Some results from Kirkuk – Female Genital Mutilation goes beyond borders

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In 2005 it was made public for the first time in Kurdish Northern Iraq that the practice female genital mutilation was widespread in the region. Since then things have changed: the topic that was a strict taboo is now an issue of public debate and engagement. Even the Kurdish Regional Parliament, initially reluctant to deal with the problem, has recently passed a bill banning FGM.

However, FGM reaches beyond the borders of the Kurdish region.Until now, there is only vague and contradictory information about the prevalence of FGM in Central and Southern Iraq. Some consider it a mere Kurdish problem while others claim it is practiced throughout Iraq and even among Arabs. WADI has some indications that FGM is indeed being practiced outside of the Kurdish regions and in other parts of Iraq.Beyond the Kurdish autonomous region, FGM is still considered a taboo and the extent of the problem is not assessed yet. WADI, in cooperation with the local women’s rights organization Pana, sets out to change this situation by conducting a comprehensive FGM survey in Kirkuk Governorate.

For the Stop FGM Campaign, Kirkuk will be a gateway to Central and Southern Iraq. The results form Kirkuk – a multi-ethnic and multi-religious city/governorate – will provide some indications on the situation in the rest of the country.Investigations in other areas will follow as soon as the security situation permits. WADI’s main area of work and engagement in the community is Iraqi Kurdistan. For other regions of Iraq, it is time for NGOs working there, as well national and transnational bodies to break the silence and act.

It is the responsibility of the Central Government in Baghdad to focus on these grave human rights violations and, accordingly, start investigations and further countermeasures. And it should also be a foremost concern of the United Nations to bring clarity into this issue.

Recently, Pana and WADI were able to evaluate a first sample of the Kirkuk FGM survey.

The following findings are based on just 100 interviews conducted some weeks ago in Kirkuk governorate. Accordingly, the data cannot reflect more than a rough trend at best. However, it corresponds fairly well with other preliminary data collected in 2010.

This is what the interviews suggest:

– FGM rate: 54% among the Sunnis; Shi’is and other religions are almost not affected

– In the villages most are cut, in the city most are uncut

– 78% of the Kurds but only 25% of the Arabs and Turcoman have undergone FGM. Assyrians, Chaldeans and Armenians were not affected.

– Only 2% of the FGM-affected women expressed the intention to practice FGM on their daughters, whereas 62% said they are against it. Yet 29% said they had practiced FGM on their daughters, giving us a clue about how dramatic gap between intention and reality on the ground.

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