The clinic was built by a strange sect. Now the Health Minister said that “medical organisations should be focused on saving lives and not advertising their religion in an attempt to convert vulnerable people”.
A statistical study to estimate the prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) among women in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, Erbil, revealed a rate of 70.3% (self-reported), respectively 58.6% based on clinical examinations. These results match quite accurately with Wadi’s findings published in its comprehensive 2009 survey. Wadi found 63% of the women in Erbil governorate affected.
The newly published study was carried out in the delivery rooms of the Maternity Teaching Hospital and the maternal care units of 14 primary health care centers between 2007 and 2009. It was produced by medical professionals in cooperation with the General Directorate of Health.
According to the study, most perpetrators justified the practice with references to the cultural tradition while another large part prefered to describe it as a religious obligation. Wadi came to similar results.
However, although both studies were produced during the same period of time, they differ much in the proportion of FGM supporters. While Wadi identified a mere 3.4%, the newly issued study found that more than one third supported the practice and would mutilate their daughters.
Another alarming result is that only 30% of the interviewed women knew about the negative health consequences of FGM.
A new study on FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan produced by several Kurdish medical scientists in cooperation with the KRG Ministry of Health appears largely consistent with Wadi’s findings from 2008. Investigating on its own initiative, the Kurdish government now seems to be truly willing to take concrete steps and play a positive role in the fight against the practice.
Among females from 6 months to 20 years of age the study detected an overall prevalence of 23%; however it has to be taken into account that (a) the study included Duhok province which is known for its low prevalence rate, and (b) the age group is restricted to young women and girls and even includes babies.
The study reported an FGM rate of 37% among girls in Erbil and 29% in Suleimaniah province. Wadi in 2008 found 57% in Erbil and 59% in Suleimaniyah among girls aged 14-19. These differences are not surprising considering the facts that
(a) the new study includes babies and small girls which may become genitally mutilated later,
(b) it excludes women above the age of 20 (with growing age there is a sharp rise in prevalence)
(c) in recent years there is growing awareness among people and Wadi observed a rapid downward trend in some areas,
(d) meanwhile FGM has been legally banned and become a punishable crime. It was observed in various African countries that under such conditions people are more likely to conceal the practice, especially when they are asked to report on their daughters for which they (at least in theory) could be hold accountable.
The authors did not outline why they restricted the age group as they did. Anyway, these kind of surveys can be an excellent tool to map the recent trend and should be repeated at least every two years to keep track on the latest developments.
In certain African regions FGM is supported also by Christian clerics. Here an example from Ghana. Bishop Akwasi Sarpong, taking a culture-relativistic stand, claimed FGM “although rejected by other societies, serves a purpose in certain African societies.” We have been waiting for a clear message from the vatican regarding this issue since many years already.
when it comes to the issue of FGM – it’s ‘community’ and ‘culture’.
Many discussions about FGM are just full of empty talk. But listen to this one, it is a bit different.
Tunesia’s ruling Ennahda party has its FGM scandal. MP Habib Ellouze allegedly said: “In the (African) regions where it is hot, people are forced to circumcise girls … because in these regions clitorises are too big which affects the spouses,” and “There are more circumcisions but it is not true that circumcision removes the pleasure for women. It is the West that has exaggerated the issue. Circumcision is an aesthetic surgery for women.”
Last year Egyptian preacher Wagdy Ghoneim caused an outcry when he recommended FGM during his Tunesia trip. Ennahda distanced itself from the Islamist who meanwhile also called on Muslims to kill the opponents of Mursi.
In a recent fatwa a certain Sheikh Al-Hajji Al-Kurdi from the Saudi Ministry of Awqaf & Islamic Affairs endorsed female genital mutilation in its “sunna” form which stipulates the cutting of the clitoris prepuce. He distinguished this allowed “Islamic circumcision” from forbidden “Pharaonic circumcisions”.
On the ground, however, it is common opinion that “sunna circumcision” includes the cutting of the clitoris.
A fatwa like this one raises serious questions about the prevalence of FGM in Saudi Arabia.
Latest data collected by Wadi’s teams in Raniya/Qaladiza and Garmyan (Iraqi Kurdistan) where WADI has been raising awareness for years indicate that the FGM rate has dropped considerably.
The Raniya/Qaladiza area is known for its extremely conservative and traditional way of life. It used to be a FGM stronghold: Raniya holds 95,5% and Qaladiza 97,4% FGM prevalence among women above the age of 14.* Now the rate among girls under 14 years was found to be 50.7% (sample size: 1599).
In Garmyan the overall FGM rate is 81.2%*. Recently it was found to be 21.3% among girls under 14 years of age (sample size: 970).
These numbers are encouraging! They show that while the Middle East is changing profoundly people are ready to rethink old traditions and adopt to modern standards in a strikingly short period of time. There seems to be a new spirit in the air which hopefully will allow us to eradicate FGM much faster here than in Africa.
*According to Wadi’s comprehensive region-wide study conducted in 2009, see http://stopfgmkurdistan.org/html/english/fgm_study.htm
The Indonesian Ministry of Health is still refusing to ban FGM. Minister Nafsiah is trying to protect herself from criticism by asserting that “female circumcision did not cause any negative side effects if the clitoris isn’t cut”. This is (a) a bold statement for which she has no prove, and (b) nobody can guarantee that the clitoris isn’t cut, since “Our medical officers have never been trained to perform female circumcision.”
In fact, this is a universal pattern, also labeled “sunnah” circumcision: Purported restrictions to the operation only serve to legitimize the operation as such. Then on the ground the girls are made to feel the difference between promise and reality. What is called “sunnah” in the book means cutting of the clitoris in reality.
Finally, when this practice is criticized religious figures may assert that it is not done according to the teachings. Nice strategy. Proving that NO form of FGM whatsoever must ever be allowed.
Mae Azango is a heroic and courageous fighter against female genital mutilation. In her home country Liberia she is now facing death threats for having unveiled the truth about this heinous practice. This was the article that led the president to respond to the issue. However, FGM is still legal in Liberia. Recently, the president said, “to hastily abolish the practice could spark off a serious societal crisis”.