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Archive for October, 2013

My blueprint for preventing FGM, by new health minister Jane Ellison

Newly-appointed public health minister Jane Ellison stated that female genital mutilation would be a key issue during her tenure


David Cameron’s new public health minister today pledged to make the prevention of female genital mutilation a top priority. Jane Ellison warned that Britain has been “failing” to protect thousands of girls from the barbaric practice. The Conservative MP for Battersea told how she was determined to prevent “child abuse” that was leaving victims to face life-long physical and mental pain. She said the cutting “shouldn’t happen in 21st-century Britain” and revealed that her desire to stop more girls suffering was “one of the things that got me out in bed in the morning” during years of campaigning on the issue.

In her first interview since taking office this month, Ms Ellison, who previously headed Parliament’s all-party FGM group, announced a series of planned measures to combat the threat of mutilation. They include: Proper data collection by hospitals to end the current “ridiculous” ignorance about the scale of the problem.  A drive to improve “patchy” awareness of FGM among teachers so that victims and girls at risk can be identified and helped. Guidelines requiring NHS staff to alert health workers about at-risk girls to be applied across all hospitals. Copying methods used in successful African schemes that have dramatically reduced the prevalence of cutting.  Greater efforts to identify victims to ensure they receive treatment for the physical and mental consequences.

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FGM: ‘It’s like neutering animals’ – the film that is changing Kurdistan

A young girl is given a plastic bag of sweets and a bottle of lemonade after being genitally mutilated … the story of the 10-year fight against female genital mutilation by two film-makers has been made into a hour long documentary by the Guardian and BBC Arabic and will go out across the Arab world from Friday, reaching a combined global audience of 30 million viewers. This is the Guardian’s shorter web version of that film

It started out as a film about a practice that has afflicted tens of millions of women worldwide. It culminated in a change in the law.

Ten years after they embarked on a documentary to investigate the extent of female genital mutilation in Kurdistan, two film-makers have found their work changing more than just opinions in a fiercely conservative part of the world. Partly as a result of the film, the numbers of girls being genitally mutilated in the villages and towns of Iraqi Kurdistan has fallen by more than half in the last five years.

Shara Amin and Nabaz Ahmed spent 10 years on the roads of Kurdistan speaking to women and men about the impact of female genital mutilation (FGM) on their lives, their children and their marriages. “It took a lot of time to convince them to speak to us. This was a very taboo subject. Speaking about it on camera was a very brave thing to do.

“It took us weeks, sometimes months to get them to talk and in the end it was the women that spoke out – despite the men,” said Ahmed. The result was a 50-minute film, A Handful of Ash. When it was shown in the Kurdish parliament, it had a profound effect on the lawmakers. The film-makers’ work began in 2003, shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The stories they were told had a numbing consistency. In one scene in the documentary a young mother with her children sitting beside her tells Shara that in their village: “They would just grab the little girls, take them and cut them, and the girls came back home. I can still remember I was sick, infected for three months. I could barely walk after I was cut.”

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Lawyer warns of dangers in changes on forced marriage

Scotland’s planned adoption of England’s laws on forced marriage have been described as “dangerous” and “retrograde” by a leading expert.

The warning comes as the ­Scottish Government draws up plans to amend its forced marriages legislation introduced in 2011, following a recent European ruling.

A new report has shown women’s support agencies in ­Scotland have experienced a significant increase in referrals, and follows the rare testimony of a victim in yesterday’s Sunday Herald.

Lawyer John Fotheringham, who was one of the leading ­proponents of the 2011 legislation, said: “This will stop the victims of forced marriage seeking a nullity because it would criminalise the family. We are failing the victims if we go down this route and it could be dangerous for them. “Under the current law, the ­criminality lies in breaching an order. The order itself can be drawn very flexibly.

Mr Fotheringham, an associate with bto solicitors, said: “This [change] is a retrograde step. The point of the Scottish position is that a young person will be dissuaded from seeking an order if the order itself will criminalise members of her family.”


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Op-Ed: We must stop child marriage

The simple principle that a woman should be able to choose whom and when to marry is an absolute given in this country. But the sad reality around the world is that millions of girls as young as eight or nine years of age are forced into marriage every year. Some suggest the number could be as high as 38,000 per day, which adds up to a staggering 9.5 million a year. This is utterly wrong, and we have a duty to say so.

Our government has made it a priority to fight the scourge of child, early and forced marriage. You could see this in the speech from the throne when we outlined the priority that our government places on protecting the rights of all girls and helping them fulfil their potential. Not only is this in line with Canadian values, but we believe that it is ultimately in every nation’s self-interest to do so.

On Thursday, Canada will introduce the first-ever stand-alone resolution on child, early and forced marriage at the United Nations General Assembly. The resolution reaffirms commitments to protect children’s rights and calls for further action in the General Assembly to address this barbaric practice.

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Greece girl Maria ‘bought as an investment by jailed foster parents’

Greek police believe Gypsy family planned to make big money by selling her into a forced marriage at the age of just 12.

The jailed foster parents of little ‘blonde angel’ Maria bought her as an “investment” to cash in on the biggest tradition of the gypsy world, police believe. The youngster is thought to have been bought young, with the intention of making big money by selling her into a forced marriage at the age of just 12. Police are investigating whether Maria, believed to be aged five or six, was being prepared for sale to a wealthy gypsy leader. Marriage at the age of 12 is common practice in many traditional Roma communities, with the bride’s family getting a pay-out from the new in-laws.

Because Maria was seen as a “white-skinned beauty” within the gypsy camp, she would be considered a “prize investment”. A police source said: “The money a family gets in the case of marriage is negotiable at a high level, especially with a prize catch like Maria. “This could be like a business deal which would give them a profit at the end of it when they sell to the highest bidder.” It could explain why a family with 13 other registered children – and raking in more than £2,000 in benefits a month – kept another mouth to feed for more than four years.
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Determinants of child and forced marriage in Morocco: stakeholder perspectives on health, policies and human rights

In Morocco, the social and legal framework surrounding sexual and reproductive health has transformed greatly in the past decade, especially with the introduction of the new Family Law or Moudawana. Yet, despite raising the minimum age of marriage for girls and stipulating equal rights in the family, child and forced marriage is widespread.

The objective of this research study was to explore perspectives of a broad range of professionals on factors that contribute to the occurrence of child and forced marriage in Morocco.  Methods: A qualitative approach was used to generate both primary and secondary data for the analysis. Primary data consist of individual semi-structured interviews that were conducted with 22 professionals from various sectors: health, legal, education, NGO’s and government.

Sources of secondary data include academic papers, government and NGO reports, various legal documents and media reports. Data were analyzed using thematic qualitative analysis.  Results: Four major themes arose from the data, indicating that the following elements contribute to child and forced marriage: (1) the legal and social divergence in conceptualizing forced and child marriage; (2) the impact of legislation; (3) the role of education; and (4) the economic factor.

Emphasis was especially placed on the new Family Code or Moudawana as having the greatest influence on advancement of women’s rights in the sphere of marriage. However, participants pointed out that embedded patriarchal attitudes and behaviours limit its effectiveness.

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ndia, The Country With The Largest Number Of Child Marriages In The World, Refuses To Back UN Resolution To End Child Marriages

The United Nations has announced an initiativeto end child marriages worldwide, but India, the country with the most child brides, isn’t getting behind it.

The UN Human Rights Council resolution seeks to put an end to all child, early and forced marriages throughout the world, and already, 107 countries have co-sponsored it. However, India has not given its support because, according to officials in the country, the resolution provides a vague definition of an early marriage. “We have laws against child marriage and forced marriage,” claimed an Indian official. “But since early marriage has not been defined anywhere, there was no clarity on the legal implication of co-sponsoring the resolution against early marriage.”

Reports show that India has about 24 million child brides, making it the country with the largest number of them worldwide. Many countries in South Asia have loose laws on early and child marriages, with India’s seemingly being the most lax.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of the Human Rights Watch, says that early and child marriages ruin the lives of the ones involved.

“Early marriage cuts short [girls’] education, places them at risk of domestic abuse and marital rape, and makes them economically dependent,” says Meenakshi Gangul, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, to TIME Magazine. “It has a profoundly detrimental impact on their physical and mental well-being.”

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The politics of child marriage

A recent diplomatic omission that did not receive the media attention it deserved was India’s failure to co-sponsor a global resolution floated by the UN Human Rights Council against child marriages. The resolution, which sought to include child, early and forced marriages in post-2015 international development agenda, was co-sponsored by a cross-regional group of 107 nations, many of them poor and developing countries where such marriages are common.

India, which has the dubious distinction of hosting the largest number of child brides — 24 million, which is 40 per cent of the 60 million worldwide — blamed extreme poverty for the prevalence of child marriages and argued that the practice should be allowed to die a natural death by removing its root cause, that is poverty. Surprisingly, India also sought clarity on the term ‘child, early and forced marriage’ even as the resolution sought to outlaw the marriage of girls aged below 18 years, which is also the legal age for girl’s marriage in India.

The wrangle over semantics and the stand taken by India at the UN forum have touched a raw nerve in Kerala, where the issue has been raging for months. Some orthodox Muslim organisations are planning to move the Supreme Court to get exemption for Muslim girls from the purview of Child Marriage Law in order to enable them to get married before attaining 18 years.

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‘I was forced into marrying my relative … and there was nowhere to go, no way out’

A Scots woman forced into marrying a relative in Pakistan against her will while still a teenager has spoken for the first time of the abuse she has suffered.

Sara, who still fears for her life if her true identity or whereabouts are revealed, was beaten, threatened and coerced until she agreed to leave university and travel to Pakistan with her parents. She made her decision to speak out as support agencies revealed a surge in the reported numbers of women fleeing forced marriage.

According to a new report, women’s support agencies in Scotland have seen a surge in the numbers of cases reported since new legislation to deal with forced marriage was introduced in 2011 by the Scottish Parliament. Since the new law was introduced some support agencies have seen their referrals double. Under the legislation courts in Scotland can issue protection orders specifically tailored to a victim’s needs, for example by ensuring they are taken to a place of safety or by helping those in danger of being taken abroad for marriage. Breaching such an order is a criminal offence, punishable by a fine, a two-year prison sentence or both. Mridul Wadhwa, information and education officer at Shakti Women’s Aid, said: “The numbers of reports of forced marriage in Scotland have gone up significantly.

“The referrals from people who suspect forced marriage has also increased, but we still need more agencies – particularly schools and universities – to pick up on the warning signs and notify the authorities earlier.” Despite the constant threat of violence hanging over her, Sara has taken the decision to speak out because she wants other young people to know it is possible to escape such situations.

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