Stop Female Circumcision to Improve Rights for Women

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Original Chinese Language Article By: http://www.secretchina.com

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

Translator’s Notes.  It is interesting to note that neither Islam nor Christianity require that their female adherents be circumcised.  The practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) appears to be dominant in Africa (particularly Somalia and Sudan), but I am told that it can also occur in the Middle East and Asia.  The practice has developed from early patriarchal society and is in essence the projection of male ignorance and prejudice upon the bodies of women.  Men assume that a woman can only get pregnant if their virginal lips and clitoris have been removed (often with a rusty razor) and the subsequent virginal opening sewn-shut.  Furthermore, I have heard that often the stolen clitoris is used to make a ‘fertility’ medicine drunk only by men.  I support the rights of women around the world, and believe that unbiased education is the path to empowerment and equality.  By way of balance, I must mention that I once heard a group of Somali women who were protesting ‘Eurocentricism’ regarding female circumcision – stating that they rejected the acronym ‘FGM’ as being ‘racist’ – and made it clear that as Somali women they had a ‘right’ to their own culture (which they did not see as ‘inferior’ or ‘dangerous’ to their health).  Perhaps the hidden narrative here is that a ‘Eurocentric’ and ‘secular’ narrative is being projected onto a non-European (and religious) people, and that this subtle form of neo-imperialism is being disguised as ‘good health’.  ACW 22.5.2016

Between 130 and 150 million women are victims of genital mutilation – most of them are Africans. Now, doctors, teachers and social workers in Germany are increasingly being confronted by this practice.  Somalian Jawahir Cumar moved to Germany with her parents when she was a girl. Later, on a visit to her grandparents’ village when she was 20, Jawahir witnessed the funeral of a young girl who had bled to death after being ‘circumcised.’ “I then saw another case,” the now 36 year old says: “A pregnant woman was in labour. She had never been to a doctor, there was nowhere for her to get ultrasound in the area – the next hospital was 900 kilometres away, in Mogadishu. After the birth of the child, the woman was sewn up again.”  The midwife had overlooked the fact that the woman had been carrying twins, so she was still in pain. She was later transported to Mogadishu by car – a journey that took two days. And although she survived, the second twin died.

Severe health damage

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is currently practiced in 29 African countries, despite being illegal in some. It is usually done when girls are between the ages of four and eight – using varying instruments, ranging from razor blades, kitchen knives to broken glass and tin lids. As because these tools are used more than once, it also increases the risk of spreading diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.  Female Genital Mutilation includes procedures that intentionally alter (or cause injury) to female genitalia for non-medical reasons, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). These practices include partial or total removal of the clitoris, the removal of the labia and narrowing the vaginal opening by creating a covering seal to leave a small opening of about two to four millimetres.

About 15 percent of the women who have been cut (especially in Somalia and Sudan) have also undergone infibulation, which results in the vaginal opening being almost sealed completely.

“If the vagina is almost closed, urine and menstrual fluids can hardly be discharged and remain trapped as a result,” explains Dr Christoph Zerm, a gynaecologist who specializes in counselling and treating women who have undergone FGM. “This creates an environment that is conducive for infections. It can cause severe illness in the urinary tract and even the kidney. The uterus, ovaries and the fallopian tubes can also get infected,” he adds.  For these women, even urinating, which can (take up to 30 minutes), is painful.

Raising awareness in Germany

Jawahir was just a girl when she was cut. As a result, she had to have several surgeries in Germany to reverse the infibulation. She wants to prevent other girls and women from having a similar experience. That’s why she founded ‘Stop Mutilation.’  “The immigrants that come here bring this problem with them. That’s what made me create this organization in 1996,” says Jawahir, who is now a mother of three.  An estimated 30,000 women living in Germany have been subjected to FGM and 6,000 girls are at risk, according to human rights organization Terre des Femmes. Pressure from families in their countries of origin plays a big role.

“Mothers-in-law and grandmothers, especially, call all the time, write letters and send messages,” says Jawahir Cumar. And the message is always the same: “[They say] you have to cut your daughters! Or just bring them to us and we will do it,” she adds.  Jawahir visits kindergartens and advises teachers on how they can raise awareness about FGM. She also targets African immigrants in her advocacy work.  “Many of them don’t know that [female genital mutilation] is prohibited in Germany. They are shocked when they hear that they could lose custody of their children,” Jawahir says.  She was able to prevent 17 girls from being subjected to FGM last year.

Encouraging Africans to Ban FGM

Somalian Fadumo Korn also talks about FGM with immigrant families from Somalia and other African countries. She warns them that it can result in a prison sentence or deportation.  “It only works from one African to another,” she says, because Europeans are often not seen as the right people to raise awareness in Africa.  “It is easy for me because I am also a victim. No one can tell me that genital mutilation isn’t bad,” Fadumo adds.  Together with Nala – an association in Frankfurt – she was able to convince 18,000 people from a community in north-eastern Burkina Faso to publicly renounce FGM.  “We got support from the local imam and the head priest of the Christian community, as well as the chief of this region for our campaign. These three men stood up and told their community that FGM is forbidden,” Fadumo explains.  Even though religion is often used to justify FGM, neither Islam nor Christianity demand it of their followers. Fadumo believes it is important for religious leaders to clearly speak out against the practice to change tradition in their communities.  “Whether it’s Islam or Christianity, we use all religions to tell people, ‘Your God will be angry with you, if you circumcise his children,’” she says.

Re-education is key

Both Jawahir and Fadomo, and activists in Africa face major challenges in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation. Women practicing FGM have to be re-educated and families have to be convinced to let their daughters grow up without being cut.  “Men have to learn that a woman who is not cut can also have children and make her husband happy,” Jawahir Cumar says, while adding that families also need to recognize the importance of education for their daughters.  However, there’s still a lot of work to be done in Germany as well, says Jawahir, pointing to how long it took for forced marriages and ‘honour killings’ to be regarded as a criminal offence and not simply as the customs of immigrants.  Gynaecologist Christoph Zerm would like medical students to learn more about FGM, so doctors can provide better care for women who are affected.

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2016.

Original Chinese Language Source Text:

http://www.secretchina.com/news/13/02/08/485780.html?阻止女性割礼改善妇女权益(组图)

阻止女性割礼改善妇女权益(组图)

2月6日是联合国反对女性割礼日。近1.3亿至1.5亿的女性曾经受过割礼之苦,其中多数来自非洲。一名德国医师呼吁对医疗人员进行相关培训,以妥善治疗曾受割礼的女性。

库马尔(Jawahir Cumar)来自索马里。她在年幼时同家人迁移到德国。20岁时她回到家乡的镇上参加祖父的葬礼,她在当地目睹了一名小女孩因割礼失血而死。 “我还目睹了另一个事件”,现年36岁的库马尔回忆道:“那是一名正在分娩的孕妇。她从未看过医生,当地也没有超声波检查。最近的医院在900公里之外的摩加迪沙。孩子出生后,人们又将她的下体缝上。”但助产士没有预料到,产妇怀的是一对双胞胎。库马尔继续说道:“那名女人仍然相当痛楚。人们花了两天的时间开车送她去摩加迪沙。虽然她活下来了,但是第二个孩子不幸夭折。”

严重损害健康

在29个非洲国家中,虽然部分国家明文禁止,但女性割礼仍然存在。割礼经常在4-8岁时举行,以剃刀、菜刀、玻璃碎片或铝罐铁盖作为工具。这些“工具”的多次重复使用促使艾滋病和肝炎等疾病蔓延。

世界卫生组织所认定的“女性生殖器切割”(FGM)包括“部分或全部切除女性外生殖器或对女性生殖器官造成其它伤害的所有程序”。“女性生殖器切割”又被进一步区分为四种类型:切除内部或外部阴唇部分或全部割去阴蒂,以至全面封闭阴道口,只留下3到4毫米的隙缝。

约有15%接受割礼的女性遭缝合阴道。此类的割礼主要发生在索马里和苏丹,对女性带来相当严重的健康损害。妇科医师泽尔姆(Christoph Zerm)在德国专门为受到割礼的女性提供咨询和治疗。他解释说:“当阴道口被几乎缝合后,尿液和月经分泌只能缓慢排出,囤积在阴道。这容易造成感染,最后可能造成严重尿道疾病,甚至肾病。”单是排尿就经常需要痛苦地花上近30分钟。

库马尔幼年时受过女性割礼。她在德国经历了多次手术,将缝合的阴道口恢复原状。在发现索马里依旧继续施行割礼时,她感到极度震惊。20岁造访故里后,她在杜塞尔多夫成立了终结割礼协会。目前已诞下三个孩子的库马尔对德国之声表示:“来到这里的移民,自身也有相同问题。这是我在1996年成立协会的动机。”根据妇女权益组织“女性的地球”(Terre des Femmes)估计,在德国共生活着3万名受过割礼的女性,另有6000名年轻女性可能遭施行割礼。来自家乡的家族压力是重要主因。“特别是婆婆和祖母会不停来电、来信并发送信息。”库马尔说,信息内容总是大同小异:“你们必须让女儿行割礼!或是:把她们带回来,交给我们施行!”

她前往学校和幼儿园,提供教师建议,告诉他们如何解说这个议题。库马尔也对非洲移民进行劝说。“许多初来乍到的家庭会来找我们,因为他们需要行政程序方面的帮助。我们陪伴他们去政府部门,借此赢得信任。接着我们向他们提起关于女性生殖器官缝合一事。许多人不知道这在德国遭到禁止。他们在得知自己可能会因此丧失监护权时,往往非常震惊。”她在去年共帮助17名女孩免于遭受割礼之苦。

在非洲进行劝说

知名的索马里裔女作家科恩(Fadumo Korn)对德国之声表示,她同样也明确警告来自索马里或其他非洲国家的移民:举行割礼者将在德国被判处监禁,随后被递解出境。科恩同样来自索马里,在年幼时受过割礼,经历了漫长的治疗才得以痊愈。这名作家希望中止女性割礼这项残忍传统。“人们必须在非洲进行许多劝说工作。只能由非洲人承担这项工作。”根据她的经验,欧洲人的劝说无法使非洲人信服。“对我来说很容易,因为我也受过割礼。没有人可以对我说,割礼没那么糟糕。”

科恩与来自法兰克福的纳拉协会(Nala)共同合作,在布基纳法索成功让一个东北部社区中的18000人宣布放弃割礼:“我们的行动赢得了伊玛目和基督教会最高牧师的支持,还有这个地区国王的同意。这三名男子宣布,禁止行女性割礼。”

科恩表示,割礼的传统并非由任何大型世界宗教所订立,但这个错误观念却根深蒂固。因此,当神职人员带头反对割礼时,他的意见特别有分量:“无论是伊斯兰教、基督教或土著信仰,我们借用所有宗教告诉人们:’如果你对你的孩子进行割礼,你的神便会生气。’”

德国内的社会变迁

对抗女性割礼陋习的最大挑战位于非洲:他们必须重新教育受割礼的女性,说服各家庭让他们的女儿不行割礼。库马尔补充道:“男人们必须学习,不曾受过割礼的女性也能产下孩子,使她的丈夫幸福。”此外,年轻女孩必须有受教育和就职的管道:“父母们必须认清,女儿也能自食其力供养家人。至今仍有许多女孩被迫结婚,为她的家人提供生活所需。”

库马尔表示,即使在德国仍有许多工作尚待完成。她回忆起自己花了相当长的时间,才让移民者理解强迫婚姻和所谓的“荣誉处刑”不是传统习俗,而是必须受到法律制裁的犯罪行为。此外,妇科医师泽尔姆特别呼吁,“在教育医学系学生以及进行专业培训时,教导关于女性割礼的深入知识”,如此一来,医师才能妥善治疗受割礼的女性病患。

 

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