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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.

Joint forces against FGM in Asia and the Middle East

11.2.2014. By Stop FGM Middle East

This year’s statements on Febuary 6th, the Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, differed positivly from previous years. Several organizations and state agencies acknowledged that female genital mutilation exists in Asia. USAID mentioned in their statement besides Indonesia, Malaysia, Iraq also the new evidence found in the Gulf States. (So we happily assume that they read our website!). Very encouraging is also that the German section of terre des femmes started a call to end FGM in Indonesia. It is also of great value that the regional offices for the Arab region for UNFPA and UN Women issued a joint statement. We are hopefull that we will achieve our goal with joint forces: To elminate FGM in the Middle East and Asia.

 

 

Feb 6th: Many media reports on our work and FGM in Asia

7.2.2014. by Stop FGM Middle East

On February 6th, the eleventh international Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, a number of media outlets have picked up on the topic of Female Genital Mutilation in Asia. Many non-governmental und international organizations tackling FGM, including the World Health Organization, still don’t mention the existence of FGM in many Asian countries. Breaking the silence is a first step to saving millions of girls in these countries from being mutilated. WADI and Hivos stressed this in their press declaration on this year’s February 6th. Therefore, we are happy that many journalists have now brought out this message. In several cases Stop FGM Middle East and WADI were able to provide information.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-02-07 um 14.54.11

Al Jazeera Turkey filming in Wadi’s office in Iraq with Thomas von der Osten-Sacken and Souaad Abdelrahman explaining the Anti-FGM program

Al Jazeera Turkey came to Wadi’s office in Suleymania in North Iraq and spoke with victims of FGM. The film also describes the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan and the successful campaign against FGM.

De Vokskrant, the largest newspaper of the Netherlands also reported on the work of Wadi in Iraqi Kurdistan on February sixth. On February 7th, they ran a long story on FGM in Indonesia, underlining the importance to stop ignoring the brutal tradition in Asia. (more…)

Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation; Action in Asia is needed

By HIVOS and WADI; The Hague, Suleimania, 5 February, 2014.

On the fourth official International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female genital mutilation (FGM), the practice is far from being eradicated. While the numbers of mutilated girls are decreasing in Africa after decades of concerted efforts, large regions where FGM is practiced are entirely neglected in this worldwide battle. This is particularly true for Asia. The practice is widespread in Indonesia and Malaysia, it exists in Iran, Iraq,  and Jordan. In several countries of the Arabian peninsula FGM is practiced by relevant parts of the population.

These countries need to make an effort to fight FGM among their population. We also call upon Indonesia and Malaysia, where the practice is legally carried out in hospitals, to ban FGM and initiate a strong campaign against it. In some Arab countries and Iran the practice is not legal in hospitals, yet governments shy away from tackling the issue. As a first step reliable studies must be conducted and a campaign initiated. In some countries  authorities must stop censuring voices that talk about FGM. (more…)

In Oman more than 80% of women could be mutilated – Results of a two-week field trip

Stop FGM Middle East, 3.2.2014. By Hannah Wettig

Oman is not on the map of countries where female genital mutilation is practiced. Neither the United Nations nor international NGOs have taken notice of FGM in the Gulf region – except Yemen. Yet, there are quite a number of reports about its existence in Oman and in most other countries on the Arabian Peninsula, some old from the 1960s, others are medical studies about cysts and other complications.

Stop FGM Middle East picked Oman for a first field trip to the Gulf region because of its relatively liberal political climate and the government’s concern for women’s rights.

Several Omani bloggers and journalists have written about FGM. The Ministry of Health mentioned it as a matter of concern. It was certainly a good sign that the issue was discussed openly – even if seldom.

From the different reports it was hard to assess how widespread the phenomenon really was. Some articles estimated a prevalence of 20% to 30%. Several authors assumed that FGM was mainly practiced in the Southern governorate of Dhofar with some pockets in the mountainous area in the North where a “pricking”-type was practiced. We were skeptical: Other reports hinted that FGM might be much more widespread than these authors believed. (more…)

New study in Oman shows high prevalance of FGM all over the Country

By Stop FGM Middle East. 22.1.2014.

According to a new study from Oman, female genital mutilation constitutes a widespread phenomenon in Oman in all age groups, and among women from all regional and educational backgrounds. Out of 100 women questioned 78 stated to be “circumcised” (they were asekd if had undergone “khatana al banat”). The human rights activist and statistician Habiba Al Hinai conducted the study “Female Genital Mutilation in the Sultanate of Oman” in cooperation with Stop FGM Middle East for which she interviewed 100 female and 100 male participants in hospital waiting areas, shoppings malls and fast food restaurants in the capital Muscat.

64% of all female participants said FGM was still practiced in the family

The practice of female genital mutilation was long only considered prevalent in the Southern region of Dhofar with only small pockets in the North. Thus, it is most notable that the participants in this study originated from Northern regions with only two coming from Dhofar. The highest prevalence of FGM seems to exist in the regions Sharqiya North and South (18 out of 19), the Dakhiliya (11 out of 13) and the coastal Batina region (33 out of 38 questioned). Participants who originate from Muscat were less likely to be circumcised, but still more than half of the participants were affected. (more…)