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Female Genital Mutilation Criminal?


by Grant Swank


January 11, 2008 12:00 PM EST


Sudan, Somalia, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq practice female genital mutilation.

Iraqi Kurds are leading the way to pass a law criminalizing genital mutilation, per Time Inc.’s Nicholas Birch/Arbil. It must be passed by the Kurdish parliament in Arbil.

Pakhshan Zangana is waging the war for such an end.

"’Sixty-eight out of 120 deputies signed our bill, so we could have got it passed by ministerial decree,’ Zangana says. ‘But law-making is the job of parliament, and we want everybody to debate this issue openly.’ The bill received its first reading on Dec. 3 and is likely to be passed by February.”

Islam encourages female genital mutilation. In some free nations where Muslims now live, it is still practiced, though secretly.

“A farmer's wife in Zurkan, a remote village close to the Iranian border in northeastern Iraqi Kurdistan, Amina Khidir began performing the operation when her mother became too old to carry on.

“Her first patient was her own daughter. ‘I didn't feel nervous, because I had spent years watching how the cut was done,’ Khidir remembers. ‘And my daughter was a baby at the time, too small to understand what was happening. That's the best age to do it.’

“Matter-of-factly, Khidir describes dealing with the aftermath of her work. She applies oak charcoal to reduce pain, cold water and antiseptic solution to reduce the risk of infection. Asked about the specifics of the procedure, she covers her face with her loosely worn headscarf.

"’I cut about a quarter off,’ she says. It's a reference to the so-called Sunna circumcision, the removal of prepuce and sometimes clitoris that some Muslims attribute to a tradition taught by the Prophet Mohammed.”

When Muslims regard female genital mutilation dictated by the Prophet Mohammed, they do not argue the point. It is warp and woof of their conviction of soul. Therefore, it has not been open to debate until recently.

"’According to the Shafi'i school [of Islamic law] to which we Kurds belong, circumcision is obligatory for both men and women,’ explains Mohamed Ahmed Gaznei, chief cleric in the city of Sulaimaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan's second city. ‘The Hanbali [school] says it is obligatory only for men.’

“’Personally opposed to female circumcision, Gaznei in 2002 issued a fatwa, or religious edict, calling for imitation of Hanbali practice. He has since appeared on a short film about FGM shot by a Kurdish filmmaker that WADI medical teams now take with them when visiting villages.”

That is a major move, that is, to get the information locally into the villages. It is one thing to have lawmakers pass a law criminalizing female genital mutilation. It is quite another phenomenon to get locals to stop the practice.

Because female genital mutilation is locked into religious zeal as well as male dominance it is most difficult to get the populace to stop the custom. Yet there are those determined to halt it.

"’Look, they even got Osama bin Laden to talk,’ quips Gula Hama Amin, one of 30 women watching the film in Nura, a village 100 miles north of Sulaimaniyah, referring to Gaznei's luxuriant beard. The others tell her to quiet down.

“All have been circumcised for reasons hovering somewhere between religious belief and tradition: locals say the food an uncircumcised woman cooks is unclean, or that the operation makes a girl more affectionate to her family.

“Both the region's main parties have given their blessing to the law, and FGM is now openly discussed by the local media. Back in parliament, Pakhshan Zangana knows the law represents only the end of the beginning of this struggle.

“Her aim now, she says, is to end FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan within five years. ‘A law on its own can't do that,’ Zangana says. ‘What can is full cooperation between government departments, and people like me, in parliament, making sure the law is enforced.’"

Enforcement will be the next huge campaign for those seeking to wipe out female genital mutilation.

Read more at An End to Female Genital Cutting?:,8599,1700191,00.html


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