SPAIN: Catalan Police In Crusade Against Female Genital Mutilation

In Cataluņa alone, 4,846 girls under the age of 19 at risk of enduring this barbaric ritual practice

THANKS to the efforts of Cataluņa’s regional police force, Mossos d’Esquadra, during 2008, 104 girls living in the region have been spared from having to go through the suffering caused by female genital mutilation, a practice that is carried out mainly in African and Asian countries. Officers have prevented 18 from going ahead so far this year. Since 2000, the Mossos have made contact with families of girls whom they consider may be at risk of undergoing this procedure, considering their country of origin and the fact that they may not have abandoned this type of tradition. They explain the dangers it involves, and attempt to dissuade them from returning to their country of origin for the ritual to be performed or from having it carried out by clandestine witch-doctors residing in Spain. The parents are also informed that in Spain, this practice is considered a crime punishable by law.

According to the regional government, in Cataluņa alone there are more than 13,000 girls at risk and 4,846 of them are under the age of 19. Their plan to prevent female genital mutilation (FGM) is unique in Europe and has prevented almost 100 cases per year since it first began.Last year, 300 officers took a special course to learn more about FGM and recently a delegation travelled to Gambia to provide information on site to families there, even managing to get one community to promise not to carry out any more genital mutilations. Many of the families living in Spain apparently do not want to carry out the mutilation, but upon returning to their countries of origin feel pressurised into accepting it by their communities. Many believe that it is good for a woman’s health, maintaining cleanliness as there are no sexual secretions. Others believe that if a child touches its mother’s clitoris while being born, it will die.

However, it is mainly used to prevent young girls from having sexual urges in order to maintain their virginity until marriage, something which assures they will be accepted by their future husbands. Many women allow the procedure as they believe it will pleasure their partners and guarantee a successful marriage. The origin of female genital mutilation is unknown and although it is carried out in many Moslem countries, it is not related to Islam or any other known religion.

There are several types of female genital mutilation, but all involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. In some cases, there is a narrowing of the vaginal orifice as well as cutting of the clitoris, labia minora and/or labia majora, which are then held together using thorns or stitching. In some cases the girl’s legs are tied together for two to six weeks, to prevent her from moving and to allow healing. The procedure can be reversed to allow sexual intercourse or when undergoing labour, which can become extremely difficult and painful, and can result in tearing and death of the child if the birth canal is not opened sufficiently. A study surprisingly revealed that the majority of women who have been subjected to this extreme sexual mutilation claim to experience sexual desire, pleasure and orgasm, in spite of their being culturally bound to hide these experiences.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) declared February 6 as International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation. Egypt has passed a law banning FGM. Sheikh Ali Gomaa stated: “The traditional form of excision is a practice totally banned by Islam because of the compelling evidence of the extensive damage it causes to women’s bodies and minds.”

SOURCE: euro weekly

AUTHOR: Gabrielle Devon

URL: Click here

DATE: 07/04/2009

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