FGM

Urgent Alert: United States: Equality Now calls on the American Academy of Pediatrics to retract a portion of their policy statement endorsing Type (IV) female genital mutilation of female minors

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2010 Apr 29
Update Date: 
2010 May 27

On 26 April 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a “Policy Statement – Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors” (AAP Statement) that in effect promotes changes in US federal and state laws to “enable[] pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual nick” such as “pricking or incising the clitoral skin to satisfy cultural requirements.”

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the American Academy of Pediatrics asking it to retract the portions of the AAP Statement that in effect promote changes in US federal and state laws to enable physicians to “nick” girls’ genitalia. Urge the Academy to abide by the principles of gender equality in its practice and to recognize that human rights are universal and indivisible.

Letters should go to:

Errol R. Alden, M.D. FAAP
Executive Director/CEO, American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Blvd
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1019
Phone: +1 847 434 7500
Fax: +1 847 434 8385
Email: ealden@aap.org

Please send copies of your letters to the American Board of Medical Specialties and the American Board of Pediatrics at the addresses listed below:

Kevin B. Weiss, M.D., MPH
President and CEO, American Board of Medical Specialties
222 North LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: +1 312 436 2600
Fax: +1 312 436 2700
Email: kweiss@abms.org

Alan R. Cohen, M.D.
Chair, The American Board of Pediatrics
111 Silver Cedar Court
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Phone: +1 919 929 0461
Fax: +1 919 913 2070
Email: abpeds@abpeds.org

Please also ask your own doctor to take action on this issue.

 

Letters: 

Sample Letter

Errol R. Alden, M.D. FAAP
Executive Director/CEO, American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Blvd
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1019

Dear Dr. Alden,

I am writing to express my deep concern about the American Academy of Pediatrics “Policy Statement–Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors” (AAP Statement) issued on April 26, 2010, that in effect promotes changes in US federal and state laws to “enable[] pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual nick” such as “pricking or incising the clitoral skin to satisfy cultural requirements.”

Female genital mutilation is a harmful traditional practice with serious health risks that affects up to 140 million women and girls around the world. It is acknowledged internationally as a human rights violation and an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. The WHO recognizes that pricking, piercing and incising of girls’ genitalia are forms of female genital mutilation (Type IV) with no health benefits and only harmful consequences and has strongly urged health professions to refrain from performing such procedures.

In light of all the work done by human rights groups, the United Nations and other organizations to eradicate all forms of FGM, as well as efforts in the United States to protect girls from this practice, the AAP Statement needs to be corrected. Instead of enabling pediatricians to reach out to families by offering “pricking or incising the clitoral skin to satisfy cultural requirements,” the AAP should steadily work to educate parents about the harmful effects of FGM and the absence of any medical benefits to the girl. I urge you to take action to retract the portions of the AAP Statement that appear to promote an amendment of laws in order to enable physicians to “nick” girls’ genitalia. I ask that the AAP recognize that human rights are universal and indivisible.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

CC: Kevin B. Weiss, M.D., President and CEO, American Board of Medical Specialties

Alan R. Cohen, M.D., Chair, The American Board of Pediatrics

Letter from Equality Now to the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding its policy on FGM

Errol R. Alden, M.D. FAAP
Executive Director/CEO, American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Blvd
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1019
Via fax: (847) 434-8385

Judith S. Palfrey, M.D. FAAP
President, American Academy of Pediatrics
300 Longwood Ave
Boston, MA 02115-5724
Via fax: (617) 730-0049

28 April 2010

Dear Dr. Alden and Dr. Palfrey,

I am writing on behalf of Equality Now, an international human rights organization that works for the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls worldwide. Issues of concern to Equality Now include all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls, including female genital mutilation (FGM). This letter expresses our deep concern regarding the American Academy of Pediatrics’ “Policy Statement – Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors,” (“the AAP Policy Statement”) released on April 26, 2010 suggesting changes in US federal and state laws to “enable[] pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual nick” such as “pricking or incising the clitoral skin to satisfy cultural requirements.”

Equality Now has partnered for close to two decades with grassroots groups across Africa to end all forms of FGM and initiated in 2000 the Fund for Grassroots Activism to End FGM, counting 36 organizations in 19 African countries since the inception of the Fund. These and other groups working in their communities to end FGM all convey the clear message that FGM in all its forms, including “nicking” or “pricking”, is a human rights violation that must be eradicated through awareness raising, education, community involvement, and the enactment and enforcement of laws prohibiting this 5,000 year old harmful traditional practice. This vibrant grassroots movement that has been combating FGM also coordinates efforts with social service agencies and law enforcement in European and other Western countries to ensure that girls whose parents are from FGM-practicing communities are protected from harm in their new homelands and in cases where girls are at risk of FGM upon return to their parents’ countries. The AAP Policy Statement works against these goals.

International and African human rights instruments recognize that FGM is a harmful cultural practice that is steeped in inequality and is a form of gender-based violence and discrimination. The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which is a groundbreaking women’s rights legal instrument, requires African States to prohibit all forms of FGM, including specifically the medicalization of FGM. In the United States, on 26 April 2010 Congress introduced new legislation amending the 1996 federal law prohibiting FGM to make it illegal to transport girls out of the country for purposes of FGM, also known as the “vacation provision.” Such laws exist in most European countries and, as pointed out in the AAP Policy Statement, have been found to be effective in getting communities to abandon this practice.

In light of all the work done by human rights groups and United Nations and other agencies to eradicate all forms of FGM, as well as efforts in the United States to protect girls from this practice, the AAP Policy Statement stands out as lacking clarity on the issue and fails to recognize the established basic principles of girls’ rights as affirmed and reaffirmed by international human rights standards.

Harmful traditional practices, such as FGM, not only have no medical purpose, they contribute to the classification of girls as second-class citizens. Some other harmful traditional practices include early marriage, which occurs in many countries in which FGM is practiced, and, historically, foot binding in China. In comparison, the AAP’s recommendations to “nick” a girl’s clitoris would be the equivalent of suggesting marriage at 12 years old, instead of 8, or binding the girl’s toes, instead of her entire foot. A reduction in the severity of a human rights violation does not supplant the gravity of such a violation. In addition, contrary to the assertion in the AAP Policy Statement that the World Health Organization (WHO) is “silent on the pros and cons of pricking or minor incisions,” the WHO recognizes that pricking and piercing of girls’ genitalia are forms of FGM (Type IV) with no health benefits and only harmful consequences. The WHO, in fact, “strongly urges health professionals not to perform such procedures.”1 Furthermore, a United Nations interagency statement on “Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation” issued by 10 UN agencies in 2008 states “the guiding principles for considering genital practices as female genital mutilation should be those of human rights, including the rights to health, the rights of children and the right to non-discrimination on the basis of sex.” The AAP Policy Statement falls short of these standards.

Protecting girls in the United States from FGM requires community-based outreach, health and human rights education, affirmative engagement of social services, as well as supporting and implementing the FGM law. Equality Now therefore urges the AAP to retract the portions of its “Policy Statement–Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors” that call for an amendment of laws in order to enable physicians to “nick” girls’ genitalia. Doctors must instead be encouraged to identify and protect girls at risk of FGM by advising and referring their patients’ parents to not-for-profit or government agencies that can help parents understand the consequences of FGM.

We urge the AAP to abide by the principles of gender equality in their practice and to recognize that human rights always trump harmful practices performed under the guise of a particular culture, tradition or religion. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you further and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Taina Bien-Aimé
Executive Director

CC: Kevin B. Weiss, M.D., MPH, President and CEO
American Board of Medical Specialties

Alan R. Cohen, M.D., Chair
James A. Stockman III, M.D., President and CEO
The American Board of Pediatrics

Larry C. Gilstrap, III, M.D., Executive Director
The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Gerald F. Joseph Jr., M.D., President
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Lamar S. McGinnis, M.D., President
American College of Surgeons

William D. Steers, M.D., President
American Board of Urology

Anton J. Bueschen, M.D., President
American Urological Association

1 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/index.html

 

United States: Stop FGM in the United States: Support the Girls Protection Act

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2010 May 24

Female genital mutilation is a centuries-old harmful traditional practice that affects up to 140 million women and girls around the world. It is considered a severe human rights violation and the World Health Organization classifies the practice as a reflection of deep rooted inequality between the sexes and an extreme form of discrimination against women. FGM involves the removal of various parts of female genitalia and is carried out across Africa, some countries in Asia and the Middle East, as well as in locations where FGM-practicing immigrants reside, including the United States.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to your representative urging them to support H.R. 5137. TAKE ACTION!

Letters: 

[add address]

Dear

I am writing to express my deep concern about the common situation where girls are taken to their countries of origin to be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM is a centuries-old harmful traditional practice that affects up to 140 million women and girls around the world. It is considered a severe human rights violation and the World Health Organization classifies the practice as a reflection of deep rooted inequality between the sexes and an extreme form of discrimination against women. FGM involves the removal of various parts of female genitalia and is carried out across Africa, some countries in Asia and the Middle East, as well as in locations where FGM-practicing immigrants reside, including the United States.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated in 1997 that over 168,000 girls and women living in the US have either been, or are at risk of being, subjected to FGM. A 1996 federal law prohibiting the practice of FGM within the US did not address the risk of girls removed from the country, sometimes to their parents’ countries of origin, to be subjected to FGM.

I am aware that new legislation, the “Girls Protection Act” (H.R. 5137) co-sponsored by Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) aims to close this loophole and strengthen the 1996 federal law. The Crowley-Bono Mack extraterritoriality amendment or “vacation provision” introduced on 26 April 2010 would make it illegal to transport a minor girl living in the US out of the country for purposes of FGM. I urge you to support H.R. 5137 and take this critical step toward reaffirming that FGM, in all its forms, is a human rights violation. I also urge you to support the implementation of culturally sensitive awareness-raising, education and outreach programs to protect girls living in the US from FGM. I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely

 

Mali: Renewed Call for a Law Against Female Genital Mutilation

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2008 Jul 1

Fanta CamaraFanta Camara was 5 years old when she was subjected to genital mutilation. In the course of the cutting her urethra was severely damaged, as a consequence of which she became incontinent. She had to drop out of school as other students, who could not bear the smell of her incontinence, made fun of her. In the village she spent her time washing her clothes, which were repeatedly soiled by the ceaseless flow of urine.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Malian authorities and urge them to support the introduction and passage of a law against FGM as a matter of urgent priority. Mention the harmful effects of FGM and remind them of Mali’s obligations under international law, particularly the newly-ratified Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, as well as its own Constitution, to eradicate FGM and to end discrimination against women and girls. Urge them also to take measures and support efforts to educate practicing communities on the harmful effects of FGM. Letters should be addressed to:

H.E. Amadou Toumany Touré
President
BP 1463, Koulouba
Bamako, MALI
Fax: +223 2-22-46-94

H.E. Maharafa Traoré
Minister of Justice
BP 97, Quartier du fleuve
Bamako, MALI
Fax: +223 2-23-00-63

H.E. Mme Maiga Sina Damba
Minister for the Promotion of Women, Children and the Family
BP 2688, Hamdalaye ACI 2000
Rue de l'Obelisque Porte 99
Bamako, MALI
Fax: +223 2-22-75-24

Women's Action 25.1: July 2004

Mali: Calling for a Law Against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2004 Jul 1

Fanta CamaraFanta Camara was 5 years old when she was genitally mutilated. In the course of the mutilation her urethra was damaged as a consequence of which she became incontinent. She is now 12 years old but does not look her age. According to her doctor her growth has been retarded by repeated infections of her genitals. She has had to drop out of school as her fellow pupils, who could not bear the smell of her incontinence, made fun of her.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Malian authorities and urge them to support the introduction and passage of a law against FGM as a matter of urgent priority. Mention the harmful effects of FGM and remind them of Mali’s obligations under international law, as well as its own Constitution, to eradicate FGM and to end discrimination against women and girls. Urge them also to take measures and support efforts to educate practicing communities on the harmful effects of FGM. Letters should be addressed to:

H.E. Amadou Toumany Touré
President
BP 1463, Koulouba
Bamako, MALI

H.E. Maharafa Traoré
Minister of Justice
BP 97, Quartier du fleuve
Bamako, MALI

Tanzania: Enforcement of the Law Against Female Genital Mutilation

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2006 Apr 1

Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been prohibited by law in Tanzania since 1998, but the law has not been effectively enforced.  In June 2001, Equality Now issued a Women’s Action urging the government of Tanzania to take more effective action to end the practice of FGM, through education and enforcement of the law.  The Women’s Action highlighted the case of three girls aged 13 and 14 who fled to a local church for protection against FGM.  Instead of assisting Pastor Zakayo of the church, who brought the girls to the police, the police arrest

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the authorities listed below.  Congratulate them on the efforts made to train police on the law against FGM and the measures already taken to ensure the police carry out the law.  Note that the timely intervention of the police in some cases has saved girls from the harmful practice of FGM.  Urge the government to continue its efforts to end the practice of FGM through education as well as enforcement of the law and to bring disciplinary action against police officers and court officials who fail to implement the law appropriately.  Letters should be addressed to:

Mr. Saidi Mwema
Inspector General of Police
PO Box 9492
Dar-es-Salaam, TANZANIA
Fax: +255-22-213-6556

Honorable Mary Nagu
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs
PO Box 9050
Dar-es-Salaam, TANZANIA
Fax: +255-22-211-3236

Please send copies of letters with a request for support to:

Honorable Sophia Simba
Minister of Community Development, Gender and Children's Affairs
PO Box 3448
Dar-es-Salaam, TANZANIA
Fax: +255-22-213-3647

Tanzania: Failing to Enforce the Law Against Female Genital Mutilation

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2001 Jun 1

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision, is prohibited by law in Tanzania. The law is not effectively enforced, however, and the practice of FGM continues openly. In some parts of Tanzania, mass circumcisions are carried out in which thousands of girls are genitally cut at the same time, generally in December. In December 1996, according to reports, of the 5,000 girls who were cut in one such ceremony, twenty girls died from medical complications.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the following authorities and urge them take more effective action to end the practice of FGM in Tanzania - through education as well as enforcement of the law. Note the open defiance with which FGM continues and the general failure of affected populations to respect the law prohibiting FGM. Note the incident in which the police in Matombo apparently failed to offer effective protection to girls seeking refuge from the practice, and request the authorities to investigate and bring appropriate disciplinary action against the policemen involved in this incident. Urge them also to issue formal instructions to police nationwide to enforce the law against FGM and protect girls from its violation. Appeals should be addressed to:

Mr. Omar Mahita
Inspector General of Police
PO Box 9492
Dar-es-Salaam, TANZANIA
Fax: 255-22-211-1090

Honorable H. Bakari Mwatachu
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs
P O Box 9050
Dar-es-Salaam, TANZANIA
Fax: 255-22-211-3236

The Gambia: Government Rescinds Censorship Policy on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
1997 Dec 1

 

  The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices

P.O. Box 2990, Serrekunda, The Gambia    

6 November 1997.

The Gambia: Government Censorship of the Campaign to Stop Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
1997 Jul 1

On 17 May 1997, the Gambia Telecommunications (GAMTEL) Director of Broadcasting Services announced a new policy on media treatment of the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) as follows:

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Managing Director of GAMTEL. Note the harmful effects of FGM and urge him to rescind the directive barring use of Radio Gambia and Gambia Television to combat the practice. Please also write to the President of The Gambia. Urge him to intervene and take immediate action to ensure that broadcast media can be used to inform the public about the harmful effects of FGM and to promote its eradication. Note that The Gambia has an obligation under international law to take measures to eliminate harmful practices against children. Recall the recent WHO initiative against FGM and note the inconsistency of the GAMTEL policy with this important collective African effort, in which The Gambia played a leading role. Appeals can also be addressed to the Gambian Ambassador to your country.

President Yaya A.J.J. Jammeh
President of the Republic of The Gambia
Banjul, The Gambia
Telex: 2240

Mr. Bakary Njie
Managing Director of GAMTEL
Banjul, The Gambia
Fax: 220-226699

United States: Political Asylum for Fear of Female Genital Mutilation—The Kasinga Case

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
1996 Jun 1

On 13 June 1996, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ordered that Fauziya Kasinga be granted political asylum. The majority decision, written by Paul W. Schmidt, Chairman of the BIA, made the following seven major findings in the case:

What You Can Do: 

Write to Board of Immigration Appeals Chairman Paul W. Schmidt, thanking him for his decision, which finally brings justice to Fauziya Kasinga and which recognizes that FGM does constitute persecution.

Paul W. Schmidt, Chairman
U.S. Department of Justice
Board of Immigration Appeals
5107 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041
USA

United States: Female Genital Mutilation and Political Asylum—The Case of Fauziya Kasinga

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
1996 Apr 1

On 24 April 1996 Fauziya Kasinga was released on parole pending her appeal. Please continue to call on U.S. authorities to grant her political asylum.

The Honorable Janet Reno
Attorney General
Department of Justice
Room 4400
Tenth and Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20530
Fax: 202-514-4371

The Honorable Doris Meissner
Commissioner
Immigration and Naturalization Service
Room 7100
425 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20536
Fax: 202-514-3296

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