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Archive for June, 2017

USA: Breaking the Silence Around Female Genital Mutilation

Over half a million women and girls in America are affected by female genital mutilation (FGM), and thankfully, people here are finally starting to talk about it and take action — the first-ever U.S. trial against doctors who perform these procedures is about to take place in Detroit. But much more needs to be done to end FGM in the U.S. and worldwide.
Currently, more than 200 million people around the world have undergone FGM, and where I live in rural Somalia almost every single woman and girl has undergone the procedure. In fact, 98% of Somali women and girls have been affected, which is the highest prevalence rate of anywhere in the world. Over 80% are cut between the ages of five and nine — old enough to remember what happened, but not “too old” that they have already experienced much independence. Almost two thirds of Somali women undergo infibulation, the most extreme form of FGM, which leaves girls with their labia stitched together following the excision of the clitoris. This makes urinating and menstruating almost impossible, as a girl is forced to do so through a hole the size of a matchstick. Of course, that’s not to say that any form of FGM is more acceptable than others; it is always a human rights violation
Last year, I met a 15-year-old named Istar, who had been married off to a 70-year-old man in Eastern Somalia. He paid 10 camels and a gun for her. Istar had been subjected to infibulation. Like many girls who have undergone this type of FGM, her new husband was unable to penetrate her during sex. So he used a dagger to cut her open. But he did it with so much force that the dagger went deep, affecting the vaginal walls and cutting into her cervix. Istar started bleeding profusely, forcing her family to seek medical help and counseling for her. Although she is now out of immediate danger, Istar is deeply traumatized and, unsurprisingly, does not want to go back to her husband.
Although religion is sometimes used as an excuse, there is no religious obligation for girls to undergo FGM. And unfortunately, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum: FGM is directly related to other forms of violence against women and girls. Domestic violence is also prevalent in Somalia, and over three quarters of married women aged 15 to 49 think that a beating can be justified in certain circumstances. So-called “child marriage” is highly prevalent, too, and is often seen as a driver for FGM occurring in the first place.


And now, there seems to be another, more timely cause for concern: After several months of extreme drought, it has finally rained in Somalia. This is a huge relief to many, but it also means that girls now face an enormous risk as families, which had previously been preoccupied with getting enough food, have refocused their energies. Schools are now also closed for the summer, and many town dwellers have moved back to rural areas. Families are more likely to think it’s the “right time” for them to hold FGM ceremonies, and girls are at extreme risk.
As a survivor myself, I know the effects of FGM firsthand, and I wanted to do something to help end it. So, in 1999, I set up The Galkayo Center, which aims to end FGM and other forms of violence against girls. We work at various levels, but our main focus is on education. We provide free schooling to more than 800 poor, orphaned, and displaced girls in primary school, and to around 1,600 girls over the age of 13 who are in “non-formal” education. Nationally, only 24.6% of girls in Somalia attend school, but as a result of our work, girls’ enrollment in northeast Somalia has increased to 40%, the highest rate in the country. We teach each of these girls about the harms of FGM and how it can be ended. We try to persuade these girls that their destinies are their own to make – they can help break the cycle of abuse in their own lives and in their families.

Pupils taught to help classmates at risk of ‘honour’ violence

Pupils are being taught how to help classmates at risk of honour-based violence under a pioneering programme being rolled out in two Scottish schools.

Edinburgh secondary schools Leith Academy and Drummond Community High School have held sessions highlighting crimes linked to the supposed protection of ­traditional cultural or religious beliefs, including forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM).

The classes have been led by Bright Choices, an award-winning support service for victims of honour-based violence, and talks are under way to extend the sessions across the city.

Angela Voulgari, who leads Bright Choices for leading community justice organisation Sacro, said that the sessions with S2 and S3 pupils focus on the children’s human rights.

She said the issues involved are discussed clearly but with sensitivity, with children being told how to seek help if they fear their rights are being breached by cultural or religious traditions.

Ms Voulgari said: “In many communities, FGM happens when girls are babies, in others when they are six or seven.

“We are very aware that we could be coming into a school and talking to a group of children where some of the girls may be survivors of honour-based violence.

“A lot of the practices we are talking about happen at a young age and, if they don’t, there is, and I use the word carefully, a ‘grooming’ that can take place during childhood and adolescence.”

‘I was haunted by the blood I caused by circumcising girls’

ALMOST 3,000 GIRLS living in Ireland could be at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation.

FGM refers to the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. The practice is most common in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and carried out for cultural or religious reasons.

Unicef data states that at least 200 million girls and women in 30 countries worldwide have undergone the extremely painful procedure.

Three women’s rights leaders were in Ireland this week to discuss how they are trying to stop FGM – also referred to as cutting – in their region.

An ActionAid study carried out in 2016 found that 2,639 girls living in Ireland may currently be at risk of undergoing the practice. Thousands more have undergone FGM before moving to Ireland.

The wounded victims of Sri Lanka’s child marriage law

In Sri Lanka the legal marriage age is 18, but under a decades-old community law, much younger Muslim girls can get married. As calls grow for this law to be amended, BBC Sinhala’s Saroj Pathirana meets one young girl forced to marry against her will.

When Shafa* was 15, she was forced to get married. “While studying for exams, I fell in love with a boy,” Shafa said, tears running down her cheeks.

“My parents did not like it. They sent me to my uncle’s place. While I was studying there, a regular visitor told my aunt and uncle that he wanted to marry me.”

Shafa, who comes from a Muslim family and lives in a remote village in Sri Lanka, refused. She wanted to marry the boy she loved, after completing her secondary school education.

But despite her objections, her uncle and aunt arranged for her to marry their friend.

Whenever she objected to the marriage, she was beaten. Her uncle and aunt even threatened to kill themselves if she did not listen to them.

“I cut my arms as there was no other option,” said Shafa, pulling up her sleeves to show the scars. “I also took some pills from my uncle’s place.

USA; Detroit Mother Accused Of ‘Aiding’ Female Genital Mutilation

Authorities charged a Michigan mother Wednesday for helping to commit female genital mutilation on girls as young as seven.

Tahera Shafiq, a 48-year-old wife and mother, now faces charges for aiding and abetting the practice and conspiring to commit genital mutilation in a growing case against three other Michigan doctors, reports CNN.

Federal prosecutors allege that Shafiq entered Burhani Medical Clinic, where Dr. Jumana Nagarwala allegedly performed the crime and left after the procedure was completed. One of the girl victims claimed Shafiq was also there at the time of her procedure, a complaint said.

“Female genital mutilation constitutes a particularly brutal form of violence against women and girls. It is also a serious federal felony in the United States. The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law,” acting United States Attorney Daniel Lemisch said.

Detroit Mother Accused Of ‘Aiding’ Female Genital Mutilation

Woman’s bid to raise awareness about FGM and forced marriage

A STUDENT from Coleg Gwent has won a high-profile award for her work raising awareness of female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced child marriage.

Sheila Jerome is studying children’s care, learning and development at Coleg Gwent’s City of Newport campus.

Drawing on her own experiences, she has also made it her life’s mission to spread the word about how FGM and child marriage exists in some UK communities while encouraging women to speak out.

Sheila left her native Nigeria four years ago, and travelled to the UK on a student visa, leaving her 8-month-old daughter back in Nigeria in the care of her mother.

It was only when Sheila arrived in the UK that she realised that the personal experiences she had undergone in her own community back in Nigeria were abusive.

She had been forced into marriage at the age of eight, and underwent FGM when she was a baby – practices that were seen as perfectly normal in her native community.

When Sheila explained to the police and social services what had happened to her as a child, it became clear that her own daughter was at risk of becoming a victim of exactly the same thing, so Sheila arranged for her daughter to join her in Wales.

The Handmaid’s Tale season 1 episode 3 shocks with FGM scene that wasn’t in the book

Hulu and Channel 4’s The Handmaid’s Tale is awash with chilling moments, but one that was added for the TV adaptation stood out as particularly affecting last night.

When Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) was carted away in a black van, it turned out not to be because of her Mayday connections but down to her rule-breaking affair with her female housekeeper

Told by a court that her very “existence is an abomination”, she was sentenced to “redemption” and later awoke in a hospital having been given what we are to assume was a clitoridectomy.

“The stitches will come out in a few days,” Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) tells her.

“You can still have children of course [fertility is valued in Gilead], but things will be so much easier for you now.”

Two brothers kept their mother and sister as slaves by beating them with belts and forcing them to wash in a single bucket of water in an ‘unimaginable’ campaign of abuse

Two brothers who kept their mother and sister as slaves and forced them to wash in a small bucket of water have been put behind bars for more than two years.

Faisal Hussein, 25, and Arbaaz Ahmed, 19, told their family members they were not allowed to turn on the taps at the property in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

During the ‘appalling and disgraceful’ 18-month period of abuse, the two women were given £1 a month to spend on essential sanitary products.

A judge at Bradford Crown Court said the violent assault on their 30-year-old sister was ‘almost unimaginable to any decent human being.’

Wife accused of poisoning her husband and leaving him wheelchair-bound by putting arsenic in his food because he shamed the family by having an affair is cleared after he claimed he did it to himself

A wife suspected of poisoning her cheating husband in an attempted ‘honour killing’ walked free from court with her smiling wheelchair-bound partner after he claimed he did it himself.

Mussarat Khan, 55, was accused of slipping arsenic into the food or drink of 50 year-old Tariq Khan for shaming the family by having an affair.

Mr Khan spent several weeks in a medically induced coma after being rushed to hospital with multiple organ failure and is now left with limited use of arms and legs.

Police charged the wife with attempted murder after a bottle of poison was found in the kitchen cupboard of the family home in Manor Park, east London.