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Dutch government: "Say no to Female Genital Mutilation"

The Dutch government has launched a national campaign against female genital mutilation, “Say no to FGM”.

Also known as female circumcision, FGM was relatively unknown in Europe before its introduction by migrant communities. It is a practise in which external female genital organs are either altered, injured, or removed, for reasons related to culture, religion, or both.

According to the World Health Organisation, about three million girls risk being submitted to this procedure every year in Africa. FGM can cause severe bleeding, and later complications in childbirth.

Better statistics in Africa

Speaking to national and international experts in The Hague on Wednesday, Dutch Deputy Health Minister, Jet Bussemaker, said that her government had no reliable statistics on the prevalence or FGM in the Netherlands.

 It is known to be widespread in the Somali community, one of the largest migrant groups in The Netherlands.

“We know that 97% of women in Somalia have been genitally mutilated, she said. “But does this also mean that 97% of the Somali women living in the Netherlands are affected by this practice? Hard figures are not available.” Dutch obstetricians have reported that around 40 percent of women from countries where FGM is practised have been genitally mutilated.

African countries, she added, have a clearer picture of the situation (see table below) with more reliable statistics.

Reverse development cooperation

The “ Say no to FGM” campaign will widen the approach that the government believes has been successful in pilot programmes in six  Dutch cities. It involves informing health professionals and targeting groups and families that are at risk. FGM is illegal in the Netherlands and subject to criminal prosecution.

Ms. Zahra Naleie, from the Federation of Somali Associations in the Netherlands, said at the conference that as a result of this concerted approach, the problem of FGM is now being discussed openly within the African community. The practice has also been explicitly condemned by community leaders.

Ms. Bussemaker and  Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation Bert Koenders intend to visit African countries in 2010 in order to learn from successful campaigns to combat female circumcisions on the continent.


FGM Prevalence & Legislation

Country

Prevalence in %
Legislation
Observations

Benin
17(2001 DHS)
2003
An exciser jailed

B. Faso
73 (2006 MICS)
1996
Law is effective

CAR
26 (2005 MICS)
1996
No enforcement

Chad
45 (2004 DHS)
2002
No enforcement

C. d’Ivoire
36 ( 2006 DHS)
1998
4 excisers jailed in 2000

Djibouti
93 (MIC 2006)
1995
No arrests

Egypt
96 (2006 DHS)
1996 decree;1998 p. Code
Dr. arrested in 2008

Eritrea
89 - (2002 DHS)
2007
No arrests

Ethiopia
74 – 2005 (DHS) 56 (NC)
2005
No arrests

Gambia
78%2006 MICS
None
None

Ghana
4%  2005 DHS
1994 & 2007
Excisers jailed

Guinea
96% 2005 DHS
2000
No arrests

G. Bissau
 
None
None

Kenya
32% 2005 DHS
2001
Some persecutions

Liberia
58% 2006 CSAI
None
None

Mali
85%
None
None

Mauritania
72%MICS 2007
None
None

Niger
2% 2006 DHS
2003
No arrests

Nigeria
19% 2003 DHS
State law in 1999
No arrests

Uganda
1% 2006 DHS
None
None

Senegal
28% 2005 DHS
1999
No arrests

S. Leone
94% 2006 MICS
None
None

Somalia
98% 2006 MICS 
None
None

Tanzania
14%  CSAD
1998
52 prosecutions

Togo
6% 2005 MICS
1998
1 arrest in 2000

 

Data Source : Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS)

 
Click here to learn more about FGM.

 

Photo: Nichol Brummer (Flickr CC)