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Second Middle East & Asia Conference on FGM shows that new strategies are needed

16.5.2014. By Stop FGM Middle East. On May 7th to 10th the Second Middle East & Asia Conference on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was held in Istanbul where activists and researchers from Iraq, Egypt, Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia and India met as well as representatives from UNICEF Iraq, Orchid Project (England) and Terre des Femmes (Germany). It was the second such conference organized by the German-Iraqi NGOs WADI and the Dutch NGO Hivos.

 For the longest time FGM was regarded as an African problem, based on the African continent with some prevalence in neighboring countries like Yemen. This mantra was overcome only recently when WADI strated raising conscious, that FGM is also widespread in a Middle Eastern country like Iraq. In January 2012, the first conference on FGM in the Middle East was held in Beirut. In the last two years the STOP FGM Middle East Project by WADI and Hivos collected further evidence, that countries like Oman, Malaysia and Indonesia have a significant high prevalence rate of FGM. Therefore, this second conference widened the scope from the Middle East to South East Asia.
On the conference it became very clear, that the issue of FGM has to be tackled in the Middle East and Southeast Asia as well as its current core area in Africa. No nationwide studies have been undertaken in Indonesia and Malaysia, but local studies suggest, that prevalence could be between 80 or even 90%. This would mean that Indonesia alone with its world largest Muslim population has a potential of over 100 million victims and endangered girls, which are so far not counted when NGOs or the UN speak of 140 million victims worldwide.

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Second Middle East Conference on FGM to tackle myths

Berlin, 30.4.2014. By WADI. The Second Middle East & Asia Conference on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) by WADI and Hivos will take place from May 7th to May 10th in Istanbul.

The conference will tackle two myths about Female Genital Mutilation. It is commonly believed that FGM is mainly practiced in Africa and that it has no religious grounds. Both claims are not true.

FGM is practiced widely in Asia: In Middle Eastern countries such as Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Iran, but also in Southeast Asia: in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, India and the Maledives.

New study from South Iraq

We have invited the most prominent Anti-FGM activists from Oman, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Malaysia and Indonesia to present new studies about the prevalence of FGM in their countries and talk about their struggle against the cruel practice which much more than 140 million girls and women have fallen victim to worldwide. Highlights will be three new studies, which have not been presented before: from Southern Iraq, from Iran and from Oman. For South Iraq it is the first study ever on FGM.

It is the first time that so many prominent activists from the Middle East and Southeast Asia will meet on this subject with the aim of forming a network.

It is also the first time that UNICEF with its largest single program to combat FGM in the world will participate. After UNICEF has published reports about FGM for years implying that the cruel practice was more or less an African problem only existing in small pockets in the Middle East, a rethinking in this international organization has taken place, now leading to a widening of their struggle against FGM in Western Asia.

Discussing Religion

Another highlight of the conference will be the focus on the relation between FGM and Islam. It has been an undisputed credo that FGM is a tradition unrelated to religion. Yet, in parts of the Muslim world many people believe that they are acting in the name of religion when they mutilate their little girls often causing health problems such as cysts, infections and infertility and even more often ruining their later sex life and partnerships. Some prominent Islamic scholars have taken a stance against FGM pointing to the theological fact that such bodily harm is against Islam and a fulfilled sex life for both men and women is recommended. However, other Islamic scholars take an ambivalent position stating that “female circumcision” is not a must but recommendable if done properly according to certain Hadiths. A few Islamic scholars even claim that cutting a girl’s genitals is religiously necessary.

On the conference, Muslim representatives will discuss how to counter such opinions. Representatives of Islamic Relief and the Malaysian organization Sisters of Islam will present their approach, a researcher from Iran will explain the Shia position and a medical professor from Saudi Arabia will explain why it is hardly possible to cut a girl in an “Islamic way”.

The German-Iraqi NGO WADI has been working since ten year on combating FGM in Northern Iraq. The film by the BBC “Dropping the Knife” is documenting how our Stop FGM campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan was able to change ideas and perceptions in society.

When evidence became undisputable that FGM existed in many more countries in the Middle East, we organized the First conference on FGM in the Middle East in Beirut in January 2012.

In early 2013, Wadi and Hivos launched the project Stop FGM Middle East. The project aims at networking activists from the whole region, to collect data about FGM in the Middle East and Asia and to distribute this information to journalists, the United Nations and international NGOs.

FGM eradication in Egypt since 2011: A forgotten cause?

4.4.2014. by Passant Darwish, Ahram Online. For organisations working to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) in Egypt, a court’s decision this month to refer the father and doctor of a 13-year-old girl who died from an FGM is seen as a ray of light in three years of political turmoil.

The unrest since Egypt’s 2011 revolution has overshadowed some of the country’s social problems – one of which is FGM.

Vivian Fouad, head of the capacity building and communications department at the country’s National Population Council (NPC), which leads the anti-FGM campaign in Egypt – says that the topic of FGM has been “marginalised” since the 2011 uprising, along with other social issues. (more…)

New petition against FGM in Indonesia

5.4.2014. On Force Change, a plattform for petitions, a new petition was posted asking the Un secretary general Ban Ki-Moon to stop female genital mutilation in Indonesia. You can sign the petition here.

Submission to the UN: Medicalization of FGM in Indonesia

31.3.2014. Terre des Femmes and Watch Indonesia!have send an additional submission to the United Nations Comitee on the Rights of the Child, 66th Session, in which they call for a ban on female genital mutilation in Indonesia.

In their statement they describe how medicalization leads to an increase of FGM: “Many hospitals offer FGM as part of “birth packages” including health checks, ear piercing and vaccinations. Ironically, this practice would not be considered as a human rights violation since it has a legal basis. The promotion of ‘healthy’ FGM in Indonesia has become so popular that even girls from the greater Pacific region are at risk of being cut in Indonesia.”

read full statement

Ahmadiyya: Not in Islam’s Name

28.3.2014. The Ahmadiyya community is joining the struggle against female genital mutilation (FGM). Already on March 7th the Ahmadiyya Times published a fierce condemnation of FGM by Qasim Rashid calling FGM and act of terrorism. Now Farooq Aftab, a spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth writes on Your Middle East: “Not in Islam’s name, not in my name.

Farooq Aftab‘s article:

“80% of the Muslim world do not practice FGM”

Earlier this week thousands of British Muslim men that make up the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, the UK’s largest and oldest Muslim youth association, issued a single statement denouncing female genital mutilation (FGM). The statement, published on the website ‘Muslims for Humanity‘, read:

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MALDIVES: Cleric calls for FGM on Islamic grounds

Lapidomedia 12th March 2014. By Vishal Arora

CUTTING OFF a piece of a young girl’s flesh might at last be getting the recognition it deserves in the West as a human rights violation, but in the Maldives it is making a return as a ‘religious obligation’.

A fatwa has been issued by an influential Islamic scholar here, citing specific hadith or sayings of the Prophet Mohammed.

FGM is one of the five things that are part of fitrah, or nature, says the fatwa by Dr. Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef, Vice President of the Fiqh Academy of the Maldives, posted on www.mvislamqa.com, a website which seeks to ‘convey the true message of Islam.’ Full artcile on Lapidomedia