UK: Waris Dirie Campaigns To Stop Female Genital Mutilation, Circumcision

Supermodel Waris Dirie was five when her mother held her down on a rock while another woman cut off parts of the genitals of Waris Dirie with a razor blade.

On Wednesday London's Metropolitan Police announced that they were offering a $40,500 (20,000-pound) reward for information that brought anyone carrying out female circumcision in London to justice.

Police in the U.K. say the summer period might be the "most prevalent time" for the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) to be perpetrated, because the extended vacation from school provided time for young girls to recover.

"We are being told that the illegal practice of FGM is occurring to children in London," Detective Chief Superintendent Alistair Jeffrey, head of the Metropolitan Police's Child Abuse Investigation Command, said in a statement.

"We take this extremely seriously and that is why we are taking this unusual step of offering a reward, to encourage people not only to help us to prevent this happening, but also where it has occurred, bring those responsible to account."

The reward is being financed by the police and by the Waris Dirie Foundation.

"Every day I still struggle to understand why this has happened to me - this cruel and terrible thing for which there is no reason or explanation - whatever they tell you about religion or purity. I can't tell you how angry I feel, how furious it makes me," Waris Dirie told the BBC.

Female circumcision varies in its scope, ranging from injury to the clitoris to the removal of the labia and clitoris, which is subsequently sewn up leaving just a tiny opening for the girl to urinate.

Waris tells the BBC that there have been positive developments in the decade she has been active.

Several countries have banned the practice altogether. In recent weeks Egypt has announced measures to fully criminalize the procedure, after a 12-year-old girl perished.

"There are laws, but people also need to be punished - that still doesn't happen often enough. Schoolgirls need to be checked after the holidays. Everyone needs to be involved."

"But most of all this is something men and women have to work together to stop. The men need to know about it, the consequences of it. They need to talk to their mothers, sisters, daughters.

"But it's not something one person can do something about alone. People ask me: 'How's your work going?' or 'Good Luck with your work!' - and I think, it isn't just my work, this should be everybody's work."

Police said anyone administering FGM, or found to be arranging for it, might face up to 14 years in prison.

SOURCE: The Post Chronicle

AUTHOR: Tashi Singh

URL: Click here

DATE: 12/07/2007

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