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NORWAY: Norway Cracks Down on Female Circumcision Abroad

OSLO, June 29 (Reuters) - Norway took steps on Friday to crack down on circumcision of girls by barring families from travelling abroad if officials suspect they plan to have the procedure done outside the country.

The intervention followed reports in Norwegian media that at least 185 girls from Norway -- daughters of immigrants -- had their genitals cut in just one village in Somalia.

The government said it would refuse passports to families suspected of sending girls abroad to have the procedure carried out. Authorities can also forbid a family from travelling if they suspect the purpose is female circumcision, officials said.

"Today's decision is about how to prevent children from being subject to genital mutilation," Astri Aas-Hansen, a senior official at the Ministry of Justice and Police, told Reuters.

"This is violence," she said.

Justice Minister Knut Storgberget told Norwegian NTB newswire that officials would not block people from travelling based only on their skin colour or destination. "The authorities must have concrete suspicions that circumcision is planned to be able to deny a passport," he said.

Genital cutting, sometimes referred to as female genital mutilation or circumcision, is banned in Norway and arouses widespread horror in the West but is a rite of passage for young women in many countries, predominantly in Africa.

It also occurs in some Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, in some immigrant communities in Europe and North America and in parts of Asia, including Indonesia.

The practice usually involves removing part or all of the clitoris and other parts of the female genitalia. Many of the practitioners are untrained and use crude instruments, making the practice life-threatening.

The Norwegian government is also considering mandatory check-ups for girls to weed out the practice.

In the last three years, Oslo's university hospital has treated 260 children and women for health problems tied to genital mutilation, some as young as 10 or 11 years old.

SOURCE: Reuters

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DATE: 30/06/2007

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