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Areas where Female Genital Mutilation is Practiced
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Conference Calls On Governments to Ban Female Circumcision

June 25, 2003 Cairo -- Delegates from 28 countries across the Middle East and Africa called for governments worldwide to ban female circumcision. 

Female circumcision, also called female genital mutilation (FMG), was first reported historically ca 700 BC and is still practiced today, though many call it "medieval," barbaric, and a violation of human rights.

At the close of their three-day conference in Cairo, a statement was issued calling for widespread dissemination of information to the public on the effects of female circumcision.

However, in a somewhat controversial clause, the delegates left it to nations themselves to define what entails female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation, based on the World Health Organization's set definition.

The Cairo gathering, dubbed the Afro-Arab Expert Consultation for the Prevention of Female Genital Mutilation, attracted campaigners from Yemen as well as African countries like Senegal, Kenya, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad. In the Nile valley and parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the practice is a long-standing tradition believed to be necessary to control female sexuality and ensure a girl's "marriageability."

According to an Amnesty International report, female circumcision most commonly occurs between the ages of four and eight, sometimes as part of an initiation ritual into womanhood. The person who performs the circumcision is generally an older woman, a midwife or healer, doctor, or even a barber. The painful practice typically involves cutting off the clitoris and parts of the labia minora in girls and young teens. The immediate complications of the procedure include bleeding and infection.

"Mutilation may be carried out using broken glass, a tin lid, scissors, a razor blade or some other cutting instrument," Amnesty said, adding that the operation is often performed without any anaesthetic.

The conference organizers said female circumcision been carried out on between 120 and 130 million women, mainly in Africa and the Arab world, while two million girls annually undergo the procedure. The practice is banned in many African countries but still carried out on a massive scale even though it often causes infection and sometimes death.

Circumcision is practiced by both Muslims and Christians, although no texts recommend it in either religion. The only Arab countries where female circumcision is known to be carried out is in Egypt, Sudan and Yemen, because of their links with Africa, which exported the practice deemed vital to protect the honor of girls.

Between 85% and 89% of women in Sudan undergo the procedure, according to the report published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Although female circumcision has been banned in Egypt since 1997 and a campaign against it was launched here, with 2003 named the "Year of the Girl," according to the government's study, 97% of Egyptian women are circumcised. The Egyptian health ministry issued a decree banning circumcision, which was upheld by the Council of State based on laws forbidding the "touching of the human body, except for medical necessity."

Egypt's most senior religious leaders, Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, the head of al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, and the Patriarch of the Coptic church Pope Shenuda III, told the conference Saturday there was no basis for female circumcision in any Christian or Muslim holy book.

Halima Warzazi, United Nations special reporter on traditional practices, told the conference that education was key to eradicating the practice.

"All efforts must try, before all else, to make women aware by getting them access to education, information, to knowledge of human rights and the means to be able to exercise those rights," she said.

"We must change mentalities. The women who go to school are not going to let themselves be circumcised. They are not going to do it."

Education may be the key to making mutilated women less appealing to men as well. According to a new report conducted by UK researchers at the University of Khartoum in Sudan, most male Sudanese college students report that they would prefer to marry a woman who has not been circumcised. This finding contradicts the traditional belief that female circumcision increases a woman's chance for finding a husband.

The study was led by Dr. Elbushra Herieka, of the Bournemouth Genitourinary Clinic in Dorset. To see whether the practice and attitudes toward the practice have changed in Sudan, researchers examined a survey completed by college students. Of the 414 forms returned, 192 were from women.

Only 5% of the women who responded were in favor of the practice, however, about 60% said their mothers made the decision to have them circumcised. Only 57% of the women surveyed had undergone the procedure, and the authors report that this indicates a potential decline in the practice.

Men were twice as likely as women to think that the practice was recommended by their religion, but fewer women than men believed the practice was illegal -- 47% and 60%, respectively. While more than 90% of men and women reported that they were aware of the complications that can accompany the "surgery," 17% of the men and 16% of the women still either favored female circumcision or were not sure about it.

One in 12 of the women believed that undergoing circumcision would improve their chances of marriage, despite the finding that more than three-quarters of the 222 males said they would prefer their wives not to be circumcised.

"This could mean that the pressure from religious, cultural and social beliefs to continue this tradition is stronger than any perception of danger caused by the practice of female genital mutilation," the authors write. -- Edited with excerpts from the title article at"Cruel" Practice of Female Circumcision Continues at Welcome to Health News-UK, -- and Study Gauges Students' View of Female Circumcision at Reuters.

Additional Resources:

The Study is posted on the web

Stop Female Genital Mutilation

New Delhi: The NHRC has asked the Jharkhand government to file a report on an incident of forced marriage of teenagers in Dhanbad. Taking cognisance of newspaper reports which said that a 14-year old boy was married to a 12-year-old girl, whom he was found teasing, the NHRC today issued a notice to Jharkhand and asked it to file its report in four weeks. -- INS

Slowly, Africa Rethinks a Tradition

Some villages stop the practice of female genital mutilation as aid workers try persuasion, not coercion.

In Doho and surrounding villages, no one imagined there was any alternative to female genital mutilation (FGM), a millenniums-old practice in some 28 African and several Middle Eastern and Asian nations. The practice, they explain, is "tradition." Not the kind they understand, they admit, nor know the true origins of - but one they simply had to follow. Until now.

there are a growing indications this new approach is working. In Senegal and Guinea, for example, women's groups are helping to create alternative rites of passage that emphasize positive cultural rituals without FGM. In Uganda, education projects by local NGOs have managed to completely stop the practice in some regions.

And in Ethiopia, "uncircumcised weddings" may be catching on. This past summer, Bogaletch Gebre, who directs Ethiopia's Kembatta Women's Center, participated in the first such event in her home district of Kembatta. The bride wore a sign reading: "I am proud to be uncircumcised." The groom wore one saying: "I am proud to be marrying an uncircumcised girl." The guests wore T-shirts supporting the occasion. National TV filmed it. -- Excerpted from complete article at Christian Science Monitor

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Forbidden Romances Bloom in the Iraqi Desert

Fatin may have fallen in love with her soldier the very first time she saw him. She was part of the desperate line of Iraqis trying to get into the hotel where foreign journalists were staying. He was manning the checkpoint, a figure of authority and strength clad in military camouflage. "He was not like the other soldiers; he was trying to help people, to solve their problems," said Fatin, an Iraqi Kurd who speaks perfect English. -- the Washington Times

The Involvement of Palestinian
Women Terrorists
Women in Suicide Bombings

The Involvement of Female Palestinians in Terror

As of the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada, Israeli Security Forces exposed the phenomenon of using women for terrorist purposes, such as perpetrating suicide attacks. The terrorist organizations wanted to exploit the advantages of using females to perpetrate terrorist attacks, under the assumption that a female is though of as soft, gentle and innocent and therefore will arouse less suspicion than a man. -- Edited from the full article with graphic photos at IDF News
Since September 2000, the phenomenon of young women being blackmailed into carrying out suicide bombings or other kinds of attacks has become increasingly commonplace. To date, there have been more than 20 instances of young Palestinian women committing terrorist attacks against Israeli targets, among them suicide missions.
Declassified Israel Military Intelligence has allowed Human Rights Watch to examine the motivation of Palestinian terrorist organizations for employing women terrorists.
From the young women's perspective, their susceptibility to pressure to sacrifice their lives in terrorist attacks is often grounded in personal, emotional or social vulnerabilities. Women whose social standing is problematic, including women who have acquired a 'bad name' due to assumed promiscuity or extra-marital relationships, have often been convinced to take part in terrorist operations as a means of rehabilitating their status and character in Palestinian society.
Intelligence information, gathered by Israeli liaison and coordination officials, have identified a clear effort by the Yasser Arafat's Fatah 'Tanzim' militia to recruit as suicide terrorists those young women who find themselves in acute emotional distress due to social stigmatization.
It was also revealed in the Israeli Intelligence report that the Fatah has recruited young women to carry out the suicide attacks by use of emotional/social blackmail, after these women had become pregnant following their calculated seduction by Fatah operatives.
The Fatah's use of emotional blackmail in order to force socially vulnerable young women to not only kill themselves, but to kill innocent civilians as well, is a reprehensible and vile exploitation of the most fundamental rights of women to freedom, equality and life. Moreover, making these young women pregnant in order to force them to become suicide terrorists is worse than blackmail and murder. It is fundamentally inhuman. It is the creation of a life only in order to generate greater death. -- Edited from the full articles with photos at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website

More Must Be Done To Improve Women's Plight In War

Women are increasingly suffering from war, and more must be made to improve their plight, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a special report

"Women are caught up in armed conflict with increasing regularity," said Charlotte Lindsey, head of of the ICRC's Women and War Project.

Everyone must be made responsible for improving the plight of women in times of war, and access to areas of conflict remains vital, she said.

Women themselves must be more closely involved in relief work, to preclude any risk of abuse and also because women confide more easily in other women.

But in many countries women cannot leave their homes for long and that makes it very difficult to get women staff for such programmes, Lindsey said.

Many women are raped during wars, suffering not only from the trauma itself but also from resulting social rejection, the ICRC said. It said it was training a group of 60 traditional midwives in Burundi to treat rape victims.

The ICRC is drafting a new plan of action to help women and will present it to the Red Cross's international conference in Geneva next December. -- Excerpts from complete article at Christian Science Monitor

Rights Group: 461 Pakistani Women Killed For "Family Honor" in 2002
December 11, 2002 ISLAMABAD, Pakistan  -- Pakistan's main human rights body said Wednesday that at least 461 women have been killed by family members in so-called "honor killings" this year, an increase from the year before. In such killings, women are murdered to protect the "family honor" for immoral behavior ranging from sex outside marriage, dating, talking to men, being raped or even cooking poorly.
The 2002 figure is up from about 372 honor killings the year before and demonstrates the need for increased protection for women in Pakistan, the private Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said. 
The group said it also shows an apparent lack of commitment to fight the practice by Pakistan's military government, which had made repeated promises to improve women's right in this poor country of 145 million people.
"Crimes against women continued to rise this year, and at least 461 women were killed alone in the two provinces of Pakistan in the name of honor," said Kamla Hayat, a senior official with the rights commission. 
Hayat said the number of honor killings could be much higher, and that her group is still in the process of compiling a report on crimes against women.
Hayat, however, said the increase in recorded honor killings might also be the results of an increased willingness by family and friends to report the crime as opposition to the practice grows in some areas.
"We are mainly relying on the data collected from the two provinces -- Punjab and Sindh," Hayat said. The 2001 figures are based on reports from these same two provinces. 
She said the commission doesn't have enough resources to operate in Baluchistan and the North Western Frontier - deeply conservative provinces that share a border with Afghanistan, where former Taliban regime had introduced a harsher version of Islam. Such killings also occur in some other Muslim countries.
The fact that those conservative regions are not included in the report suggest the number of actual killings is higher.
According to the commission's figures, out of 161 slain women in Punjab state, 67 were killed by their brothers, 49 by their husbands and rest of their were executed by other family members. In seven cases, sons killed their mothers.
On November 11, 2002, a young woman was hacked to death with an ax by close relatives in the southern city of Faisalabad on suspicion that she was having "immoral relations" with a man. The man was also killed.
Also in November, a widow was killed by her brother in the industrial city of Gujranwala because the brother suspected she was living with a man outside marriage.
In those two cases, the culprits surrendered to police and are awaiting trial, said Mirrat Malik, a research assistant at the commission.
In June 2002, a woman in Punjab was gang-raped on the order of a tribal council as punishment for her teenage brother having sex with a woman from another clan. In that case, six men were convicted of attacking her and sentenced to hang. But in most honor killings, the perpetrators are rarely punished.
"Unfortunately, police in Pakistan either don't arrest such killers or they are not treated as murderers," Hayat said. For example, of Punjab's 161 cases, only 27 killers were arrested. No figures were available on convictions.
But officials said the government has been closely monitoring such crimes against women and move swiftly whenever they are reported.
"The government has recently made some changes in the laws to give more protection to the women, and it will be unfair to say that the government is quiet on the subject," said Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema, Director General at Pakistan's Interior Ministry.
However, the situation may not improve soon. Pakistani religious parties who made a strong showing in the Oct. 10 parliamentary elections are also in favor of giving only "limited" independence to the women, who make up half of Pakistan's population of 140 million. -- by MUNIR AHMAD, for the Associated Press

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