Don’t turn your face away.
Once you’ve seen, you can no longer act like you don’t know.
Open your eyes to the truth. It’s all around you.
Don’t deny what the eyes to your soul have revealed to you.
Now that you know, you cannot feign ignorance.
Now that you’re aware of the problem, you cannot pretend you don’t care.
To be concerned is to be human.
To act is to care.”
― Vashti Quiroz-Vega
“Abuse manipulates and twists a child’s natural sense of trust and love. Her innocent feelings are belittled or mocked and she learns to ignore her feelings. She can’t afford to feel the full range of feelings in her body while she’s being abused—pain, outrage, hate, vengeance, confusion, arousal. So she short-circuits them and goes numb. For many children, any expression of feelings, even a single tear, is cause for more severe abuse. Again, the only recourse is to shut down. Feelings go underground.”
― Laura Davis, Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Is a Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse
“Since most sexual abuse begins well before puberty, preventive education, if it is to have any effect at all, should begin early in grade school.”
― Judith Lewis Herman, Father-Daughter Incest: With a New Afterword
“Society gives the image of sexual violators as weird, ugly, anti-social, alcoholics. Society gives the impression that violators kidnap children are out of their homes and take them to some wooded area and abandon them after the violation. Society gives the impression that everyone hates people who violate children. If all of these myths were true, healing would not be as challenging as it is.
Half of our healing is about the actual abuse. The other half is about how survivors fit into society in the face of the myths that people hold in order to make themselves feel safe. The truth is that 80% of childhood sexual abuse is perpetrated by family members. Yet we rarely hear the word “incest”. The word is too ugly and the truth is too scary. Think about what would happen if we ran a campaign to end incest instead of childhood sexual abuse. The number one place that children should know they are safe is in their homes. As it stands, as long as violators keep sexual abuse within the family, the chances of repercussion by anyone is pretty low. Wives won’t leave violating husbands, mothers won’t kick their violating children out of the home, and violating grandparents still get invited to holiday dinners. It is time to start cleaning house. If we stop incest first, then we will strengthen our cause against all sexual abuse.”
― Rosenna Bakari
“The rape of a child is a violent act of contempt, not an expression of sexuality or affection.”
― Mike Lew, Gay Men and Childhood Sexual Trauma
“Much of the atrocities that are committed towards Arab women occur partly because the victim does not know that she has a basic right for her body to be hers, for her privacy to be respected and for her education to be a necessity not a privilege she receives if it is financially possible after her brother has been educated.”
― Aysha Taryam
“Female genital mutilation targets little girls, baby girls – fragile angels who are helpless, who cannot fight back. It’s a crime against a child, a crime against humanity. It’s abuse. It’s absolutely criminal and we have to stop it.”
- Waris Dirie
We must stop this for ever!
In islamic countries life is for women a living hell. FGM, child marriages, polygamy, forced marriages, enslavement, stoning and inprisonment of rape victims! We must stop this!
“FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH CULTURE, TRADITION OR RELIGION. IT IS TORTURE AND A CRIME. HELP US TO PUT AN END TO THIS CRIME.”
The sad case of child rape, forced child marriage and FGM victim Noura Hussein, Sudan, 2018:
Noura Hussein Hammad is a Sudanese woman sentenced to death on 10 May 2018, for killing her husband, who barbaric raped her, with the help of three male relatives. All men were beating and mocking her. As he raped her brutally the second time, she takes a knife in the kitchen for self defense and wounded him deadly. After both attacks she has many injuries on the whole body and bit marks. She wants help by her family but her father take her to the police and wants for her the death penalty, because he means, Noura is a shame for the whole Sudan and not only for his family. Noura Hussein wants to get a lawyer and not to marry this cruel rapist with his heinous family. The real criminals are not the victims of child marriages and child rapes, the real criminals are their fathers, their male relatives, their husbands and the relatives of the husbands. Child marriage is common worldwide, because men can rape, torture, enslave and murder childs without punishment. In all parts of the world, where is FGM unpunished, you will find forced and child marriages, because every intercourse is torture, childbirths are torture and often many marriages are the death penalty for the female childs and underaged girls, because of barbaric intercourses, forced child births, many died in the wedding night or a short time after that. This has caused controversy throughout the world for the extreme disparity in justice for Noura and her late alleged rapist. The alleged rapist was her arranged marriage husband; a marriage she was allegedly forced to undergo without her consent when she was 18 years old. According to sources, her father accepted the marriage when she was 16 but she was not married until she was 19. The defendant claimed the rape was carried out whilst she was restrained by the family of her late husband.
The husband's family declined opportunities to pardon Hussein or accept financial compensation in lieu of her execution. Hussein's legal team was given 15 days from May 10 to appeal the sentence.
Protests against her sentence
More than a million people, as of 24 May 2018, signed a petition "Justice for Noura" against her execution. Amnesty International issued a statement, according to which Noura is a victim and the sentence "an intolerable act of cruelty". The death penalty highlights the failure of the Sudanese authorities to tackle child marriage, forced marriage and marital rape, AI said. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Women, the United Nations Population Fund and the UN Office of the Special Adviser on Africa have all called for clemency while Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres voiced his opposition to the sentence through a spokesman.
Child Abuse Facts
Child abuse is a heartbreaking reality for many children living in poverty, and it comes in many forms … physical, sexual, spiritual and emotional. Child abuse includes neglect, exploitation and child labor. Whatever the form, these facts about child abuse describe an urgent and growing need. Millions of children around the world are suffering and need someone to speak up on their behalf.
Globally in 2014, 1 billion children aged 2–17 years experienced physical, sexual, emotional or multiple types of violence.
A quarter of all adults report having been physically abused as children.
One in five women and one in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child.
In 2014, children comprised 28 percent of detected trafficking victims.
Every year, there are an estimated 41,000 homicide deaths in children under 15 years of age.
And the greatest crime ever:
Female genital mutilation 'is a crime, it's child abuse'!
Between 150 million and 200 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to female genital mutilation.
Most girls are cut between infancy and 15 years of age.
The practice is most common in Africa and the Middle East.
FGM is moving toward being medicalized.
In the countries where FGM is most prevalent, women think it should end.
There are 29 countries in which FGM is most concentrated. Most are located in Africa, while three of the countries are in the Middle East.
More than 90% of women and girls who have been cut live in just the top five countries where the practice is most prevalent.
Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, is a barbaric practice commonly found in Africa, Asia, and several countries in the Middle East. It is the cutting of the clitoris, removal of some or all of the labia minora, or stitching shut of the labia majora. This is conducted to control the woman, to keep her from being sexually promiscuous, to prepare her for marriage, and for religious purposes.
Many who preform and even receive these acts see nothing wrong with the practice. However, this procedure is extremely invasive, controlling, and often deadly, as well as a massive violation of human rights.
There are zero health benefits from female genital mutilation, only health risks that are often deadly. Some of the immediate results of female genital mutilation are severe pain, excessive bleeding, the swelling of the genital tissue, fever, infections, tearing of the genital area, problems with urination, inability for the tissue to properly heal, injury to the surrounding genital tissue, and in severe cases shock and death.
There are also long-term consequences of this act, if the woman is able to make it through the immediate complications, such as urinary problems (including urinary tract infections and painful urination), vaginal problems (including discharge, itching, and bacterial vaginosis), scar tissue problems, extreme pain and even tearing during intercourse, difficulty with intercourse, tearing during childbirth, the need to resuscitate the child after birth, and infant death. Furthermore, there are psychological problems that may follow female genital mutilation such as depression, low self-worth, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, sexual dysfunctions, difficulty becoming aroused, sexual dysfunction due to trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, other stress disorders, and many other complications.
The most common age of a young woman undergoing female genital mutilation is 7–10 years old, but it occurs to children of a much younger age in several countries. Many women who have been put through the process have it done to their children due to social pressure and the inability to recognize the negative impact of the practice. It is stated that it’s done at such a young age to “reduce the trauma to the children.”
Many girls 14 or older who have not undergone female genital mutilation may still be at risk. Women who have daughters will often find themselves conforming to the social pressures to have their daughters cut to find a husband, even if the mother is against the practice and has not had the procedure herself. Many young adults may also find themselves undergoing the procedure in their late teens to be able to find a husband, as many husbands in these countries are more attracted to those who do have this done.
FGM is barbaric mutilation and attempted murder and sexual torture:
Type 1 is clitoridectomy. This consists of the removal of the clitoral hood and the partial or full removal of the clitoris.
Type 2 is an excision. This is where the clitoris and labia minora are partially or even fully removed. This may or may not come with the excision of the labia majora.
Type 3 is the most severe. This is referred to as infibulation or pharaonic type. This consists of narrowing the vaginal orifice by creating a seal to cover the vaginal opening by cutting and arranging the labia minora and/or the labia majoria. This may or may not include the removal of the clitoris. The process of repositioning consists of stitching the cut areas together for a set amount of time, usually done by binding the girl’s legs together to allow scar tissue to build up and close the wound, creating a seal. This is only opened due to penetrative sexual intercourse, through surgery, or through tearing during childbirth following intercourse.
Type 4 is a general classification for all other types of female genital mutilation for non-medical purposes. This may include pricking, piercing, incisions, scraping, and cauterization. There are also a variety of less widely practiced form of female genital mutilation, including those done to aboriginal women in Australia by use of a certain kind of string, mentioned later in the list.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study in response to the advocacy of Equality Now and Same Hands for Girls in January 2016. This study found that an estimated 513,000 girls and women had undergone or been at risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation.
In addition, a study by the Population Reference Bureau conducted in February 2015 estimated that 507,000 girls and women living in the US are at risk of or have been subjected to female genital mutilation. This just proves that more information is needed about the prevalence of female genital mutilation in the United States.
Although female genital mutilation has been a federal crime since 1996, there are no specific laws against them in the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.
In many countries where female genital mutilation is commonly practiced, a growing number of health care providers perform FGM, as well as supporting the medicalization of it. This would mean that it would become even more common and would be acknowledged as a beneficial medical practice. However, we know that it offers no benefits to the woman.
Many countries practice this through their religion. This is seen often in Muslim counties, where it is claimed that the Quran explicitly refers to female genital mutilation. However, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University condemned this, stating that it was a form of deceit to misguide people who hear this was a practice of the Islamic state.
The tools used in the procedures of female genital mutilation are not always clean, and usually, the doctors conducting the procedure are not well trained. Dirty scalpels, pieces of glass, razors, small knives, and even sharpened sticks are used in these processes.
Often, opossum string is used, made of opossum hair strands. That is seen in cases of FGM in the Pitta-Patta tribe in Australian aboriginals. When a girl reaches puberty, the entire tribe gathers, and an elderly man conducts the procedure. He first enlarges the vaginal orifice by tearing downward with his fingers bound in opossum string. Often following is the compulsory intercourse with several men.
Women and girls who have undergone female genital mutilation have no orgasm and lust, the intercourses are very painful, they have no interest on active sex drive, and always feel that they are not able to sexually please their partners. It is no chance for their vagina to self-lubricate during sex, which often leads to tearing and painful intercourse. Not only that—childbirth can cause the closed opening to tear, causing hemorrhaging, tearing even of the surrounding area, and even death to the child. And nearly all females with FGM got sooner or later Fistula, a very bad illness.
There are a multitude of psychological health consequences for a woman who undergoes female genital mutilation. She may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, other related stress disorders, depression, personality disorders, and a low sense of self-worth. Many FGM victims made suicide because of the ongoing endless pain and the traumata.
Data from a study conducted in 2010, of women in Northern Iraq who underwent female genital mutilation, demonstrates this. 45.6 percent or the women experienced some form of an anxiety disorder, and 13.9 percent were shown to be suffering from some type of personality disorder.
This seems like a fairly obvious statement, but many people in the countries that practice female genital mutilation feel otherwise. Meanwhile, the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the Human Rights Committee have all been actively working to fight against it, condemning the practice altogether.
The practice has been identified as torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of women and girls, and violating the covenant on civil and political rights as well as covenant on economic, cultural, and social rights of women. It also violates a convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a convention on the rights of the child, and a convention relating to the status of refugees and its protocol relating to the status of refugees.
In regard to children undergoing female genital mutilation, it is a permanent and potentially life-changing operation that cannot be called informed or free of coercion. Because of the vulnerability of the child and their need for care and support, human rights laws grant them special protections through The Convention on the Rights of the Child.
FGM is always a forced practice and connected with sex slavery, child rape, forced and child marriages, polygamy, sexual torture and extreme mutilation. Many female babies and childs, girls and young women are dying during FGM, then they were called witches and evil. No man in these countries or with this religion want to marry a child, a girl or woman without FGM. The men say about their childs, girls and woman, "only whores need their clitoris and genitals". The pain and the early deaths of the females are not interesting for these men. Sometimes women and girls, which don't want FGM were tortured, raped and murdered.
The whole world is looking away and that is a shame for our modern world. FGM exists since 4000 years and is the greatest crime of mankind!
The crime of child marriage, connected with child rape, sexual abuse and FGM;
"FGM is a barbaric crime, always connected with child marriage, child rape and forced underaged and often deadly childbirths. If FGM would be done on men and boys, there whole genitals would cut. But many men worldwide want FGM to enslave women, girls and female childs and babies. After FGM the females are no humans only fucking holes and baby making machines for men. FGM is the most heinous crime of mankind and it starts from Egypt, the country, where the males are proud of the history of country, but the history of Egypt ist built on blood and tears and the cruel femicide of women, girls, female childs and babies. I cannot see any culture in these horrible crimes and I must say, 4000 years FGM and child marriage, what a country of male perverts and sadists!! I spit on the arguments that FGM is good for females, it's good for male sadists, because they can rape, torture and murder females without any punishment. Egypt has no culture, because it's until now the badest country worldwide for women, girls, female childs and babies and it's the country, that invented FGM, the biggest crime in the human history!"
For example Egypt:
7% of girls in Egypt are married before their 18th birthday. While the rate of child marriage in Egypt is declining, religious and traditional ideals and customs have stalled this progress.
Child marriage mainly affects girls living in poorer rural areas and is on the rise in some locations, including Upper Egypt.
Child marriage in Egypt is closely associated with deeply rooted cultural practices. 92% of the female population in Egypt have experienced Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), illustrating the persistence of patriarchal norms around women’s sexuality.
Girls’ disproportionate access to education is among the key causes of child marriage in Egypt. 13% of females and 3% of males aged 10 to 29 have never been to school.
As girls reach adolescence, community norms dictate that they should be married, perpetuating the cycle of illiteracy and poverty.
The 2015 Trafficking in Persons report highlights cases where individuals from the Gulf buy Egyptian girls for ‘temporary’ or ‘summer’ marriages, for prostitution or forced labour. These arrangements are often facilitated by the girls’ families, who profit from the transaction.
Legal age of marriage
The legal age of marriage in Egypt was increased to 18 following amendment of Egypt’s Child Law in 2008, which prohibits, but does not criminalise, the registration of child marriages.
After the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, proposals for draft legislation which would reduce the minimum age of marriage for girls from 18 to possibly as low as nine years old surfaced from conservative forces in the new government. Thanks to the mobilisation of the National Council for Women and others, the proposals weren’t taken any further.
In October 2017, Egypt’s Minister of Health and Population announced plans to finalise legislation to criminalise child marriage.
National strategy to end child marriage
A five-year national strategy to prevent child marriage was launched in 2014. The process was led by the National Population Council, a governmental body which establishes national population policies and strategies in Egypt.
Recognising the need to prioritise child marriage as a health and population issue, the strategy aims to reduce the prevalence of early marriage by 50% within the next five years. It came about against the backdrop of the proposals to lower the minimum age of marriage and is currently in the first stage of implementation.
The strategy focuses on two approaches:
A rights-based approach, which works towards ensuring children’s rights are upheld by religious and customs, not just by the Constitution;
A partnership approach bringing together government, civil society and the private sector to work together.
However, the implementation of the strategy slowed down after the Ministry of Population was disbanded in 2016, and due to political insecurity and restrictions on civil society. Further clarity on the strategy’s status is needed from those working on the ground in Egypt.
Female genital mutilation: Why Egyptian girls fear the summer:
Summer days: They're what childhood memories are made of, glorious afternoons of unchecked freedom to frolic with friends in the sun, unshackled from the earthly obligations of a math class that never seemed further away.
But for millions of schoolgirls in Egypt, this time of year represents something much darker: the start of the female genital mutilation (FGM) season.
Mona Mohamed was 10 years old when she underwent what's also known as a female circumcision on a hot summer day in her village in Upper Egypt.
"I was terrified," she said. "They tied me down, my mother on one hand and my grandmother on the other."
As Mona thrashed around, pinned by her loved ones to the living room floor, a doctor injected her with anesthesia.
Mona remembers being given a piece of bubble gum to chew on before she finally passed out. It wasn't until she woke up that she realized she had been mutilated.
Egypt: The FGM capital of the world
Stories like Mona's are far from rare in Egypt, where "cutting" has been a brutal rite of passage for young girls since the time of the pharaohs.
Of the more than 125 million girls and women alive today who have undergone the procedure, one in four live in Egypt. That's more than any other country in the world, according to the U.N.
Ninety-two percent of married Egyptian women aged 15 to 49 have been subjected to FGM, according to a government report released in May. That figure is down from 97% in 2000, but the practice is still the norm here.
Most girls are cut between the ages of nine and 12, and the operations usually take place during the summer school break so the girls can recover at home.
U.N. officials say FGM has no medical benefits and can cause lifelong physical and emotional trauma for the women forced to undergo the procedure.
"This is a gross human rights violation," Jaime Nadal-Roig, the U.N. Population Fund representative in Cairo, told CNN. "It doesn't add anything to the life of the girl, and there are no medical or religious grounds whatsoever."
A celebrated tradition
The most common FGM procedure in Egypt is Type 1, the partial or full removal of the clitoris. It's what Mona Mohamed -- and her older sisters -- endured years ago.
Compared to her sisters, Mona was lucky, given that her procedure was performed by a doctor. Her sisters were circumcised with a razor blade by a traditional (non-medical) midwife who put dust on their wounds to stop the bleeding.
Mona, now 47, recalls asking her mother why getting circumcised was so important. "Usually girls at your age get 'excited,' and this operation takes care of that," her mother replied.
FGM has been illegal in Egypt since 2008, but the practice remains woven into the very fabric of Egyptian society, where many see cutting as a way to "purify" a girl and make her marriage material.
"People used to have a party after a girl was circumcised, they'd celebrate and exchange gifts," Nadal-Roig said. "So for them to turn from there and say, 'look this is a crime or this is a sin or this is not allowed by religion' means confronting a lot of beliefs and social norms."
Campaigners go on the offensive
But progress is being made. The percentage of girls aged 15 to 17 who have had the procedure has dropped from 74.4% in 2008 to 61% in 2014 -- a clear sign that the drive to end FGM is working, campaigners say.
Last week Egypt announced a plan to reduce FGM by 10-15% in the next five years. If it works, it will mean that for the first time in decades, "uncut" girls would outnumber those who have had the procedure.
"It's an ambitious plan, but now I think that the political atmosphere is supporting us and we can reach our goal," said Vivian Fouad, the National Population Council official leading the government's charge to eradicate FGM.
"For years we were on (the) defense, but now we're on the offensive."
The fight to eradicate FGM in Egypt is unfolding on a number of fronts, from the courts to the places of worship to the streets of the highest-risk towns.
In January a doctor was sentenced on charges related to mutilating a girl -- the first conviction of its kind since the 2008 ban went into effect.
The verdict was a victory for the anti-FGM campaign, but Fouad says too many doctors are still willing to take the money from families and look the other way when it comes to the law.
"It's a good income for doctors," Fouad said. "And some doctors have social and cultural backgrounds where FGM is supported."
Fouad classifies the battle against female circumcision as a fight for the middle class: "If doctors, judges, prosecutors, and teachers are supporting FGM, how are we going to convince poorer women not to have it?"
Campaigners are also trying to persuade local religious leaders to stop preaching the alleged benefits of FGM to mothers. It's often a tough sell in a country where more than half of women still believe, falsely, that cutting is required by religion, according to the most recent survey.
"You need to make people not want to do it for their daughters," said UNFPA program officer Germain Haddad. "You need to work on people's convictions."
To that end, the UNFPA has hired a theater group to perform comedic skits in the streets of communities across the country to foster debate -- and doubt -- about the necessity of FGM.
"Many of these people are shy," said Haddad. "When we used to do seminars on FGM it was very difficult to get people to speak up and ask questions.
"These plays act as an icebreaker that opens up the subject like magic," she said. "And women get to see in a comedic way that FGM is ridiculous."
"I hate the man that did this to me"
But it remains an uphill struggle. Around six in 10 women think the practice should continue, according to the most recent government survey.
"It's tradition, and there's no escape," says Sarah Abulaziz Mohamed, who was circumcised at 12 in her village of Mansour.
"It hurt my dignity -- I was forced to do this act that I didn't want to do," she said. "I hate the man that did this to me."
Sarah is 40 now and has two young daughters of her own. She says FGM left her with lifelong psychological trauma, but at least it taught her a valuable lesson.
"I definitely wouldn't do it to my daughters by any means," she said. "To this day I still have pain, and what's gone is gone ... that part of me can never be given back again."
What kind of men support FGM? An illustrated guide
Understanding the types of men who support female genital mutilation can help campaigners to end the practice!
A man’s role within cultures that practice FGM is often encompassed by behaviour that can be both brutal and blase at the same time. While every context carries its own detail, identifying the major attributes in their relationship with FGM can be the first step in turning men into drivers of change.
Men can afford to be blase about FGM because the dirty end of the work – the physical mutilation – is usually carried out by older women.
Just as wartime generals never have to descend into trenches, this distance from the mutilation allows men the illusion of absolution and the comfort of not seeing the immediate horrors of the practice. “FGM is women’s business,” they say. “Go ask them why it’s done.”
As the dominant gender wherever FGM is practiced, fathers and brothers need to be given a graphic understanding of the practice – both in order to visualise the horror and also to discount the casual (and grossly inaccurate) comparisons made with male circumcision. The Cruel Cut on Channel 4 did this to great effect with Somali youth in the UK.
A man goes from being dismissive to actively aggressive when consummating his marriage to a woman who has undergone the cut.
The trauma of the initial procedure is relived when the vagina has to be opened up for intercourse and childbirth. Even where the type of FGM is supposedly “lighter” and without stitching, the trauma can be compounded by the fact men are conditioned to connect male virility with force and domination.
Challenging these concepts is hardest of all, since it requires communities to come up with new concepts of masculinity – something every society is struggling with.
The irony is that most men are oppressed by their own notions of masculinity and see it very much as a social demand expected of them, sometimes even by a brutalised partner.
Virtually all the FGM husbands I have spoken to are initially shamed by the pain that is inflicted but later tend rationalise it as collateral damage inevitable in the preservation of culture and traditions.
Parents, too, can feel a terrible apprehension and loss of immediate control over events. I remember sitting next to a very troubled father in western Sudan who pleaded with an over-excited group of older women to “be light” with his four daughters during the family’s circumcision ceremony.
I later learned that being light in that context meant the excision of the entire clitoris along with the inner labia – a procedure which was still a few steps short of the most extreme form of FGM common to that region which involves even more severe cutting and stitching.
This underlying disquiet among men should encourage campaigners as this offers the opportunity to start conversations about how unnatural FGM seems once it’s removed from cultural and religious justifications.
Some men hide behind misinterpretations of religion and see any attempt to stop FGM as a western conspiracy to corrupt and liberate women.
This is a legitimate concern that needs to be addressed. While the campaign to end FGM cannot be isolated from the emancipation of women and girls, campaigners need to assure very traditional and religious communities that stopping the practice is not the first step towards binge drinking on Saturday nights.
For their part, faith groups also need to be vocal in articulating their own vision of female emancipation.
When separated from the larger issues, however, the religious arguments for the practice are very feeble. In Islam, for example, the supposed tradition of the prophet that called for FGM to be done “lightly” has been declared unsound and unreliable by major scholars.
There are men in the west who justify FGM as a quaint local tradition that needs to be respected. They fear being accused of neo-colonialism but the real reason for their ambivalence is a profound indifference to the suffering of young girls and women who live beyond their world.
Advocates of the so-called “lighter” types of FGM offer these apologists the opportunity for compromise and campaigners need to be especially careful of arguments around “cultural relativism” as a justification for not standing up against the practice.
Child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) are firmly under the spotlight at the UK government's Girl Summit this month, with both practices gaining increased recognition as barriers to both women's rights and sustainable development. But we need to move beyond the girl-centred dialogue often dominating these discussions and gain greater understanding of the role of mothers and grandmothers.
Found in diverse cultures across the globe, child marriage statistics show that one in three girls in the developing world are married by age 18, while one in nine are married by age 15. Some girls are married as young as eight or nine. FGM is found mainly in parts of Africa and the Middle East and the World Health Organisation estimates between 100 and 140 million women worldwide have been subjected to at least one of the first three steps of female genital mutilation.
Older women are sometimes at the core of such practices because they have been socialised into the patriarchal systems that uphold detrimental gender norms. "Decision-making processes for FGM are often led by older female relatives, including mothers and grandmothers, as they have the sole responsibility of making this happen as a sign of fulfilling their social responsibility", explains Naana Otoo-Oyortey, executive director of Forward, whose work on FGM specialises in community engagement.
The centrality of mothers and grandmothers role means that they also have the potential to be disrupters. The Grandmother Project works in Senegal to strengthen communication between generations of women and also to empower grandmothers to influence male and community members towards stopping such practices. "In some cultural contexts where family decision making is collective, grandmothers play an influential role given their experience," says executive director Judi Aubel. "Conversely, it is extremely difficult for younger women, and especially for adolescent girls, to influence those decisions. It is in fact, a grandmother's culturally designated responsibility to pass on such traditions."
Girls not Brides has reported on the dangers of demonising families for continuing these practices. "Families practicing child marriage are not 'evil,' sending their children away because they don't care," says the campaign group. "Rather, they are operating within a system in which these early marriages are meant to protect the daughters they hold dear. Focusing on reasons that families practice child marriage opens up a range of possibilities to stop it." Child marriage and FGM are underpinned by a range of triggers from poverty to codes of honour and unquestioned norms integral to community identity.
Empowering girls directly has been a focus in much programming to combat these practices, and indeed, strengthening the agency of girls is central to ending them. However, girls do no not exist in a vacuum; they reside within familial relationships that have nurtured them, and the consequences of acting alone in a manner considered deviant cannot be ignored.
"We can't talk about empowering the girl child without involving the society she grows up in," says Rainatou Sow, founder and executive director of Make Every Woman Count. "It is very important to involve the community as a whole, so we need a holistic approach that addresses harmful practice and makes sure that the girl child can grow healthy and empowered within her community."
Indeed, this juxtaposition between a girl's individual sovereignty to resist harmful practices and a community's importance as a home and lynchpin of a girl's identity is difficult enough in a country like the UK, where at least emergency services, the force of law and greater access to information can to a certain extent offer some support. For many girls across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, the circumstances are shakier.
"Many laws prohibiting FGM and child marriage in Africa coexist alongside customary laws therefore nullify the effectiveness of those laws," says Naana Otoo-Oyortey, who also highlights the importance of governments committing to human rights frameworks to address this tension.
At the community level, ensuring that girls are not left isolated is critical. Just as working with men and boys is pivotal to bringing about sustained change on these issues, ignoring or underestimating the role of older women would be extremely naïve.
"The alienation of those who are viewed as being cultural authorities can lead to the further entrenchment of those same harmful traditional practices," cautions Judi Aubel. "We believe that girls cannot change norms on their own and that one of their greatest needs is to have a supportive social environment around them, and that those who can best support them are other women."
The speedy transience of girlhood alongside what are often short-term girl-empowerment interventions also needs acknowledgment. Girls become women quickly in these contexts, and some will pass beyond the reach of targeted programming even before completion of the baseline research. Many will become mothers and even grandmothers themselves in short spaces of time. With that in mind, enabling women to form a compact of protection for their daughters and granddaughters is a powerful way forward.
At the beginning of 2016, 33.4 million children (aged 0-17) lived in Egypt, around 37 per cent of the entire population. The recent increase in fertility rates and in the total number of births determined an acceleration of the child population growth, which in 2014 increased by around 1 million individuals*.
Remarkable progress was achieved in reducing child mortality and achieving the MDG 4. In 2014, the under-5 mortality rate was 27 deaths per thousand live births, down from 85 deaths per thousand live births in 1990. However, subnational disparities persist, with children in Rural Upper Egypt and in urban slums at greater disadvantage. Trends in nutrition indicators show progress in recent years: stunting rates dropped from 29 per cent to 21 per cent among under-five children. Important progress occurred in expanding the access to water and sanitation service, yet around 10 per cent of the population is not properly served by the water network or do not have access to improved sanitation, especially in rural areas and urban slums**.
In the education sector, Egypt was successful in expanding the infrastructure capacity to accommodate a rapidly growing student population, having by far the largest education system in Middle East and North Africa, with more than 20 million children enrolled. Enrollment in basic education is almost universal for both boys and girls. Progress has been relatively slow for pre-primary education, with just one third of children aged 4-5 year old enrolled***. The major challenges concern the quality of education, including inadequate infrastructure, teaching and disciplinary techniques.
The large majority of children are negatively affected by violence. 93 per cent of children aged 1-14 years were subject to violent disciplinary practices at home according to a survey conducted in 2014. Despite the recent improvements, Female Genital Mutilation is still widespread. In 2014, the prevalence of FGM among girls aged 15-17 was 61 per cent, down from 74 per cent in 2008, but reaching 90 per cent in some areas of Upper Egypt. There are also persistent trends of early marriages and teenage pregnancies. Nationwide, 6 per cent of girls aged 15-17 are married, and 11 per cent of girls aged 15-19 had at least one pregnancy**.
The share of children deprived of their rights to survival, health, education and protection is therefore still substantial in Egypt. Monetary poverty, lack of resources at the household levels, and lack of access to quality social services or their unequal distribution, are among the determinants of such deprivation. Overall, around 9.2 million children were living below the national lower poverty line in 2012/13. An additional 7.5 million children were close to that threshold and vulnerable to extreme poverty.
Patriarchy allows child marriage and female genital mutilation to flourish !
Statistics show 30 million girls are at risk of FGM in the next decade, and, each year, about 14 milliongirls are forced to marry before they are ready. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN convention on the rights of the child should prevent such injustices, yet girls' basic rights to health, education and security remain unmet. As young feminists, we know that patriarchy perpetuates the idea that girls are of less value, which leads to their systematic neglect in economic, political, social, legal and educational realms.
Forcibly removing part of a girl's vagina is a way to control her sexuality, her right to choice and her right to freedom. FGM tends to happen with the complicity of families, communities and police, who not only do not report the crime, but often try to hide it. Patriarchy allows them to do this with impunity.
The commitments made at the Girl Summit on eradicating FGM and child marriage, the focus on tougher laws (including putting the onus on parents to protect girls from FGM) and increased funding for prevention programmes are important steps to combat these harmful practices.
Horrible sex crimes against children like an epidemic:
For example: South Africa,2017:
Fighting child sex crimes in South Africa: 'We've seen an increase in brutality' !
It was with a loan taken out in her own name and a giant leap of faith that Christina Rollin set up her clinic to treat child rape victims in South Africa’s Gauteng province.
After three years training as a forensic nurse at a trauma centre, Rollin had seen the lack of expertise among those treating children, and too many youngsters were being failed by the judicial system.
'The nanny realised something was wrong': South Africa’s rape crisis
Recognising this woeful gap in specialised support she founded the Sexual Assault Clinic in Benoni in 2012 – a free service to treat children from birth to 12 years of age.
“Examining children requires a great deal of expertise and patience, and if someone is not adequately trained it can hinder the strength of the evidence and damage a case in court, meaning the perpetrator can escape justice,” says Rollin.
“Too often I saw this happen because children were being treated in the same way as adult victims when a different approach is required. That is what made me take a leap of faith in taking out a loan to set up the clinic. I’ve never regretted it for a moment.”
The service has become a lifeline for a community blighted by child sex abuse. Rollin, who also has a law degree, works closely with other partners across the region including the courts, where she is often called on to testify as an expert.
“As well as medical services I provide legal support in the protection of children and work with partners to provide mental health aftercare,” she says.
Since opening the clinic Rollin, as the only member of staff, has treated 530 child victims and testified in more than 300 court cases. But at a time when demand for the crucial service she provides has been increasing, she has had some devastating news.
The clinic has lost financial backing from a key donor, and after exhausting all other funding options Rollin says the service will be forced to close before Christmas.
The news couldn’t come at a worse time, with agencies across the country reporting an increase in the number of child rapes.
In October, South Africa’s police minister, Fikile Mbalula, announced that 9.1% of all reported rapes in the country were against children aged nine or younger. The grim disclosure came a fortnight after a security guard was arrested for assaulting 87 girls at a Soweto primary school.
Rollin says: “At the clinic we have seen an unprecedented increase recently in the reporting of sex crimes against children. We have also seen an increase in the brutality of the crimes such as pornographic-related sexual abuse and child-on-child rapes in our schools.”
The nurse says the national data fails to reflect the true scale of the sex abuse endured by South African’s children.
The company that provided the lion’s share of funding for Rollin’s centre is part of the Black Economic Empowerment programme set up to redress the inequalities of apartheid.
Rollin’s clinic is no longer eligible for support as it does not meet the required criteria that 90% of beneficiaries of the service should be black. “I can’t control who I see. Children are referred to me from social services, police, the courts – I take whoever is in need,” she says.
“Children are all hurt in the same way, irrespective of their skin colour. However, we do not blame the organisation – companies are fined millions of rand if they do not comply with the criteria.”
The cost of keeping the clinic open is estimated at £19,500 a year, says Rollin – including all overheads, medical supplies, her salary and payments to outside services.
It may not seem like much but the country is facing economic decline, with many organisations feeling the fallout. Meanwhile, Rollin continues to pay off the initial loan out of her own pocket.
“What we are seeing is a very volatile economic and political situation,” she says. “Other non-profit groups often lack transparency, and corporates become more and more afraid to donate to them.”
She worries what will happen to the children who will have to go elsewhere for help. “There is a desperate need for these services. Most state hospitals have rape crisis centres that use doctors who are often not experienced in forensic examinations.
“Elsewhere, they can call on the overburdened emergency units, and young victims may have to wait up to eight hours to see someone.”
Children who have been sexually assaulted can also visit one of the country’s 55 Thuthuzela Care Centres, which bring healthcare and justice services under one roof.
Doctors at these specialised centres report an increase in the number of children they are treating, according to Unicef.
Teachers face suspension over videos showing abuse of pupils in South Africa
Yet the specialist forensic training that nurses undertake to work in this area is not recognised by the South African Nursing Council, so there is no financial incentive to pursue the qualification.
Garret Barnwell, a Johannesburg-based clinical psychologist for Médecins Sans Frontières, says: “It’s traumatic work, and you don’t get paid any more. They are operationally recognised within the system to some extent but then some nurses are being pushed into administrative or managerial positions, so there is not allocation in the right places.”
Research published last year found that 35% of young people interviewed in schools had been sexually abused at some point in their lives.
The Optimus Study was the first nationally representative analysis of the extent of sexual violence against children in South Africa, according to Catherine Ward, head of psychology at Cape Town University.
Researchers questioned 4,086 school children between the ages of 15 and 17 and found that at least as many boys (36.8%) as girls (33.9%) reported some form of sexual abuse.
Extrapolating this figure, researchers estimated that at least 784,967 young people aged 15 to 17 in South Africa have been sexually abused.
The Thuthuzela Care Centres continue to support thousands of rape victims every year but they receive very little state funding, being largely financed by international backers.
With foreign donors understood to be withdrawing funding and government cuts on the horizon, there are no quick solutions to financing these essential services.
South Africa’s Department of Health was contacted by the Guardian but declined to comment.