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FGM-C: Why an entry in the criminal code won't protect women and girls yet


For the ninth time this year - on May 07th, 2021 - the worldwide day of genital self-determination (WWDOGA) will be celebrated. On the occasion of this, DaMigra takes a look at past events, discussions and findings of the last few years on the subject of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM-C). This paper is intended to take stock of the current situation of FGM-C in Germany and to bundle the demands of the umbrella organization.

Definition & facts about FGM-C

The term female genital mutilation includes any non-therapeutic, partial or complete removal or injury of the female external genitals. This includes the removal of the clitoris or, in other forms, the inner and outer labia ("labia"). The vagina is then sewn up except for a small opening.1

The term “circumcision” should therefore be used critically, as - analogous to the male circumcision of the foreskin - it only refers to the removal of the clitoral foreskin. The term "female genital mutilation", on the other hand, describes the severity of the irreversible intervention more precisely.2  Nevertheless, people affected should be spoken of as “circumcision” so as not to stigmatize them with the choice of words.

FGM-C is a gender-specific human rights violation. FGM-C has been a criminal offense in Germany since 2013. So-called "vacation cuts" are also prohibited. Despite the ban and high prison sentences, FGM-C continues to be practiced - also secretly in other EU countries. Social and / or economic constraints, social pressure and patriarchal understanding of roles, in which women are viewed as inferior and in which they are denied the right to their own, self-determined sexuality, are obviously decisive factors in the practice of FGM-C. Contrary to racist interpretive sovereignty, FGM-C is a problem worldwide and cannot be traced back to either the religion or the “culture” of those affected.

FGM-C affects around 200 million women and girls worldwide. Around 67.000 women who currently live in Germany are affected by female genital mutilation. Compared to the data collected by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs in 2017, this is an increase of over 40 percent. In Germany there are 75.000 women affected by FGM-C and 20.000 girls at risk. 4.400 affected women and almost 800 girls at risk live in Berlin. FGM-C is a reason to flee.

We at DaMigra look back on several round tables, expert rounds and information events on the subject of FGM in 2019, 2020 and 2021. We gained the following knowledge: The current protection and support measures for survivors of FGM-C are not efficient, that's what the debates in February and June 2020 shown.

Positions of DaMigra: Zero tolerance against FGM-C

Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM-C) is a terrible gender-based human rights violation. Due to migration and flight, FGM-C is receiving more attention in Germany, but unfortunately often with racist and / or colonialist attributions. These lead to stigmatization of affected women, girls and their communities. Social taboos, both in the dominant society and in the respective communities, make the support and protection work of those affected by organizations more difficult. The educational work of those affected initiatives in the communities is made considerably more difficult by a lack of personnel and financial security, and there is also a lack of comprehensive advisory services. In addition, many of those affected suffer from emotional pressure to undergo genital mutilation in order to correspond to the role model of women in the community.

Emotional pressure and emotional blackmail are means of asserting certain interests and serve to maintain patriarchal power structures. Nowhere is this more evident than with FGM-C. However, the practice of this form of psychological violence is not limited to FGM-C. FGM-C cannot be assigned to a specific culture or tradition either.

The woman, the girl, are always the object of the man. Their social status is always determined by a patriarchal way of thinking and acting. Almost all cultures in the world can refer to this common denominator. Frauke Baller, psychotherapist and member of the round table in February 2020, made it clear that the coupling of FGM-C with the supposed marriage ability of women raises the question of their economic security, livelihood security and equivalence. The promotion of equality and the economic independence of migrant women in Germany is therefore an important part of combating the causes and can develop a radiance in the countries of origin and prevent FGM.

The focus of public (media) perception is on the commitment of established, financially strong organizations; those affected hardly have a say in their own cause. In addition, it happens all too often that FGM-C is used by liberal to right-wing women's rights activists to strengthen right-wing and post-colonial stereotypes. For DaMigra, zero tolerance to FGM-C also means zero tolerance to racism and hostility to Islam. We therefore do not tolerate that racist clichés for the purpose of women’s right to self-determination are introduced into these debates.

Through the active commitment of various self-help organizations such as Lessan e. V, the federal government established the so-called letter of protection against female genital mutilation in February. With the help of the letter of protection, women traveling abroad can draw attention to the fact that female genital mutilation violates German and international law and can be punished with imprisonment or child abduction. “The letter of protection also draws attention to possible consequences of the criminal offense in terms of residence law. Parents can use the document to underline their arguments and thus protect their daughters from genital mutilation / circumcision. "3

We welcome the release of the letter of protection for the International Day against Genital Mutilation on February 05, 2021 from Federal Minister of Women Franziska Giffey and Gwladys Awo was presented by Lessan eV. This act has great symbolic value in the fight against FGM-C and shows, in particular, organizations affected by the fact that their concerns are taken seriously by the federal government.

FGM-C is a terrible form of human rights violation. It is therefore right and important to criminalize FGM-C. However, this prohibition does not apply when it comes to the exercise of psychological violence. Emotional pressure must therefore be recognized as a form of psychological violence and incorporated into laws and guidelines relating to gender-based violence.

DaMigra therefore demands:

  • Nationwide network and exchange with other actors such as youth welfare offices, paediatricians, teachers and politicians.
  • Presence of Interpreters in hospitals and other medical institutions
  • Recognize emotional pressure as violence
  • empowerment: FGM survivors are experts in their cause. Protected spaces, support and training of multipliers within the communities, knowledge of basic legal instruments enable participation on an equal footing.
  • Financial support from associations and advice centers for the expansion of prevention work and shelters and, in addition, the right to determine the use of funds
  • Comprehensive & nationwide expansion of advice and health center on the subject FGM-C
  • Promotion of equality and economic independence migrated women
  • Raising awareness among medical and psychological professionals on the subject of FGM-C must be part of the training process
  • Public Relations: Legal bases on the subject of FGM-C must be made public in a suitable language and made applicable to all women.
  • Full implementation of the Istanbul Convention as protection for women who are affected by gender-based violence, including FGM-C

For the further struggle for the sexual, genital and reproductive self-determination rights of all women, it is important to put these demands into practice and, in particular, to remind the Federal Republic of its protective function for all women and girls in Germany.

DaMigra e. V. represents the interests of female migrant organizations and their concerns and advocates equal opportunities, equal participation and the equality of women * with a history of migration and refugee experience in Germany. DaMigra follows the approach of anti-racist feminism.

[1] See. Numbers / facts / reasons for FGM - FULDA-MOSOCHO-PROJEKT (fulda-mosocho-project.com)

[2] See ibid.

[3] See. Letter of protection against female genital mutilation - Lessan eV

Contact: Lisa Rechenberg | rechenberg@damigra.de


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