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Archive for March, 2017

Doctors Around the World Rally for New Surgery to Counter Female Genital Mutilation

When American cosmetic surgeon Ivona Percec encountered her first patient to have been subjected to female genital mutilation, a widely scorned but enduring cultural practice in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia that intentionally alters or excises the genital organs of girls and women for non-medical reasons, she was speechless with shock. Not because of the vicious scarring—as a surgeon specializing in genital reconstruction she had seen far worse—but because the woman had been suffering in silence for so long.

“It was a psychological shock that this woman had kept the burden to herself. She didn’t even let her husband see what had been done to her,” says Percec, who is associate director of Cosmetic Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “She had lived in this country for multiple years, and had never before tried to get help.”

FGM usually takes place before adolescence, and can result in severe pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, cysts, recurrent infections, difficulty in childbirth and even death. Surely, thought Percec, there would be plastic surgeons in the United States more experienced addressing the scarred results of a procedure that has been exacted on an estimated 200 million women and girls worldwide. She is one of a rising network of doctors in the U.S. and around the globe who are offering new solutions to these often-invisible victims.

We Cannot Be Silent On ‘Honour-Based’ Violence

Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani has brought forward a motion that certain crimes against women should no longer be described in relation to ‘honour’. Her rationale sounds reasonable – that describing these crimes differently has meant that police have been treating them as less serious; that they have been avoiding dealing with these crimes due to a misplaced sense of ‘respect’ for other cultures. However, her proposal could not be more damaging to women at risk of violence.

‘Honour’-based violence is a form of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a broad category. It refers to a husband abusing a wife, but it can also refer a child abusing a parent, amongst many other patterns of perpetration that may occur within a household. ‘Honour’-based violence is not simply the same thing as domestic violence, as Ghani states – rather it is one of the many subtypes within that category. Just as spousal abuse may require a different approach from child abuse, ‘honour’-based violence requires different policing approaches than other forms of domestic violence to provide the best protection for victims, and, in the case of an ‘honour’ killing, to ensure the prosecution of all offenders who may have played their role in a conspiracy to kill.

Jaha’s Promise: FGM film premieres at Copenhagen film festival

Crown Princess Mary of Denmark was the special guest at the world premiere on Thursday evening of Jaha’s Promise, a feature documentary on female genital mutilation (FGM) following the life story of a 26-year-old campaigner Jaha Dukureh.

The film, made by the Guardian and Accidental Pictures, got a standing ovation from the audience at the annual film festival. Dukureh, who is a Time 100 leader, survived FGM as a child in the Gambia and then at 15 was flown to New York to marry a man she had never met.

In the US the horror of what happened to her body became apparent. The film crew follow her as she confronts her past, her family, her culture, her religion, country and its leaders. Jaha becomes a lightning-rod for change in Gambia, leading to the eventual government ban on FGM and child marriage and a working relationship with the Obama administration.

‘My vulva cupcakes were confiscated’ – a day in the life of an anti-FGM campaigner Leyla Hussein

Smuggling vulva-decorated cupcakes into the Somali region of Ethiopia was one of those moments where I thought: “My work as an anti-FGM campaigner gets me into interesting situations sometimes.”

Three years earlier I’d made vulva cupcakes as part of a documentary about FGMthat I’d done for Channel 4. “We need you to bring them with you,” said Sagal Abdi, vice executive director of Maandeeq, when she invited me to an event in Jijiga, the capital of the region, part of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.

Honestly, I was taken aback. I grew up in the UK as part of the Somali diaspora, and I’d assumed the people of Jijiga would not be ready for vulva cupcakes. But Abdi, also part of the diaspora, reassured me that the Ethiopian women had requested them. “Leyla, they watched the documentary and loved the concept of using art for campaigning,” she said.

The number of women treated after being put through ‘horrendous’ genital mutilation in Croydon

New figures reveal the number of women who have undergone hospital treatment after being put through “horrendous” female genital mutilation (FGM) – and how the crime can remain hidden for years.

The Advertiser has obtained figures in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from health trusts across the capital, which reveal that at least 1,600 women who have gone through FGM were admitted to London hospitals for treatment last year.

These women have suffered severe mutilation – including removal of clitoris, labia, and sealing the vagina with cuts and stitches.

Most would have endured these traumatic injuries between infancy and the age of 15 – with 10 being the accepted average age for when FGM is carried out.

However, it is common for the women experiencing these excruciating procedures to not receive hospital care until many years after their ordeal, with the practice of mutilation remaining a “hidden crime” until detected by doctors years later.

‘Tip of the Iceberg’: UK Records 1,428 Forced Marriage Victims in 2016

Britain’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) recorded over 1,400 victims in 2016, up from 1,200 the previous year.

Nazir Afzal, former head of the North-West Crown Prosecution Service, told the taxpayer-funded broadcaster that “one of the major things stopping victims coming forward is the codes of silence that exist in the family”.

Afzal likened the culture within communities where forced marriage is common to organised crime, explaining that “it’s like the mafia. You cover up, as you are so scared of the consequences.”

The BBC reported 11,744 so-called “honour crimes” in the UK between 2010 and 2014, with campaigners claiming far more likely going unrecorded.

The Halo Project estimates these crimes include an annual 12-15 honour-related killings, again noting that the true figure could be far higher.

Met Police still don’t know where FGM is happening after 32 years without a conviction

The police inspector in charge of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) investigations in London said the Metropolitan Police still does not know where young women and girls are being cut and disfigured.

Inspector Allen Davis’s comments came as the NHS revealed there were nearly 5,500 new FGM cases reported to hospitals, clinics and GPs in 2016.

No one has ever been convicted of carrying out female genital mutilation in the UK despite it being illegal in the country since 1985.

The Department of Health’s FGM Prevention Programme today revealed there were 5,484 new reports of FGM in 2016. There have been 10,067 new reports since records began in April 2015.

Forced marriage and honour based crimes tackled in hard-hitting videos

We have launched a series of powerful short videos covering a range of harms that are too often hidden behind closed doors. The videos will be shown for the first time at an event in front of students at South and City College, Small Heath, Birmingham to coincide with International Women’s Day.

The videos shed a light on the impact of hidden harms such as honour-based abuse and forced marriage by telling and recreating personal and harrowing stories of some of those affected by these crimes.

Forced marriage and honour-based abuse are believed to be particularly under-reported with victims often too fearful of family or community reactions to come forward.

We’re hoping this campaign will help highlight forced marriage and honour based abuse and make the public aware of the issue and encourage more people to speak out.

UK drops repatriation charges for under-18s in trouble abroad

British 16- and 17-year-olds who get into difficulty abroad will no longer have to reimburse the government the costs of their journey home, it has been announced.

The Foreign Office previously required people aged 16 and over who found themselves in a vulnerable position to pay for their own repatriation, or issued loans to those who didn’t have the funds, confiscating their passports until they were repaid.

The department announced it would be reviewing this policy after the Guardian detailed the case of a 17-year-old British girl who arrived at the UK embassy in Islamabad in 2014, seeking help to escape a forced marriage.

The girl, who cannot be named for safety reasons, was required to sign a loan agreement and surrender her passport before she was flown back to the UK. She was then issued a bill for £814, the cost of her repatriation from Pakistan, and told she would not have her passport returned until she repaid the money.