lips mutilated, Bowers said their procedure not only involves releasing the remaining part of the clitoris but also creating vaginal lips.

“Every girl had a different type of mutilation. In some cases, the women had been sown up and what was left behind was a tiny whole. One that was only able to pass out urine and menstrual fluid,” she said.

During the two-week surgeries offered at Mama Lucy Kibaki and The Karen Hospitals, only four women were turned away because they had minor cuts on their clitoris.

Once their clitoris are reconstructed, the patients are monitored for about 48 hours before being discharged. While at home, they will be on medication for about two weeks and resume sexual intercourse after six weeks.

Call for education

Bowers said restoring sexual pleasure is possible because the whole clitoris is sensory, not just the tip. Along with better cosmetic appearance, sensation, and reduction in pain and infection, Bowers says patients have reported having orgasms for the first time.

A survey by French doctor Pierre Foldes in 2012, who was the brains behind Clitoroplasty, showed that more than 60 per cent of women who went through the surgery reported to having sexual orgasm for the very first time in their life.

The study, which featured 3,000 women, also showed that 90 per cent of reported feeling clitoral pleasure. Dr Foldes was, however only able to follow on 29 per cent of his patients who were able to open up about how the surgery changed their life.

According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014, 21 per cent of women between 15 and 49 have been circumcised. 43 per cent were circumcised between 10 and 14 years. Twenty-seven per cent were cut between five and nine years, while another 27 per cent were cut at 15 and above. Eighty per cent were cut by traditional women circumcisers, 15 per cent by a medical professional.

Anti FGM Board CEO Bernadette Loloju thanked the doctors for the operations but called for further action.

“This surgery has helped a lot of FGM survivors not only in Kenya but around the world. However, the only way to win this war that is violating the rights of or women and girls is by constantly creating awareness to the communities on the dangers of FGM and prosecuting those found culpable,” Loloju said.

FGM poses a slew of health risks, including causing damage to adjacent organs, recurring urinary tract infections, birth complications, formation of dermoid cysts, painful sexual intercourse, increased risk of HIV infection and in some cases can lead to death.

Bernadette said the community, especially men, should be educated on the dangers of subjecting women and girls to undergo FGM.

Consultant reconstructive and plastic surgeon at The Karen Hospital Abdullahi Adan said 10 surgeons were trained on how to do re-constructive surgery on FGM victims.

The Karen Hospital will be turned into a centre for excellence where, for Sh150,000 at most, FGM victims can undergo a second cut to restore their dignity and ability to enjoy sex.

 

May 17th 2017

Three members of the Dawoodi Bohra sect of Islam were recently indicted on charges of "female genital mutilation" (FGM) in the US state of Michigan. In Norway, meanwhile, one of the major political parties has backed a measure to ban childhood male circumcision.

Fearing that objections to female forms of genital cutting will be applied to male forms, some commentators have rushed to draw a "clear distinction" between them. Others, however, have highlighted the similarities.

In fact, childhood genital cutting is usually divided not just into two, but three separate categories: "FGM" for females; "circumcision" for males; and "genital normalisation" surgery for intersex children – those born with ambiguous genitals or mixed sex characteristics.

In Western countries, popular attitudes towards these procedures differ sharply depending on the child's sex. In females, any medically unnecessary genital cutting, no matter how minor or sterilised, is seen as an intolerable violation of her bodily integrity and human rights. Most Westerners believe that such cutting must be legally prohibited.

In intersex children, while it is still common for doctors to surgically modify their genitals without a strict medical justification, there is growing opposition to non-essential "cosmetic" surgeries, designed to mould ambiguous genitalia into a "binary" male or female appearance.

Belgian model Hanne Gaby Odiele, for example, has spoken openly about the negative impact of the "irreversible, unconsented and unnecessary" intersex surgeries she was subjected to growing up.

In male children, by contrast, the dominant view is that boys are not significantly harmed by being circumcised, despite the loss of sensitive tissue. Some even point to potential health benefits, although most doctors agree that these benefits are not enough to outweigh the risks and harms. Even so, many people believe that parents should be allowed to choose circumcision for their sons, whether for cultural or religious reasons.

But these attitudes are starting to change. Over the past few decades, and even more strongly in recent years, scholars of genital cutting have argued that there is too much overlap in the physical effects, motivations, and symbolic meanings of these three practices – when their full range across societies is considered – for categorical distinctions based on sex or gender to hold up.

Making comparisons

Take the Dawoodi Bohra case. The defendants claim that, like male circumcision, female "circumcision" is required by their religion. In the Western popular media, this claim is usually dismissed as mistaken, because neither male nor female circumcision is mentioned in the Quran, the central scripture of Islam.

But both practices are mentioned in the Hadith (the sayings of the prophet Mohammed), which is another important source of Islamic law.

Based on their reading of the Hadith, some Muslim authorities state that "circumcision" of both sexes is recommended or even obligatory, while others draw a different conclusion. But there is no "pope" in Islam to make the final call: whether a practice counts as religious, therefore, depends on the local community and its interpretation of scripture.

Motivations for genital cutting and associated "symbolic meanings" differ widely from group to group. The claim that female genital cutting is always about sexual control, while male genital cutting never is, is an oversimplification based on stereotypes – most anthropologists who study these practices regard this claim as false.

As they emphasise, nearly every society that practices female genital cutting also practices male genital cutting, often in parallel and for similar reasons. When the cutting is part of a rite of passage into adulthood, for example, diminishing sexual experience is not typically the intention for either the boys or the girls. Instead, the goal is to ceremoniously "transform" the youths into mature adults, in part by having them show courage in the face of discomfort.

Consent issues. Credit: Shutterstock

What about the physical effects? These range widely, too. Some groups practice a female "ritual nick", which involves cutting part of the foreskin or "hood" of the external clitoris. Although this procedure does not usually remove tissue, it may certainly be painful and traumatic, and we have argued elsewhere that it should not be done on non-consenting minors.

Nevertheless, despite being federally prohibited in the US, this form of "FGM" is actually less invasive than either male circumcision or cosmetic intersex "normalisation" surgeries – both of which are also painful and can be traumatic, and neither of which is medically necessary.

Informed consent

Based on these and other points of overlap, the emerging consensus among some scholars is that the ethics of genital cutting should not be based on the apparent sex of the child (as judged by their external genitalia). Instead, it should be based on their age and ability to give informed consent.

Now that "binary" conceptions of both sex and gender are generally understood to be too limited to capture the full reality, judgements based on perceived maleness or femaleness will be increasingly hard to defend. For example, at what point along the intersex spectrum does a small penis (legal to cut) become a large clitoris (illegal to cut)? Any such distinction would be subjective and arbitrary.

In a recent paper for the European Parliament, we spelled out these arguments in greater detail. We encourage you to give it a read. In it, we ask: what are the policy implications of taking a gender-neutral approach to genital cutting?

In other words, what happens when moral considerations centre around medical necessity, autonomy, and respect for the bodily integrity of all children – regardless of their sex or gender? We see three practical advantages to this approach:

1) It deflects accusations of sexism by recognising that boys and intersex children – just like girls – are vulnerable to genital alterations that they may later come to seriously resent.

2) It reduces the moral confusion that stems from Western-led efforts to eliminate only the female "half" of genital cutting rites in communities that practice both male and female forms in parallel.

3) It neutralises accusations of cultural imperialism and anti-Muslim bias by avoiding racially tinged double standards.

This is because the same moral concern would apply to medically unnecessary genital cutting practices that primarily affect white children in North America, Australasia and Europe, as to those affecting children of colour (and immigrants) from Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Adopting such an approach does not necessarily mean "banning" all pre-consensual forms of non-therapeutic genital alteration. History shows that attempting to pass strict legal prohibitions before cultural readiness can backfire, creating intense resistance among those who are dedicated to modifying children's genitals for whatever reason, and often driving such practices further underground.

Prohibition of female genital cutting, for example, has been largely unsuccessful in many countries where it is customary and deeply culturally embedded (rates are higher than 90% in Egypt, for example, where it has been illegal since 2008); and recent attempts to criminalise circumcision of boys, for example in Germany in 2012, have been blocked, overturned or ignored.

There are many levers that societies can pull to discourage unethical practices: the law is only one among them, and not necessarily the most desirable or effective. Some authors have proposed step-wise regulation of medically unnecessary childhood genital cutting, along with community engagement and education, as alternatives and/or supplements to formal prohibition.

Whatever specific policies are implemented, it is clear that fundamentally different treatment of female, male and intersex children, in terms of their protection from non-therapeutic genital alteration, will become increasingly difficult to justify in the years to come.

 

May 12th 2017

What would the small sliver of skin have meant for her life? Would childbirth have been different? Has she been missing out on a deeper level of intimacy with her husband of 40 years?

"I'm sure that it has affected my feeling," Aron, 58, told CNN. "If it was not cut, maybe I would have enjoyed whatever I would have enjoyed. It's a very sensitive area. So if that's cut, imagine -- imagine what I miss."

Often discussed in whispers, the issue of female genital mutilation grabbed headlines last month when, for the first time, US prosecutors used a decades-old law that bans the practice to charge two Detroit-area doctors and a medical office manager in a case involving two 7-year-old girls. Now, several women in the United States who endured the procedure when they were young are sharing their stories -- all with elements that mirror the Michigan case -- in hopes of ending it for good.

When her own daughters were born, Aron decided the custom endured by her mother and her grandmother would die with her.

"What I believe is, if (the clitoris) wasn't necessary, God wouldn't have put it there," said Aron, a deaconess at St. Luke Lutheran in Lansing, Michigan. "If it was not important, it would have not been there. It's part of our body. It is there for a reason."

Aron's scars aren't as severe as those borne by many of the 200 million women and girls around the globe -- nearly a quarter of them younger than 15 -- who have undergone the practice, dubbed FGM or, to some survivors who dislike that phrase, female ritual cutting.

The procedure, in which genital organs are altered or injured for non-medical reasons to suppress sexuality, long has been deemed a human rights violation. It's practiced at all educational levels and social classes and among people of many faiths, including Muslims and Christians, though no religious text calls for it.

Though often undertaken as a cleansing custom, experts roundly agree it has no medical benefits -- and carries myriad health risks, from childbirth and menstrual complications to severe infections, post-traumatic stress, even death.

Still, the practice persists, mostly in African and Middle Eastern nations -- and in the United States, where the estimated number of girls and women who have undergone it or are at risk has tripled since 1990 to more than 500,000. The increase reflects rapid growth in immigration from countries where FGM is common.

While anti-cutting advocates hail efforts to hold offenders accountable, this case also raises questions about whether the accused -- all members of the Dawoodi Bohra sect of Shia Islam -- are being targeted because of their faith. Meanwhile, some worry that high-profile prosecutions could drive the practice deeper underground, further endangering the very girls and women the law aims to protect.

As the issue has gained attention, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI opened national tip lines where anyone can report their experience or suspicions. But as several advocates told CNN, the most important conversations may be happening in homes and places of worship, as survivors share their stories and work to end FGM.

"This thing," Aron said, "needs to be talked about."

'Special girls' trip'

The FBI started looking into the Detroit-area case in October, when investigators learned that female genital mutilation was being performed at the Burhani Medical Clinic. Investigators in February learned that two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota went to the clinic with their mothers for a "special girls' trip" that they weren't to tell anyone about, documents show. One girl told the FBI their mothers took them to the clinic because "our tummies hurt" and a doctor would "get the germs out."

There were three people in the office, "one to clean up and two to hold (the child's) hands," the girl later told investigators. The FBI says they were local emergency room physician Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, clinic director Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife, Farida Attar, who managed the office in Livonia, Michigan, court records show.

The girl said she took off her pants and underwear and laid on an exam table with her knees near her chest and legs spread apart, documents show. Nagarwala then gave her a "little pinch" in the area "where we go pee." She said the doctor told her and her friend "no bikes and no splits for three days," and the day after the procedure, the area "hurted a lot."

The girl said she and her friend got cake afterward because "they were doing good," documents show. An exam found the girl's labia minora removed or altered, her clitoral hood looking abnormal, plus scar tissue and small healing cuts, court records show.

The Attars and Nagarwala each face two counts of female genital mutilation, one count of conspiracy to commit female genital mutilation, and one count of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. The physicians could face life in prison if convicted.

"This brutal practice is conducted on girls for one reason: to control them as women," Daniel Lemisch, acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said in a statement. "FGM will not be tolerated in the United States."

But attorneys for the accused say their clients are being persecuted for practicing their religion. Nagarwala has pleaded not guilty on all counts; the Attars have not entered pleas, but their attorneys argue they are not guilty of all the charges.

Cleansing ritual not illegal, lawyer says

Nagarwala acknowledges performing a procedure on both girls, her lawyer, Shannon Smith, said. But it wasn't female genital mutilation, she said, according to court documents; it was a non-invasive, religious cleansing ritual in the Dawoodi Bohra tradition, rooted in India.

Nagarwala, who has been terminated from her job at Henry Ford Health System in light of this case, claims she used a long scraper-like tool to wipe a small portion of mucus membrane from the girls' clitorises, then put the membrane onto gauze for their parents to bury, Smith said, adding that her client denies removing tissue and says there was no blood, documents show.

The political environment surrounding the federal prosecution concerns Dina Francesca Haynes, a human rights attorney who has worked on hundreds of FGM cases.

"During a time when vigilantism and xenophobia (are) high, the likelihood that doctors of particular national origins would be targeted seems to also be an additional risk," Haynes told CNN. "It makes me uncomfortable that the first prosecution here looks like it's focusing on a particular community of people."

Haynes doesn't like when "my human rights issues are used for a bigger agenda," she said.

Leaders of the Dawoodi Bohra mosque in Michigan, one of several hubs of the sect in the United States, said in a statement that they offered to help investigators.

"Any violation of US law is counter to instructions to our community members," they said. "It is an important rule of the Dawoodi Bohras that we respect the laws of the land, wherever we live. This is precisely what we have done for several generations in America. We remind our members regularly of their obligations."

CNN's calls to mosques attended by the girls' parents and the defendants were not returned.

'Never talk about it'

This case has caught the attention of FGM survivors across the country, who share a common story: They were cut at a young age and told not to speak of it.

In 1947, Renee Bergstrom was 3, living with her white, fundamentalist Christian family in rural Minnesota. When her mother saw her toddler touching herself, she worried.

"So, she took me to a doctor who said, 'I can fix that,' and removed my clitoris," Bergstrom told CNN.

Bergstrom remembers seeing her mother at the end of the table. She remembers the pain. And she remembers feeling betrayed.

"Later the day it happened, ... she carried me around until I quit crying," Bergstrom said. "Even when I was very little, she told me it was a mistake, but I was to never talk about it."

Now, nearly 70 years later, Bergstrom said the procedure affected her entire life. Severe scarring fused part of her labia; the skin wouldn't stretch when it came time to deliver her three children.

Now Bergstrom has teamed up with another survivor in Minnesota, a Somali woman, to spread awareness in the area's large Somali community. They give pamphlets to expectant mothers who survived the procedure so they can help their doctors understand birthing options.

As she works to help immigrants from a country where FGM is almost universal and where Islam is the law, Bergstrom said she is concerned about Muslims being targeted in the United States over the practice.

"This was done (to me) in white America by a fundamentalist Christian doctor who practiced his religion with a scalpel," she said. "I am disturbed by the anti-Muslim sentiment throughout the United States. I didn't want this to be another form of discrimination against Muslims."

'Complicated form of violence'

The father of one girl in the federal case told investigators, "If they knew what would come of it, this would never have happened," documents show.

None of the parents in this case faces charges -- and it's possible they never will.

"The reality is, if you want children to report this ... some people would argue that it would deter young girls and young women from seeking health care," Haynes said. "Children tend to rally around their parents and other adults in their life that they trust and wouldn't think to report any kind of abuse until later."

For many survivors, coming to terms with their mothers' decisions to promote the practice is complex.

Mariya Taher was 7 when she went on vacation to Mumbai, India, with her parents. She remembers walking into an apartment with her mother. The atmosphere felt relaxed, with older aunties there, too. She even laughed. She was the only little girl there.

"Then, I remember, I was on the floor and my dress was pushed in," Taher recalled. "I remember feeling something sharp and crying afterwards. One of the older women gave me a soda. That's all I remember of it."

Taher, now 34, said it wasn't until she was a teenager that she read about FGM in Africa and realized what had happened to her. Her scarring was minimal. All the same, she said, it was a violation.

"I honestly had a great childhood, so it's really hard for me to talk about this," she said. "I feel that people paint me as the picture of a victim, and I hate that. Yes, that was a violent thing that was done to me, but it's also such a complicated form of violence."

Taher, whose mother and grandmother also endured cutting, lives in Massachusetts and co-founded Sahiyo, an organization that works to end the practice in the Dawoodi Bohra community. She helps women tell their stories -- of being cut, of deciding not to cut, of pretending to have been cut in order to fit in -- through social media.

Years later, she also has realized perhaps the most personal achievement of her work: She convinced her mother to oppose FGM.

"We've had continual conversations," Taher said. "I've never blamed her."

v

May 11th 2017

Source: CNN

US genital mutilation victims: It happens here03:16

The alarming rise of female genital mutilation in America

By Michelle Krupa, CNN 
Graphics by India Hayes, CNN

Updated 1608 GMT (0008 HKT) May 11, 2017

 

(CNN)It's a brutal practice that's inflicted on thousands of girls and women every year. Female genital mutilation, or female ritual cutting, involves altering or injuring female genital organs. It's often done by people with no medical training and in filthy places, posing horrendous health risks that can linger for decades. Most victims are told never to talk about it -- and some don't survive to tell their stories. Even as girls and women across the globe faces these risks every day, misconceptions abound. To end the practice, experts and survivors say this practice must be drawn out of the shadows. Here's what you need to know:

It's often painful and harrowing ...

Some women say they have no memory of being cut and don't feel any pain at the incision site. Others end up ravaged and require special medical procedures just to be able to menstruate or give birth. It all depends on the type of FGM, which experts have classified by the part or parts of the body that get cut. Cases run the spectrum, from pricking the clitoris to removing it completely to sewing up skin around the vagina.

... and yet millions are subjected to it.

Across at least 30 countries, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to FGM. That equals the entire populations of France, Germany and Italy, combined. More than half the survivors live in Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia. The procedure is usually carried out between birth and adolescence by community elders, traditional health practitioners or trained health-care providers. About 44 million of the survivors are younger than 15.

Worldwide, more than 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk every year of being subjected to the procedure, even though it is outlawed in 42 countriesincluding 24 nations in Africa.

It has no basis in religion ...

No religious texts require FGM. Yet some cultures and sects believe the practice makes for better wives by making girls more acceptable in their communities, thus improving their eligibility for marriage. The practice aims to reduce a woman's libido to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity, and can be associated with being "feminine," "modest," "clean" and "beautiful."

It's practiced in households at all educational levels and all social classes and occurs among many religious groups, including Muslims, Christians and animists. The origins of the practice are unclear, with historians citing evidence of it in Egyptian mummies and in the fifth century BC.

In 13 African countries, more than half of women aged 15 to 49 have undergone the procedure.

... and zero health benefits.

Experts across the globe agree that the practice has no medical benefits whatsoever. Ten global agencies issued a joint statement in 2008 branding the practice a human rights violation and calling for its elimination within one generation.

Meantime, the health risks -- including death -- are plentiful.

There is some good news abroad ...

survey of countries where FGM is common shows a steady decline in the percentage of teenagers who have undergone the practice.

And opinions are changing. A strong majority of women and men in countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where the procedure is most often practiced think it should be history.

... but an alarming rise in the US.

Since 1990, the estimated number of girls and women in the US who have undergone or are at risk of the practice has more than tripled. The increase is due to rapid growth in the number of immigrants from countries where risk of FGM is greatest. These girls and women are concentrated in California, New York and Minnesota.

US statistics don't distinguish between survivors of the practice and people at risk, though there's an effort underway to change that.

Girls and women most at risk in the US come from or have relatives who come from the African nations of Egypt, Ethiopia and Somalia, where three-quarters or more of all girls and women have been subjected to female genital mutilation.

The feds have taken steps ...

After the US granted asylum to 17-year-old Fauziya Kassindja, who fled female genital mutilation and a forced marriage in Togo, a federal law was passed in 1996 making it illegal to perform the practice in the US. The law was amended in 2013 to make it illegal to knowingly transport a girl out of the US to inflict FGM abroad.

But it took more than two decades for the first prosecution to happen. Two Michigan doctors and the wife of one of the doctors were charged in 2017 with performing the banned procedure on two 7-year-old girls.

... but half the states have no law against it.

Though at-risk girls and women are thought to live in every state but Hawaii, just 24 states have enacted laws against female genital mutilation. Prosecution depends on the age of the victim, who performed the procedure, whether the victim was taken out of the country for FGM, and whether the accused uses cultural reasons as a defense. Punishments include as many as 30 years in prison and fines that top out at $250,000.

May 11th 2017

Migrants are asking doctors to perform controversial and illegal genital mutilation surgery on their children, it has been revealed.

The shocking research found since 2010 up to 60 girls aged between four months and 17-years-old had been subject to the surgery.

Research showed up to 10 Australian doctors have been asked by migrants where the controversial surgery can be undertaken and three have been asked to perform an illegal disfiguring surgery on female children themselves, according to The Mercury

With the concerning trend on the rise one of the authors of the research Sydney University's Elizabeth Elliot said one in 10 doctors surveyed had treated a migrant with mutilation.

'It is recognised as physical abuse under Australian child protection laws and it must be reported to child protection authorities,' professor Elliot told the publication.

The female mutilation procedure is on the refugee program's radar with a growing number of nurses and doctors trained to identify the procedure.

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