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FGM (Female Genital Mutilation): Europe’s next rising predicament

Migration along with radical terrorists is boosting the numbers of FGM victims in Europe. Read to know more about FGM, a wider problem that remains stubbornly alive

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In this Nov. 5, 2014 photo, relatives of 13-year-old Soheir al-Batea who died undergoing the procedure of female genital mutilation walk in front of her home in Dierb Biqtaris village, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Cairo. Image Source: VOA
  • FGM-Female Genital Mutilation is a practice that affects some 200 million women and girls worldwide
  • It’s illegal across the EU where the cutters often come for a short period of time, they cut a load of girls and then they go back to their homelands
  • Sanctions against offenders include fines and prison sentences of up to 10 years – 20 if the victim is a minor – even if the cutting takes place abroad

The young women come in for contraception, or because it’s their first pregnancy. Many don’t even know they were victims of a painful and sometimes deadly practice that may have happened long before puberty.

“They find out during their first gynaecological examination,” says midwife Elodie Edmont about female genital mutilation, or FGM. “They’ll say it’s not possible, because they were born in France.”

Edmont is speaking from a new women’s center outside Paris, one of the few in France that offers a holistic treatment of FGM, a practice that affects some 200 million women and girls worldwide, according to the United Nations, including up to 60,000 or more in France.

Across the European Union, migration is boosting the numbers of FGM victims – which a European Parliament report estimates at about half-a-million – as it is in the United States.

Many of the victims arrived here already cut. Others are cut during vacations back in the ‘home’ country, or even in EU member states. But inadequate reporting, awareness and funds make it difficult to gauge the size of the problem, must less fight it, experts say.

“Many member states do have the political will, but they’re not putting their resources where their mouth is,” says Natalie Kontoulis, communications and advocacy officer for End FGM European Network, a Brussels-based umbrella group. “They’re not putting in place the funding and they’re cutting the services that are needed.”

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France offers one of Europe’s toughest responses to an ancient tradition that predates Islam and Christianity, and mostly affects its large African immigrant population.

Sanctions against offenders include fines and prison sentences of up to 10 years – 20 if the victim is a minor – even if the cutting takes place abroad. It is also considered one of Europe’s top places of refuge from FGM, which can be grounds for asylum claims.

FILE - A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016.
FILE – A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016. Image Source: VOA

But activists and medical practitioners say law-and-order is only part of the answer.

“We’re facing a practice that’s anchored by culture,” says midwife Edmont. “It’s very hard for a woman to go against something she’s been taught to believe in since she was born. It’s almost like betraying her origins.”

Located in Seine-Saint-Denis, one of the poorest and most ethnically mixed departments of France, the women’s center offers an array of specialists, including sexologists and psychologists, under one roof. It is tied to a local public hospital that is among the rare in France to specialize in FGM.

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Some 14 percent of mothers giving birth there have been cut, although the center, which opened in July, treats a range of women’s issues.

“Many of the women who come here are victims of domestic violence” including sexual abuse, says the center’s midwife coordinator Mathilde Delespine. Others come for mundane gynecological problems.

“There are also patients who have been cut or want to protect their children from being cut,” Delespine said.

On a recent afternoon, Delespine ushers Miriam and her two small children into an examination room. The young Malian immigrant, whose real name is being withheld for her safety, has arrived from Spain, directed to the center by a French NGO.

She still remembers when she was cut, bundled at the age of seven into a village toilet in her native Mali, while a woman performed the procedure. Now, she fears her five-month-old daughter will be next. Her husband cannot find work in Spain, and wants to return to Mali.

“All my sisters were cut,” she says. “The same with their children. It’s a practice in my village.”

Delespine probes gently. Does she love her husband? She shows sketches of the female anatomy and suggests how Miriam might still get sexual pleasure.

“By better understanding their bodies, these women can diminish their shame that they’re not complete, not sufficiently capable of having a sexuality that’s harmonious and satisfying,” she says later.

A small number of FGM victims are cut inside the European Union, activist Kontoulis says, although evidence is often anecdotal.

“The cutters often come for a short period of time, they cut a load of girls and then they go back to their homelands,” she says. “So they’re hard to find, and the community closes ranks and won’t disclose them.”

FGM is illegal across the EU, where the European Parliament estimates 180,000 women and girls are at risk each year. Yet few countries strictly enforce national laws or put in place measures to turn back the tide, activists say.

In some cases, however, that is changing. Judges in Britain, which has among the highest cutting rates, are beginning to issue FGM protection orders. In Belgium, grassroots organizations are creating tools to help health care and other professionals detect risks and take preventative action, End FGM’s Kontoulis says.

France has jailed roughly 100 people under a broader penal code that also addresses mutilation and the abuse of minors.

“It’s a good law, but it’s not enough,” says Marguerite Bannwarth, of French NGO Equipop. “There has to be a behavioral change within practicing communities for real change.”

Equipop trains community activists in France’s immigrant community, and works with local NGOs to change mindsets in Mali’s western Kayes region, which has a sizeable diaspora in France.

In some cases, experts say, home communities have abandoned cutting, while the diaspora holds on to old practices.

“It may be because of lack of information that the practice is illegal, or the sense of feeling fragile,” Kontoulis says. “They see cutting as part of their identity and cultural tradition.”

At the women’s home, Delespine examines Miriam’s tiny daughter and writes out a certificate attesting she has not been cut. The document aims to protect the girl from leaving French territory to a country where FGM is practiced.

It is one solution for the toddler, but not for a wider problem that remains stubbornly alive.

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Free Wife, Daughter of Dr Allah Nazar : American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) Appeals to UN and other International bodies to act against Enforced Disappearance of Women and Babies in Pakistan

At least 8,000 Baloch are still victims of enforced disappearances in Balochistan while 1500 such victims were killed and dumped, according to human rights organizations.

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AFB
The enforced disappearance of women and babies is a sequel to disappearances of the Baloch leaders, activists,  lawyers, doctors, teachers, journalists and people from all walks of life who demand justice for Balochistan. Facebook
Washington DC, Oct 31, 2017: The DC-based American friends of Balochistan has appealed to the United Nations, US State Department, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Unicef, International service for Human Rights and other international bodies to step in to free four women and three babies from the illegal captivity of Pakistan security forces.
Fazila Baloch, wife of Balochistan freedom leader Dr Allah Nazar Baloch and his adopted daughter Popal Jan, 4; Fazila’s friend Bibi Salma and her one-and-half years old son named Irfan;  Ayaal and her two years old daughter Zairak and a fourth woman Gohar Jan, were abducted Monday afternoon from Bibi Salma home in Quetta, capital of Balochistan.
According to details, Dr Nazar’s wife, who was badly injured in the bombing on Dr Nazar’s village in December 2012 was in Quetta for medical treatment. The bombing had killed 44 close relatves of Dr Nazar dead.

AFB
Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch. Facebook

The AFB said the enforced disappearance of women and babies was clear violation of the Geneva conventions and shows Islamabad is committing violations of the laws of war with impunity in Balochistan.
“Enforced disappearances of women and babies show unconscionable acts of state terror is being perpetrated on Baloch civilians. The United Nations and human rights organizations should immediately hold Pakistan accountable for its actions in Balochistan. We regret that enforced disappearances in Balochistan has not received the attention of the world community, further emboldening the Deep State of Pakistan to throw the Geneva conventions to the winds in Balochistan.”
The enforced disappearance of women and babies is a sequel to disappearances of the Baloch leaders, activists,  lawyers, doctors, teachers, journalists and people from all walks of life who demand justice for Balochistan.
“In the backdrop of a genocidal situation, mass graves have been found, villages have been bombed, burned and destroyed and the means of livelihood of citizens have been snatched in the length and breadth of France-sized Balochistan. All these actions of Pakistan security and intelligence services constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes, while ethnic cleansing is continuing on a daily basis to pave way for the multi-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor.”
“In the United States when a child is abducted by any criminal we have what is called an “Amber ” alert. Within minutes across the entire United States is broadcast on television, radio, even on flashing signs on highways across the interstate. Unfortunately in Balochistan the security forces are the criminals who are doing these abductions,” the AFB said.
The AFB said two days earlier, Pakistan security forces raided Baloch homes in the Gulistan-i-Johar area of Karachi and forcibly disappeared nine youngsters, including an eight year old  boy Aftab, son of Yunus.
“No words are enough to condemn these despicable acts of the security and intelligence services against the hapless Baloch populace. We urge immediate action by the State Department and ending all dealings with the Southern Command of Pakistan army that calls the shots in Balochistan, the Inter Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Frontier Corps in deference for the Leahy Amendment,” the AFB statement concluded.
At least 8,000 Baloch are still victims of enforced disappearances in Balochistan while 1500 such victims were killed and dumped, according to human rights organizations.

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India to host UN Global Wildlife Conference in 2020

The CMS COP is held once in three years.

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UN global wildlife conference
CMS COP is the only international treaty devoted exclusively to migratory animal species. Wikimedia

New Delhi, October 28, 2017 : India will host the next UN global wildlife conference in 2020, it was announced on Saturday.

“#India to be the host of the next CMS Conference of the Parties #CMSCOP13! Officially announced at the closing #CMSCOP12 plenary, in Manila,” the UN for Environment Programme tweeted.

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An announcement in this regard was made in the Philippine capital on the last day of the six-day 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species, or CMS COP12, the only international treaty devoted exclusively to migratory animal species.

Delegates from over 120 countries had gathered there.

The CMS COP is held once in three years. (IANS)

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Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has been named the new Goodwill Ambassador by WHO

New WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Zimbabwe for its commitment to public health

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Robert Mugabe
President of Zimbabwe and Chairman of the African Union Robert Mugabe. Wikimedia

United Nations, October 21, 2017 : The World Health Organization (WHO) has appointed Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador to help tackle non-communicable diseases.

New WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Zimbabwe for its commitment to public health, BBC reported on Saturday.

But critics say Zimbabwe’s health care system has collapsed, with the president and many of his senior ministers going abroad for treatment.

They say that staff are often unpaid and medicines are in short supply.

Tedros, who is Ethiopian, is the first African to lead the WHO and replaced Margaret Chan, who stepped down from her 10-year post in June.

He was elected with a mandate to tackle perceived politicisation in the organisation.

The WHO head praised Zimbabwe as “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all”.

But US-based campaign group Human Rights Watch said it was an embarrassment to give the ambassador role to Mugabe given his record on human rights.

“If you look at Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s corruption, his utter mismanagement of the economy has devastated health services there,” said executive director Kenneth Roth.

“Indeed, you know, Mugabe himself travels abroad for his health care. He’s been to Singapore three times this year already. His senior officials go to South Africa for their health care.

“When you go to Zimbabwean hospitals, they lack the most basic necessities.”

The idea of hailing Mr Robert Mugabe “as any kind of example of positive contribution to health care is absolutely absurd”, he added.

President Robert Mugabe heard about the award while attending a conference held by the WHO, a UN agency, on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Montevideo.

He told delegates how his country had adopted several strategies to combat the challenges presented by NCDs, which the WHO says kill about 40 million people a year and include cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes.

“Zimbabwe has developed a national NCD policy, a palliative care policy, and has engaged United Nations agencies working in the country, to assist in the development of a cervical cancer prevention and control strategy,” Mugabe was reported by the state-run Zimbabwe Herald newspaper as saying.

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But the President admitted that Zimbabwe was similar to other developing countries in that it was “hamstrung by a lack of adequate resources for executing programmes aimed at reducing NCDs and other health conditions afflicting the people”.

Zimbabwe’s main MDC opposition party also strongly criticised the WHO move.

“The Zimbabwe health delivery system is in a shambolic state, it is an insult,” said spokesman Obert Gutu.

“Robert Mugabe trashed our health delivery system. He and his family go outside of the country for treatment in Singapore after he allowed our public hospitals to collapse.” (IANS)